Planning is critical to the success of any WMS implementation.
The initial project plans requires you to collect data on the physical warehouse, materials, inventory as well as defining the strategies required to operate the warehouse. There is the added challenge of implementing the system whilst still operating the warehouse. A major factor of all projects is being able to still ship your goods whilst the WMS implementation is in progress.
Failure to plan effectively can lead to data loss, reduced efficiency and even system failure.
Your warehouses and distribution centers are under increased pressure to adapt to rapid changes in consumer demand. Without the proper plans, WMS and technology in place, your logistics operation will not be able to meet this new standard of service. Can you afford to stand still and not move with the times?
It is natural for a business owner to be wary of making the initial leap from a manual approach to a WMS, fearing the potential prospects of disrupting their business and there’s also a common misconception that ‘WMS systems are only for the big boys. However, with the developments in technology such as cloud-based deployments and implementation methodologies that dramatically simplify adoption and lower the risks and upfront costs – any size business can benefit from the implementation of a WMS. View our previous blog, to find out if you’re not too small to get started with a basic WMS system.
The first step when preparing for an WMS implementation is to develop and understand your operational strategy by looking at your supply chain network and overall technology needs. It is key to understand your distribution centres, plants, 3PLs, and vendors/customers. Where are they located? How can you best meet customer demands at minimal cost? Understanding how each component works together, and if any adjustments are needed, will help you plan your WMS implementation. Skipping this step can actually cause the application to be implemented improperly.
Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) are not just for large enterprises
There is a growing trend towards more agile WMS implementations of enterprise solutions, starting off with the ‘minimum viable implementation’ of a solution. If there is a natural segmentation of the physical space and inventory in a DC, a company can start by doing WMS for only one segment of the warehouse or part of the business. For example, if there is a small e-commerce operation, with its own dedicated inventory, and a separate larger bulk store deliveries operation, the WMS implementation could start by managing only the e-commerce operation first. Then once that initial implementation of a WMS is running well, the WMS could be expanded to manage the store deliveries as well.
Get your team onboard – Change Management
Moving from a manual paper-based approach to a WMS driven approach entails a significant change for warehouse workers. It is important that workers and their direct supervisors are involved from near the beginning to get their input, help them understand why the new system is being put in, how it will impact their job, and ultimately have their full buy in. Workers should be given plenty of opportunities to discuss their concerns and give input and feedback before the final implementation of a WMS plans are drawn up.
An internal team with clearly defined roles and responsibilities should be formed and given the bandwidth to do their part of the WMS implementation. This may mean bringing in extra help during the implementation. One or more warehouse workers, who are highly respected by their peers, should be recruited to be the local site champions involved in the discussions and design of the new system from the start. Workers need to be trained on the new processes, including why things are being done in a new way, with a system that is much more prescriptive than they are used to.
Be sure to allow enough time for training for all workers before the go-live date.
Training is key to the successful implementation of a WMS. A good vendor will help provide training to key individuals in your company during the implementation and will provide support as you get the system up and running. Training is another element in the total cost of ownership as well as an influencer on the timeline in your implementation. You will want to schedule time for training either before or during the implementation as this will greatly increase the effectiveness of your users with the new software.
Data and Testing
The Implementation of a WMS requires integrating data about incoming shipments, outbound orders, and product/package data (such as dimensions and weight). The integration of all this data needs to be factored into the project plan, since the WMS can’t do its job with incorrect or incomplete data. A system that is pre-integrated with your ERP and other systems will help tremendously in ensuring that all the needed data is there. Also critical for a smooth transition is having a thorough test plan and allowing sufficient time for testing all product flows, warehouse workflows, and integrations.
Choosing a WMS that has been pre-integrated with your ERP helps to dramatically reduce the amount of integration testing required.
There is no getting around the additional resources and warehouse staff’s time that is required to make the transition to a WMS. One strategy is to implement the WMS after a busy season, keeping on a few of the best of the temporary peak season staff so that the WMS can be successfully implemented during the slow season without impacting business. This approach can also reduce the risks and impact of any unexpected delays in the implementation.
Modifying your Warehouse Layout, Flow, and Processes
A WMS system does not magically fix a warehouse’s wrong layout, poor slotting methods, and suboptimal flow and processes. When embarking on a WMS project, it is a good idea to engage an independent, knowledgeable expert who has completed several implementations before. They can not only help you in system selection, but also ensure that the critical success factors are all addressed, such as change management. That same person should be able to assess the physical layout and flow of your warehouse, your approach to slotting, and your overall warehouses processes. The physical basics must be addressed to get the full benefits of the WMS.
The benefits of the implementation a WMS are unmatched in the ability to maximise almost every area of your warehouse operation. A robust WMS software solution prepares your warehouse operation for the future and provides the foundation for dramatically enhanced productivity, as well as the ability to adapt and grow with your organisation.
Despite the initial complexity and planning for the implementation, WMS systems do offer businesses considerable significant benefits. Not only will placement and removal cycle times be reduced, but inventory accuracy will be improved. This is in addition to increased storage capacity, increased organised storage of materials and greater flexibility of warehouse operations.
Speak to one of our team to understand how Clarus’ WMS system can cost effectively support best practice warehouse management processes, better customer service and highly efficient working for a range of warehouse operations with pay per month options and no IT infrastructure needed.
Our platform can scale from a one user, small depot system to a 100’s of user distribution centre operation. The ClarusWMS platform will cost effectively scale with your business based on demand.
ClarusWMS is a UK based supplier of warehouse management solutions with a wealth of industry experience in third party logistics, wholesale / retail distribution, online fulfillment and manufacturing warehousing.