The implementation of a WMS is often complex. Project planning is critical to the success of any WMS implementation.
The project requires warehouse resources to collect data on the physical warehouse, materials, and 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 project planning and implementations is to still ship product whilst the WMS is being implemented.
Implementation of WMS
The complexity of a WMS implementation varies with each business. The physical dimensions and characteristics of each item to be stored in the warehouse should be collected and entered into the new system. Capacity calculations require the physical size and weight of the stored item, as well as the dimensions of all the storage bins or racks in the warehouse. The storage options for each item are required, for example, if the item can be stored separately, in a box, pallet, or if it can be stacked. Each item must be reviewed to see if it has physical limitations on its storage, such as requiring refrigeration.
The implementation requires significant input from the resources that operate the warehouse on a day-to-day basis and this can be a strain on warehouse operations. A successful project will recognise this fact and ensure that the key personnel required for the implementation are given adequate back up so that warehouse operations do not suffer.
Key WMS Project Planning Points
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. Project planning is key to success.
Involve Your Team
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 of the project planning 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 project planning for 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.