If you are looking to implement a Warehouse Management System (WMS) into your operations, there’s a lot to consider. How will it impact your business? Who will be affected? What technology do you need to consider?
Having been part of countless implementations, we have developed the five pillar framework - the foundation of how we structure our new clients’ road to a successful implementation. It’s a tried and tested formula that has been used all over the world.
First and foremost in any project it is the people it affects.
Who will be using the WMS once it is implemented, and to what degree? What is their personality like? Are they tech savvy, or will they need support?
Depending on the size of your operation there could be a lot of different functions managed by different people so it’s important to clarify who will be doing what. It’s also important to get core users onside with the new system, as they’ll act as your advocates as the project moves forward.
You should also consider the knock on effect on surrounding teams. Finance, Customer Service and Buying teams could all be part of your user group and so considering the impact on their daily routines is important.
2. Operational processes
Take a long hard look at your current operational processes and how well they are actually working. Are they optimised, documented and clearly outlined? Is there alignment between teams and functions?
As a business owner you need to be as productive as you possibly can in order to run your warehouse, and so do your team. Looking at where your weak links are and how you can improve them with a WMS will help standardise your processes.
What technology do you currently use and how will it be implemented with a WMS?
Understanding the full eco-system of your technology, and how it all fits together, is an important step for deciding how you should implement your WMS. For example, many retailers will want to be able to integrate with a shipping label system. It’s important to determine if that’s a possibility, and also if it is a more efficient process than what is in place already.
Knowing what you do now, what you could do with a WMS and what you should change is a major part in the process.
4. Physical environment
Here we assess what your actual warehouse looks like. How big is it? Does it have a variety of spacious mezzanines or is it a warren of high racks? Understanding the physical space is important when implementing a WMS as a lot of your decisions will be affected by it.
For example, you’ll need to consider things like quarantine spaces for returns or an open packing bench area if you have a large volume of pickers bringing trolleys in at the same time. They are going to effect the setup of your system.
5. Materials handling equipment
Lastly, you need to think about what mechanical equipment is used for storage, control and to move materials from one location to another in your warehouse. Are you using conveyors? Do you pick bulky or small items? More importantly, is what you have now what you want to have or are you looking for other solutions?
As with your physical environment, handling equipment is going to have a major impact on your project.
So, after all this work what are the actual benefits of this best practice?
Having a solid understanding of the five pillars offers three significant benefits, starting with a successful implementation. Knowing you have considered every aspect of your operation means you won’t be missing important points that will have long lasting effects.
Secondly, you’ll have the ability to deliver on time, every time to customers. An efficient warehouse setup means you can set target delivery times, stay on top of your staff and their performance and guarantee minimal errors.
And finally, increased sales. Your efficient delivery process through your efficient warehouse means customers are having a great time buying from you. They get the right product on time, receive money back on returns quickly and never have to argue with customer services. This all means brand loyalty, which we all know means lifetime customers.