In my last artice I highlighted the importance of regular updates in WMS. I have received many questions about WMS and in particular, what to consider before a project regarding a WMS procurement. Below you find some things that I consider important and I choose not to go into details, every procurement is unique because of the different needs of a warehouse. It also depends where in the world you are located. These are general points regarding WMS. I also choose deliberately not to go into technical details such as the interface between the WMS and other systems like ERP or TMS etc, that is questions for your IT department.
It may sound obvious, but I have met many colleagues in the industry who were most doubtful when I asked why they invested in a certain WMS. So, Why? What is the reason you want a WMS. The main reasons should reflect the strengths and capabilities of the certain WMS you are interested of. Make a priority list with the reasons. Improved quality, improved efficiency, better trace-ability, analytic tools and flexibility in your warehouse flow. This is only a few things the list can be how long you want. These things is very important when you look at the WMS, what features do they have to improve the points in your priority list?
How many features in your requirement list is standard in WMS or can be a standard after implementation. Very important for future upgrades. Otherwise, it can be very expensive when it is time to upgrade with many consultant hours to adapt the new version to your current customization’s.
Read my latest article about future upgrades. Very important if you want to evolve the warehouse and continue to be competitive. Look at the WMS vendors you think is interesting and how their current customer base look like. It is the customers who drive the progress forward and it is on their initiative new features become standard in future updates. How often do they release new versions and what is the total costs for an upgrade?
Talk to colleagues in the same industry, what WMS do they use and why? Are they satisfied? What do they miss? Ask what they learned and what they would do different if they could. Networking is a great thing when you want to learn new things.
Ok you want to use many of the features in your new WMS. Remember; keep the implementation version of WMS as simple as possible. It is complicated as it is, believe me it is not “plug and play” to implement a WMS. You want as little operational disturbance as possible to ensure your customers are satisfied. If you keep the system as simple as possible, you minimize the risk for unexpected problems.
When the WMS is up and running all the fun should begin, if you have any money left in the project budget… many companies that make a WMS implementation forgets the work after the implementation is finished. They close the project and have no budget for consultant hours. That is in my opinion completely wrong. It is now the warehouse needs all the help they can get to learn the system, to start thinking outside the box, and to get inspiration how to take advantage of the WMS and all the exciting features.
Remember to have high demands on the WMS vendor and their consultants. They should challenge your way of thinking and make you think outside the box. I have experienced consultants who recently graduated from university without any work experience at all! That is not OK! Of course, it is great with theoretical knowledge and academic degrees but the important thing is that you have a practical knowledge of logistics and the ability to connect and adapt you warehouse flow to the complex WMS. That is a skill you can´t learn in university, you need experience and a personal interest in your job. The consultants should have the ability to convert the flow into money; it is all about economic impact. What you can save in labor costs, packaging costs, or increased quality for example. Often you have a ROI calculation from the investment in WMS and usually it is a tight budget. So if you going to deliver the ROI you need to focus on development of your warehouse flow and increase the efficiency and quality fast!
Finally yet importantly, what hardware and software platforms does the WMS support? Very important questions. Which provider of pick-by voice are supported in the WMS? There is a lot of money in hardware, rugged computers and tablets is very expensive it also applies to hardware for pick by voice as well. These are hard questions and you must look at how support and service looks like. The quality and user experience is also important. Often WMS vendors have preferred partners they work with. You must take into account operational reliability, etc. Some WMS vendors support Android and / or iOS. If you have a clean environment without moisture and cold and with a nice and even floor (without vibrations), you can use consumer tablets at completely different prices. The downside of such a choice is a risk that models and standards will suddenly expire. It is also difficult with service and technical support.
Of course there are many more things to consider when you investing in a WMS but this is some important things that are sometimes missing in the purpose of the project in a WMS procurement.