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Software Implementation

With today’s emphasis on optimizing the supply chain, many warehouse management system (WMS) vendors have repositioned their packages as supply chain execution solutions. From an implementation perspective, adding “execution” to the product’s name invokes a certain degree of irony. The success or failure of a WMS implementation can dramatically affect a company’s bottom line and market share—not to mention the careers of the key staff involved.

This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone familiar with warehouse operations or WMS packages. A WMS tightly controls every aspect of a warehouse’s operation from receiving through shipping. A WMS that does not work within acceptable tolerance levels at “go-live” will keep a company from shipping product. You probably don’t have to go far to find a WMS horror story about an implementation that shut down a distribution center (DC) for weeks. More frequent examples are sub-performing implementations of warehouse output levels that are still well below pre-installation levels months later. The pain of these implementations may appear to lessen as time goes by and the system settles down. However, a considerable amount of money can be spent on fixing problems and a lot of customer goodwill can be lost before stability finally arrives.

Failure is not an inevitable outcome of a WMS implementation. Many implementations are completed successfully and some greatly exceed initial expectations. What determines success or failure? Certainly selecting the right package and vendors for the job as well as developing a sound, well-funded project plan are definite prerequisites for success. Still, these elements alone cannot guarantee an implementation’s success. In fact, much more is needed. Implementing a WMS involves numerous tasks that directly impact how people, product flow, procedures, equipment and information interact. While the details of these tasks vary between implementations, there are elements common to all implementations, and the success of any implementation hinges on how well an organization manages these elements.

Software Roadmap

Software Implementation

Making it Work
Companies implement WMS packages because of the benefits they produce. They are cognizant that an investment must be made in order to realize the desired returns. But some shy away from investing the total amount required to succeed. Once costs are tallied up for all the required software and hardware, many organizations start looking elsewhere to hold the line on costs. Facilities preparation, testing, documentation and training all begin to seem like “accessories” they can’t afford.

But sometimes compromises are required. Budgets are certainly not unlimited. But decisions must be based on a clear understanding of what it takes to succeed. If budgetary compromises must be made, then all aspects of the project should be evaluated. Pouring money into the systems side, while starving the operational and people requirements, simply will not work.

Implementations can only be truly successful if the essential elements are properly addressed. Neglect risks either total failure or reduced performance. In either case, it will cost much more to fix problems afterwards. When it comes to a WMS implementation, it is definitely better to do it right the first time.

1. Design for Operational Improvement
2. Manage Risks
3. Manage Communications and Expectations
4. Develop a Solid Project Plan
5. Prepare to Deal with Adversity
6. Pay Attention to Facilities Preparation
7. Build a Knowledge Base and Take Ownership
8. Institutionalize Training
9. Understand the Value of Testing
10. Plan for Exceptions
11. Document Procedures
12. Take Control of Go-Live