Choosing the right warehouse management system (WMS) is a critical part of a warehousing and distribution company’s business strategy and success. Making the best decision the first time is vital as a warehouse management system has a long expected life span and switching costs can be high. Even so, there will be a time when the benefits of switching outweigh those costs. We discussed indicators that it is time to switch or upgrade in last week’s blog “Is it Time for a New WMS?”. Once you have made that decision, it is important to follow detailed steps to ensure that you receive the best system for your business.
Step 1: Pre-Planning
The first step to choosing a new WMS is to do your homework. You can’t evaluate new systems if you don’t know what you need or why you need it. Evaluate your existing system first—what functions is the WMS currently doing well? Where do your processes need improvement? What processes are broken and negatively affecting profitability and customer satisfaction? What functionality do you want to provide in the future?
As with any major expenditure, it is important to get buy-in up front. Form a project team including all affected departments and be sure to involve management. With your project team, you should evaluate your current system, share your expectations and agree on your future needs. Once you have agreement, create a list of required functions.
Using your list of requirements, evaluate the benefits you expect to achieve through them. For example, back-office integration will eliminate redundant data entry and improve data integrity. Don’t forget the intangible benefits you may attain including increased employee engagement.
Step 2: Intelligence Gathering
Once you know what you want to achieve, it is time to find the right warehouse management system solution. Being smart about the way you gather product and vendor information will save you time and get you to the best WMS software for your warehousing and distribution environment.
Start by screening solutions with phone interviews. Eliminate those who do not meet your required functionality. Once you have narrowed down the field, examine the remaining products more closely. Now is the time to consider service issues such as implementation time, reseller capabilities and software manufacturer product support. After these screening interviews, it is finally time for product demonstrations.
Step 3: Analysis
When you have settled between two to three vendors, it is time to analyze the WMS products in-depth. Have your project team participate in product demonstrations to compare and rate system capability. As part of your analysis, you should identify all costs—software, hardware, additional modules, customization, implementation, training and future support.
Step 4: Implementation
You’ve chosen a system and now is the time to implement it. Start with a plan and revisit your timeline. Have you included back-office integration? Have you considered which processes can be improved with automation? Postpone modifications that are not essential to your business until after the initial implementation. Then schedule your roll-out. Be sure to include time to ramp-up to the new system and to identify and solve problems.
Step 5: Review
Your system may be in place, but there will be opportunities for continuous improvement. Measure your systems against the benchmarks you set for yourself and identify areas that can be optimized.
Following this process will enable you to successfully choose the right warehousing and distribution software for your business. However, you don’t have to do it alone. Mindover Software specializes in finding and deploying end-to-end management software solutions that eliminate process disconnects, bottlenecks and manual intervention. Contact us if you would like our team of professional consultants to partner with you to provide a complete set of services. You can learn more about our professional services here.