By Phil Zoio, Technical Director at Realtime Despatch Software Ltd
Having put your faith in a new WMS (Warehouse Management System) and its supplier, there are a number of things you can do to help ensure the implementation is successful.
This will require willpower and the total buy-in of key stakeholders – including the MD.
Start with people. You must identify the individuals who will perform the key roles to put the project into effect. For example, it would be useful if you have some kind of technical resource available, not necessarily an IT whizz kid, but someone who understands your business processes and how the WMS will need to support these.
This might sound obvious but many companies whose core business is retail often do not have in-house technical resources. The nominated person will be invaluable in helping the WMS run like a dream. After all, you know your business much better than any WMS vendor, so company insight is vital.
With the right people in place, planning can commence. Your team needs to decide when to start the implementation, preferably well away from any peak periods. With typical implementations taking 8-12 weeks, time will need to be set aside, along with human resources to manage the process.
While the WMS vendor will project-manage its own involvement, it cannot manage your business as well. For instance, it might be necessary to reorganise the warehouse, define new picking processes and routes or, maybe, invest in new equipment. Only you can manage these aspects of the project. A consultant from the WMS supplier will of course spend time at your site, with the aim of understanding as much as possible about the business, its processes and objectives.
- Preparing for launch… involves undertaking a number of preliminary tasks. For instance, during the preparation phase, it is important to do as much staff training as possible to avoid having to teach employees on the new system after going live.
- On the runway… Once development is close to completion, the launch plan can be finalised. This involves identifying and committing to a launch date, and planning activities for everyone involved to ensure this happens on time.
- We have lift off… In terms of going live, the first orders processed will typically be raised by test users (i.e. staff) rather than paying customers. With testing complete, we generally consider an e-Commerce WMS as live once it has processed its first real customer orders. Staff from your WMS provider will be present during the transition to help address any questions or issues.