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Your warehouse management system (WMS) exists to keep your warehouse running efficiently and optimally. The warehouse is, after all, the crux of the supply chain, and its effective management is critical to logistical success. And it is for this reason that so many warehouses are now partnering with 3PLs to perform WMS integration to help streamline operations a bit.
But how do you integrate a WMS into your current system and processes? How do you prepare for successful WMS integration?
In this guide, we give you the checklist you need in order to not only perform a WMS integration but also how to get your entire team on board to make it a smooth transition. So, read through this list, start prepping your warehouse and team and then reach out to our team here to take the next step.
The first and most important step is choosing the warehouse management system that will best fit your business’s operational needs. Start by considering what processes or systems you would need for your warehouse to be more efficient. We recommend going through each current process in your warehouse one by one to figure out where the worst bottlenecks and weaknesses are that could be improved.
This helps you identify your requirements for a WMS. You may need to prioritize some features over others to stay in budget, so understanding your key needs will help you find the right solution for your warehouse.
You’ll also want to select a deployment model. On-premise systems require hardware to run, so you are entirely responsible for the infrastructure, servers, and power supply. You also license the software and have to pay for hardware updates down the road. A hosted system works like an on-premise one, but you rent the hardware. A cloud-based system works as a SaaS, so you can access the software on any system with a personal login. It’s based on the cloud, over the internet, so it’s a lot easier to access and deploy (and at a much lower cost than on-premise).
We almost always recommend a cloud-based WMS for our clients. They’re the most efficient and effective systems, with a lower deployment cost and significantly easier updating and troubleshooting.
Once you know what you want from a WMS, now is a good time to define your objectives of the WMS integration. What benefits do you hope to see from integrating a WMS into your warehouse?
Some goals our clients have defined for their WMS tech:
Remember to make your goals as specific as possible. This means putting specific numbers and time frames for when you home to achieve these objectives.
Note: You don’t want to get a new WMS every time you have a new “goal” for your warehouse. Ideally, the system will be able to grow alongside your business’s growth. So make sure one of your goals is the scalability of the software.
One of the biggest causes of WMS failure is when organizations don’t properly consider the costs for implementation. It’s not just the cost of the software (and hardware, in the case of on-premise systems). You also have to consider the indirect costs like maintenance, implementation, training costs, staffing costs, and more.
Before you choose a WMS, consider your budgets for implementation. You don’t want to entirely base your decision on price, but make sure you don’t put your department in the hole by inadvertently overspending on unforeseen costs.
Do research on different WMS providers on the market. You want to find a solution that will address your needs and achieve your goals while remaining within your budget and timeline. You also want to make sure that the WMS you select will integrate with your other management systems, like your ERP, as well as those of your vendors and clients.
You may want to chat with suppliers and partners to see what WMS providers they use. This presents a list of credible options that are already integrated into your supply chain.
Most WMS vendors will allow a short trial, so you can make sure the system is right for your business. You can also introduce the WMS to key executives, employees, and partners to make sure everyone is on board with the system. (Plus, giving people the option to weigh-in creates buy-in, which is critical to a healthy WMS Integration.)
When do you want to start and finish implementation? It’s helpful if you create milestones and specific goals to keep the integration process moving forward. Without a timeline for implementation, you don’t know if you’re achieving goals—and you could end up taking much too long or putting it on the back burner.
There’s going to be a learning curve, so keep your deployment time realistic. Like any other change management, it’s not going to happen overnight.
Before you even purchase the warehouse management software, you want a team backing your change management. Implementation should be a joint effort between all parties, including vendors, employees, and stakeholders.
Who should be on your team?
In some cases, you may also want to consider hiring or reallocating staff specifically for WMS integration happenings.
You don’t want employees to feel disengaged or out of the loop during this change. Neglecting the human-side of the WMS change will likely result in a failed implementation with high worker turnover. To avoid this, you want to “market” the WMS internally, so your team buys-in with the change and is working towards its success.
The best way to do this is to establish a communication strategy for your WMS.
When you’re switching to a new system, especially if you’re going from paper to digital, there’s a risk that you could lose data in the move. To ensure your data stays intact and secure, you’ll want to create a migration plan. This includes utilizing a backup system to temporarily or indefinitely store data until you’re confident in the strength of the new WMS. Backups are always a good idea anyway to ensure a technical issue or breach doesn’t destroy your operations.
If you don’t have an IT team that can handle the data transfer, our Innovation team at Redwood Logistics can include tech offerings as part of your custom solutions package.
You want employees familiar with the system before it’s launched, so you’re not behind the curve on training and working alongside the system. Proper training is the key to ensuring your WMS implementation goes off without a hitch. Introducing any new software or technology requires your team to learn and adapt. It’s the humans that make the software work.
You should also host training sessions post-launch. These refresher courses will likely solidify the information since the employees can now see and feel the WMS firsthand. Learning it and using it are two different things, so make sure your team knows how to actually employ what they’ve learned once it’s up and running.
How you train depends on how you already host L&D for employees. We recommend asking your WMS vendor representative to provide training materials to best explain the software. You should also utilize your team leads to distribute information and host in-person training sessions to ensure your team feels adequately prepared and their concerns heard.
There are three types of testing you’ll want to perform when implementing your WMS. Essentially, you’re hosting an operational audit to ensure the software can perform its job.
First, a system test ensures the software runs efficiently and supports your desired operations goals. Next, you’ll want to ensure the WMS can integrate with your existing processes and supply chain seamlessly. It has to work with your current ERP as well as your partners’ systems.
Finally, you want to test it with key users and employees. The people who will be using it most frequently should be part of the test group to see if they like the software. This both gets their buy-in because you’re asking for their opinion, and it also minimizes any potential questions or friction before the WMS is implemented.
Now it’s time to launch your WMS. When it’s time, you want to make sure you have an operations team standing by for troubleshooting in real-time. You’ll also want your project leads and department heads to prioritize questions and training sessions with the WMS, at least for the first few weeks.
Once the tech is handled and the employees are onboard, your WMS will start radically improving your productivity, minimizing errors, and enhancing your revenue stream. The benefits of a WMS are unparalleled; it’s the setup that happens ion the beginning that’s the more challenging part.
Want to implement a warehouse management system without a hitch? Partner with Redwood Logistics. We’ll help you find the right WMS tool for your needs to streamline the entirety of your supply chain. We customize solutions for each area of your logistics and operations, with an emphasis on advanced technologies that optimize functions.
Reach out to us to see what our team can do for your WMS integration and supply chain needs.