Choosing a Warehouse Management System (WMS) should follow a careful decision making process that goes beyond ticking a few simple boxes. Here are seven pointers on common pitfalls to avoid.
Not properly considering your warehouse management needs
“The biggest mistake a company can make with a warehouse automation system is not associated with the implementation,” claims Lee Schwatz, Principal at the Schwartz Profitability Group. “It happens beforehand.”
Companies must properly evaluate their business needs, current capacity and future goals. Only then can you examine any software’s functionality and work out if it will satisfy your objectives. If this consideration hasn’t been made, it’s unlikely that any WMS implementation will go smoothly.
Not planning ahead for implementation
This may seem obvious, but you shouldn’t wait until a peak season begins before you install and implement new software. Even if you desperately want your supply chain optimised for the busiest time of the year, you must leave enough time to set up the system and educate all staff on using it. And don’t delay more complicated processing requirements in the interest of getting the system online as quickly as possible - this will inevitably end up with a system that falls far short of expectations, and doesn’t meet the ROI that was expected in order to offset the costs.
Being too easily swayed by warehouse management system vendors
Do your homework, and dedicate enough time and effort to investigating the best WMS options. It can be tempting to make a quick decision and implement the first WMS you lay eyes on. However, even the best software demos are no replacement for expert consultation and support. It’s difficult to forecast all your future WMS needs, which is why it’s worth speaking to an implementation expert and considering a range of options.
Choosing an inflexible warehouse management system
Technology can become outdated quickly, so it’s important to choose a WMS that can grow and evolve with your business. Changing performance standards, customer demands and industry regulations all need to be catered for.
The ideal WMS should also be easy to configure for any unique business processes that set your company apart from competitors. If the software cannot be customised to fit your operation, then your operation will have to be customised to fit the software—and that’s going to cause problems.
It may be tempting to choose the cheapest option on the market, but remember to consider the ‘big picture cost’ resulting from any potential change in productivity across the business.
Not calculating ROI
The only real way to justify the costs associated with a WMS is to calculate the financial benefits of implementation. Ask your provider to help you do this, as once implementation begins, it will be months before the long-term costs and benefits are visible.
Once implemented, you should also verify that the system is optimised. There are enormous benefits to be gained from ongoing expert support from your provider once a WMS has become operational.
Failing to get everyone on board
"New supply chain management initiatives… often bring organisational issues to the forefront," notes Edward H. Frazelle, Ph.D., president and CEO of Logistics Resources International, Atlanta.
"A house divided against itself cannot stand… No system will alleviate this lack of alignment within the logistics organisation".
Before you start making changes, examine how it will affect other areas of the business. This can help to gain support from senior management, and get everyone behind the WMS implementation.
Placing too much faith in warehouse management technology
Unfortunately, even the best WMS in the world cannot take all the work off your hands. Any supply chain technology relies on well-defined processes being in place and users being educated on how to use the system. Without these businesses inevitably suffer user errors and missed customer expectations.
Now you know what not to do, take a look at our guide “How to use an adaptable WMS to win more business and grow your company” and find out how it should be done.