When it comes right down to it, the main reasons for implementing a Warehouse Management System are to:
- improve customer service.
- control the inventory.
- lower overhead costs.
- increase productivity.
Getting there involves bringing complex processes, people, and technology together without losing business, employees, or your sanity.
7 Best Practices for Implementing a WMS
- Define Your Objectives
What do you want your WMS to do for you? Each business has different priorities, so define your priorities and objectives and integrate them into your plan. This is what differentiates you from other businesses. It’s easier to communicate your objectives to others if you have them cemented in your own mind first.
- Collect Information
This is a rule that’s right up there with “measure twice, cut once”. This project requires the collection of data from the warehouse and anything that interacts with the warehouse. You’ll need to know the size and shape of containers as well as the size and shape of the warehouse floor. What are the dimensions of your storage bins and racks? At what points will you need financial information to be accessed and reported? As each of these questions is answered, a picture of your system begins to coalesce.
- Analyze the Data
Analyzing the millions of pieces of information is crucial to a successful implementation. Organizational strategies naturally grow from the analysis of the data. Consider it the raw materials that go into the making of your plan.
- Create Your Plan
Time spent creating your plan helps you avoid time wasted in the future. A good warehouse management system should make your plan fairly simple to visualize and implement. Based on your company’s objectives, your plan should cover your fulfillment system from door to door as well as relationships that interact with your warehouse. It’s not just about moving products or materials from one end to the other. Your WMS should be able to automate your process from beginning to end and communicate with you each step of the way.
- Test your system
Before implementation, your system needs to be tested in real time to ensure that all components are working together efficiently. You need to know how your system deals with the unexpected as well as peak performance. Find more information about best practices for testing here.
- Implement the Plan
Implementation involves everyone and everything that interacts with your warehouse. Technology is just one component. Your plan needs to include training employees to interact with the program. Materials and equipment need to be moved to their places. Everyone and everything needs to be placed according to your plan.
- Evaluate and Repeat
Things go wrong in even the best-laid plans. After your WMS is up and running, you may find that some of your needs have changed or that what you planned didn’t work out as expected. Don’t expect perfection. Implementation includes the evaluation of the system from all perspectives. Leave room for your employees to give feedback and be flexible when needed. Most systems have to be tweaked over time.
Most importantly, the evaluation process should reveal a tangible, positive impact on your bottom line through efficiency and lowered costs. After all, a primary reason for doing business is to make money.