Successful WMS Implementations – a Roadmap

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Successful WMS Implementations – your Roadmap.

We’ve talked before about how standing still in the warehousing industry isn’t really a possibility anymore. So, if you’ve not already implemented an advanced WMS (or you have, but you’re considering an upgrade), then this article talks about best practices when it comes to deploying a new WMS.

Transformative Leap Forward

Successfully implementing an advanced WMS is probably the single fastest and most dramatic way that you can give your business a transformative leap forward when it comes to operational excellence.

But these things don’t come particularly cheap, and there are a lot of moving parts when it comes to successful WMS implementations. So today, I’m going to talk about some of the more common hurdles that you might need to overcome on your implementation journey. As ever, if you’ve got any questions, you can always reach out to us for clarification or for more info.

The Modern Warehouse

To start off with, I’m going to talk a bit more about the modern warehouse. It’s much more of a complex entity than it’s ever been before; every second counts, and efficiency is key to success. In order to thrive, a warehouse manager needs to find ways to smoothly orchestrate their inventory management, be able to optimise order fulfilment, and streamline their supply chain operations. Which is often easier said than done.

However, there are options available to help achieve this, and Blue Yonder Dispatcher WMS is one of them. Systems like this will help you manage your space optimally, of course, that’s a given. But Dispatcher WMS (especially if you deploy it with our home-grown User Services Portal app) can also to ensure that your inventory is not only visible to you, your customers, and any other stakeholders with permission to view it, but that it’s also aligned to demand in real-time.

An effective WMS should be able to look at what you need and make decisions about how to help you achieve it. If you’re interested in the kind of AI (Artificial Intelligence) used in Dispatcher WMS, then you can read about it here. So when we say it’s transformative, we’re not exaggerating.

Dramatic Change

But as with everything that creates dramatic change, it does come with some challenges attached.

Below are some of the more common hurdles that you might experience when you deploy a new WMS. And there are hurdles. But, like eating the elephant, it’s all doable (because we do it all the time), just so long as you address each bit individually.

Step One – Strategic Planning and Goal Setting

The first bit to address is your strategic planning and goal setting. After all, unless you know where you’re trying to get to, you won’t know which direction to travel in, or when you’ve arrived. So, the first thing to do when you’re executing a digital transformation project like this is to name clear objectives and lay out a well-defined roadmap for your implementation journey.

Once you do that, then you can align the capabilities of any potential warehouse management systems with your strategic goals.

This is going to help you to find gaps right away. Because, some WMS are more functional than others, and some of them have longer and better pedigrees. So, job one is to work out what you want to do with this new software, and only then to start looking at available options that could help you achieve your goals.

Step Two – Which WMS?

Once you know what you want out of your new WMS, then it’s time to decide – and you’ve got to choose the right WMS for you. It’s pivotal to your successful WMS implementation.

Ideally, you want something that’s scalable, functionally rich, and that is highly user configurable – because you don’t want to have to commission expensive changes from the software vendor. It should also have robust and proven integration capabilities.

All these things are mission critical for businesses aiming for growth and adaptability – which is probably, let’s face it, the whole point of the project in the first place.

Step Three – Who

Next, you need to pick the right team to help you deploy it. Now, a lot of this comes down to culture; you need to find the right people for you.

But while you’re looking for them, you should probably bear in mind that the more often they’ve done this, and the more verticals they’ve implemented their WMS across, then the more likely they are to be able to offer you a streamlined implementation that draws on the experience that they’ve garnered over that time.

Or rather, even if you think they’re super groovy cool people, the most important thing is to make sure that your installation team knows what they’re doing.

Things to look out for – have they been recognised by third parties as providing excellent results? Have they got many case studies that you can read – over a considerable length of time, and many different industries?

If you can find the right team, it’s going to save you time, energy, money, and heartache – because they’ll be able to look at what you need and extrapolate from what they’ve seen before – rather than having to reverse engineer every little bit of your operation.

Step Four – Process Mapping

Preparation and process mapping are fundamental to your eventual success. As soon as you have your preferred system and your preferred deployment team on board, the next job is a meticulous audit of what you do currently.

And then, you need to decide if that’s what you want to continue to do, or if instead, you want to use your digital transformation as a reason to reassess and potentially change everything. Typically, in our experience it’s a bit of both. And this is one of the reasons you should select a WMS that can not only deal with increased throughput, but one that can also adapt and grow with you as your operation evolves.

So, you need to map your processes to the WMS, and make sure that you are going to end up with something that is tailor made for you. This is not the time for plug and play software, and the more attention to detail you can put in at this point, the easier things will be later.

Step Five – Data Management

Data Management … have you ever seen the whole Data in = Data out example? Your WMS is only going to be as good as the information you use to set it up. Which means that the success and eventual ROI (Return on Investment) of your digital transformation is inherently linked to the integrity of your data.

You may decide that you want to work from a clean slate, which would let your new system run precisely as you configured it from day one – and without any kind of hangover from The Before Times. But it’s much more likely that you’ll want to transfer the data you have, in some way, over to the new WMS.

The more meticulous you are about this, the better your results will be.

Step Six- Integration

It’s not impossible that your new WMS will be a stand-alone system. But these days, it’s quite unlikely that you won’t have some other system, somewhere, that you’ll need to integrate it with.

This is another reason to choose a WMS that has a track record. If you get the right system, with luck, it will already have been integrated with what you’re using (or at least with something similar) and this will help to minimise expense when it comes to your own system integration.

It’s also likely to reduce the opportunity for things to go wrong.

Step Seven – Training and Change Management

Once you have your new system, it’s got data in it, and it’s hooked up to the other bits of your operation, it’s time to train your staff up. But before we talk about that, it’s worth mentioning that change management starts a lot earlier than the day you introduce your workers to your new WMS.

Change can be intimidating, and there’s often a lot of fear around a system such as a new WMS. The focus that people can put on a transformation like this might be more on the side of what (or who) it’s going to replace, rather than how it’s going to be able to allow the business to expand.

Share your plans with your people as soon as you have selected the right vendor/software. The more inclusive you are with your change management, the more involved and engaged your staff will be in the transformation journey, and that will translate to a much better result.

If you can empower your team through concise product familiarisation training, it’s going to help them understand how to get the most out of your new software, and that means you’re much more likely to see a smooth transition.

One of the biggest risks when deploying a new software system is that if your team can’t use it, and don’t want you to know that, they’ll quietly go back to doing what they were doing before.

Taking the time to train your workforce on your new WMS, and explaining how it can improve processes and help them do their jobs more easily is going to foster a culture of continuous improvement, right from the start.

Step Eight – Testing

As an ex-QA, this might be my own personal bugbear. I think that testing is often left until the last moment, which typically means that problems that could have been mitigated months ago become showstoppers.

Work with people who will help you test early and test often. The sooner you find issues, the easier they are to address proactively.

And this is another vote for working with an experienced implementation team – they know where to start looking and can help you focus on what matters most from an operational point of view.

Step Nine – Go Live Support

Dedicated support during your Go Live is a game changer.

Experienced teams will be able to keep cool heads… because there will always be something. The more you do of the above, there less of it there will be, but there will always be something. And that’s OK. It’s normal.

But if you have the right team, they’ll be able to be proactive rather than reactive. And that is a great indicator of a successful implementation.

Step Ten – Continual Improvement

Ideally, you’ll have a way of continuing to work with your implementation team, post Go Live. After all, they already know how things are set up, and they’ll be able to help you troubleshoot much faster and more effectively if something falls out of the mix.

Which it probably will.

The trick, of course, is to have done as much of the above as possible, already, so that whatever it is will work out just fine. It’s not failure when something like that happens, it’s finesse. It’s iterative improvement.

With a system like Dispatcher WMS, your journey doesn’t come to an end once implementation has happened. The system offers advanced reporting and analytic capabilities that provide you with a continuous feedback loop. Which means that you can use that information to fine-tune your operations.

Yes, it’s going to help you streamline your activities, but that’s just the beginning. Its real magic is in its ability to adapt and evolve with your business, which is where you’ll start to see dramatic changes for the better.

Starting out on a WMS implementation journey isn’t something to be taken lightly. But it is the way to operational excellence. And it is your opportunity to iteratively increase efficiency and productivity. Which is what it takes to stay a step ahead.

If you’d like to see the diversity of operations that a system such as Dispatcher WMS can support, or to read about other successful WMS implementations, then have a read of our case studies.

Lots of different verticals, lots of different operations, one WMS.

As you read them, you’ll be able to see the system’s adaptability, the implementation team’s expertise, and the transformative potential of a well-designed, properly deployed Warehouse Management System.

So, if you’ve been thinking about next steps for your business, and what, specifically you can do to make massive change in your business in 2024, then hopefully this has been useful.

If you’d like to learn more about what Dispatcher WMS can do for YOUR business, then reach out today. Let’s explore how it can become the cornerstone of your logistics strategy and the way to propel your business to the next level:

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