Business has spent a great deal of time trying to make their company’s enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), and supply chain management (SCM) systems responsive to business needs.
All too often, though, the real reason a shipment to a customer arrived late, or a customer received the wrong or incomplete shipment, can be traced to operational processes in the warehouse that are poorly designed, lack of adequate training, systems that are not executed well, and Warehouse Management Software (WMS) that is incapable of supporting operations and the way the company wants to do business, not to ERP, CRM, or SCM software. Execution problems associated with picking orders, packing shipments, or cross-docking of receipts, can quickly lead to customer dissatisfaction.
Many organizations often pay too little attention or commit too little resources to this critical tool (WMS) and concentrate their time in the ERP, SCM, and CRM arenas according to Roy Strauss of Strauss Consulting Group. In supply chain management the saying; “you are only as good as your weakest link” is not only true but is also the basis for everything else working correctly.
Getting WMS selection and implementation right the first time can go a long way toward ensuring a company has satisfied customers that are receiving accurate orders delivered on time. It is key that the WMS not only support business functions but in a way that supports how the company wants to run their business. Roy Strauss refers to a survey that found that only about 40 percent of warehouse management systems result in satisfied customers. Roy has determined and defined operational and business requirements for and helped numerous companies select and implement WMS systems over a wide range of business requirements and levels of sophistication.
Roy Strauss cites seven key areas which, if overlooked or discounted, have the potential to negatively impact a WMS project and full benefits to be derived from the software. Many of these factors may also be critical to other types of systems such as ERP, SCM, and CRM because of the data passed on to them and cannot be ignored when implementing a WMS.
1. Ensure a good design
The objectives of a WMS must be clearly laid out and synchronized with all other systems to insure continuity and completeness. The stakeholders must agree in advance how the different systems will be configured and blended together to ensure seamless functionality and to maximize customer satisfaction. The goals of the project must be clearly stated in writing, incorporated into requests for proposals from vendors, and act as a guide to keep the project on track. There should be one implementation team that coordinates the efforts of the vendors, company, and implementation. Design continuity is paramount.
2. Ensure the project design team includes all of the stakeholders
The project design team should include representatives from every part of the organization including, finance, sales, marketing, customer service, operations, and most important the top executive’s and with their full support. Only by including everyone who is effected by the results can the organization ensure that the establish success criteria will meet the needs of the entire organization.
3. Clearly Articulate the Performance Criteria
The company must have a strong project manager, (often this can be an experienced consultant with a track record of successful implementations), that is able to articulate the performance criteria keeping the vendors and other stakeholders on track, and ensure that the request for proposal is complete and accurate in every aspect. The company must be cautious not to let unrelated “scope creep” change the goals and objectives that were articulated in the performance criteria. The company project manager must take the lead role in keeping the project on track. Strauss says selecting the proper project manager is one of the most important decisions made throughout the entire project.
4. Build Clear Performance Metrics into the System Design
Performance metrics are critical to a successful selection, acquisition, and implementation, The project manager should ensure that each area of the WMS implementation is is done in the context of an appropriate set of metrics. These should include the areas of unloading, receiving and put away, replenishment, order processing, order picking, order packing, outbound staging, data flow, and other critical operational areas. Strauss says that these operational metrics are critical to ensuring the software has provided the appropriate functionality and performance to the organization.
5. Create a detailed Data Map
These are automated tools that let you map one type of data to another. This is essential for companies trying to deal with different shipping data formats, such as advanced ship notices that can come in XML, EDI, spreadsheets, or other formats. Companies should leverage these to the max, using them in dealing with suppliers, customers, shipping carriers, banks, etc.
6. Design sufficient Stress tests into the system
Sufficient testing is the best way to avoid a meltdown when you go live with a new WMS. As part of implementation, one should run simulated tests with non-live data and do parallel testing. Strauss has observed that often testing is the first thing to go if the project is delayed or has incurred financial overruns. “It has to be right every time”, says Strauss. Warehouses need to process-test each work flow, including inbound, outbound, cross-dock, cycle count, etc. and the resulting data flow to all key departments.
7. Senior level support is a critical Success Factor
“You must have “C” level project support from executives that buy into and demonstrate support for the project, including the software selection process,” Strauss suggests. Additionally, too often, companies purchase software with little input from the employees who are the ultimate users as opposed to making them part of the team. Involve warehouse managers, key workers and supervisors in the software selection process, once they’ve sat through four or five software company presentations, they can identify which package best supports their operational requirements, says Strauss. Getting staff to participate is critical and why senior requirements. It helps to dissipate any fear that staff may have over whether they may lose their jobs. Instead, they can see how the system is designed to make them more efficient and their jobs smarter and easier. Mr Strauss recommends training workers to use the new system at least four weeks before the go-live date, so they get used to the system and become part of the implementation team.
If your company is considering the implementation of a WMS system, I would suggest you contact Roy Strauss (201-337-7108 or www.scg4u.com) of the Supply Chain Experts can help you with present and future needs analysis, writing request for proposal, software design and/or selection, and an implementation program that will optimize operational performance and satisfy the requirements of your customers.
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Dr. Knab is an academic practitioner and seasoned Global Supply Chain expert whose company, Productivity Constructs, is focused on driving cost and inefficiency out of the Global Supply Chain. Dr. Knab can be contacted for speaking engagements, coaching, or consultation at email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.edwardknab.com.