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The Manager’s Guide to Picking a WMS

15 April 2020, 10:26 pm
warehouse worker and manager using computer in a warehouse

When it comes to choosing the right WMS for your warehouse, there’s a lot to consider and a lot of pressure. Picking the wrong system can cause major issues, but delaying too long can also lead to lost revenue opportunities or potentially more problems.

As a manager, you know what your warehouse looks like and are best positioned to select the tools that improve operations and ultimately reduce costs. We know that can be a little daunting. That’s why we put together this short guide to help you with the process and identify what’s most important.

Like any good fulfillment process, it’s time to understand the order, figure out the best way to execute, and then make that selection and effort as smooth as possible. So, here’s your WarehouseExpert tips for making a smart choice.

Spell out Why You Want a New WMS

The best place to begin your WMS selection is to research your business and understand why you’re considering this investment. Some of the more common reasons include:

·         You see technology as a way to increase revenue by reducing workforce-related costs.
·         Warehouse problems exist, and you think they may be solvable through a WMS. For example, manual errors in data entry are causing inventory count issues.
·         You have a WMS that isn’t working, or another new piece of software needs a WMS, so the investment is to make your infrastructure work best.
·         You’re growing and looking for the best path to keep up with that growth while planning for future success through smarter budget allocations.

Each of these reasons will cause you to look at the process slightly differently. A company who is growing and investing has different immediate needs than one who is hoping to stem losses or theft. Replacing a WMS might mean you know your way around the platform, including what you want and what you don’t.

Or, if your new ERP can automate the order process if you have a WMS, then you may have integrations as a higher priority, and it can make the selection easier.

Review Your Workforce and Build Your Teams

After looking at your business, look at the people who will be working with the WMS on your behalf.

Consider their expertise and knowledge with existing technology to see how much automation they may be able to support. Look for gaps in institutional knowledge and operations, with an eye toward where technology can help or where you might need additional support.

Touch base with your IT team to see how much they can support, or how much they do not know about automating parts of your warehouse. Technology can fill some skills gaps or provide better data and insight for your decisions, but you’ll want a system that leaders and boots-on-ground staff both feel comfortable using.

At the end of this process, build a list of the teams who are involved with the software and your leadership. Get a representative for each to become part of your WMS RFP review and implementation teams, so you can have everyone available when needed.

Check Existing Software and Hardware

A warehouse management system can be an amazing tool when it works in conjunction with your existing software, like SAP Business One or Microsoft Dynamics AX. If there’s a “must-have” system you need to integrate with, share this with potential vendors and ask about their experience.

You want someone who has done it before, not to be the guinea pig for their team to test something new.

But, don’t just stop at software. Look at the hardware you’re using right now, including mobile devices, barcode scanners, PCs, routers, and other assets in your warehouse. Make sure the WMS you choose can support these as well as the tools you need to grow.

Some of the best new support options include an increasing list of compatible mobile devices, from scanners and printers to movable RF gates. These technologies are making it easier to capture signature and inventory to support advanced cross-dock and other features.

Create Your Requirements List

Now that you’ve looked at your team and tech, think about what happens each day, month, and quarter in your operation. Turn these tasks into a list of items to support. Build out lists for receiving, picking, packing, storing, inventory counts, and more.

You’re building a core requirements list to ask where the WMS can address steps in each activity plus how it’ll be able to support your team and the tools they use.

One important thing to consider in your requirements list is that you’re looking a little beyond the warehouse. Consider how orders enter your supply chain, who needs to approve of inventory resupplies, how vendors and customers interact with you, and places where other business groups are involved.

Think of the WMS as a tool to bridge gaps, especially with the information it captures and can share.

Look for Unique Needs and Movements

A place where some warehouse managers can get tripped up late in the process is not identifying movements that are out of the norm for your industry. You can non-standard needs for some products, especially if you’re growing or expanding into e-commerce. Ask how a WMS will handle these.

Some WMS will treat returns as a non-standard movement because goods need to pass from you back to the original manufacturer. Another common issue can be splitting lots and shipping different quantities, especially if you’re kitting to sell a new group of items.

Other times, it can involve differing storage requirements or specialized checks and verification before specific items are shipped.

Add any of these to your list for a better chance of picking the right WMS.

Review RFP Responses and Give Each Vendor a Checkup

The final selection process is up to you and what you deem most important in terms of functionality and support. With that said, we can offer a few pieces of advice once you have a complete requirement list and have sent out your RFP.

The first is to ask vendors about pricing and then move it down your list after the must-have features you’ve identified. When some warehouses try to judge primarily on price, they end up missing out on a feature they needed. That will likely lead to additional costs for your vendor or IT team to create that functionality, or you must rip-and-replace with a WMS that meets your needs.

We also always recommend you look at the experience and life of the companies you’re considering. You want a partner who is committed to your specific market and has a lengthy list of satisfied customers. It’s perfectly okay to ask about customers and references, too.

Another point to consider and evaluate is your total cost of ownership. Keep in mind that this is a long term investment, for many years to come, and therefore you would be looking to choose a solution that can be maintained by your team. This pertains to configuration, customizations and being able to be self-suffice in supporting your WMS solution.

We know you’re here to get some answers about the WMS selection process. So, we invite you to take a minute and just ask us what’s on your mind or request a demo to see what we offer. It’ll help you understand what’s available and just might speed up your selection process. We’ll be happy to help.

Categorized as

How to Analyze WMS RFP Responses

29 June 2021, 5:33 pm
forklift operator in warehouse stocking shelves

Embarking on a search process for a WMS is a big task. Selecting and successfully implementing the WMS that is the best fit for your needs can make you a company hero. Choosing the wrong system could have you searching for a new job. When you get to the step where you have identified the WMS vendors and requested an RFP based on your distribution need, how do you evaluate those in-depth responses? Here are a few tips on getting it right:

  •  Functional fit – how the WMS capabilities match up with your needs. Many WMS solutions have good built-in functionality for basic needs, so pay particular attention to how the solutions will meet your unique needs and processes. And keep in mind potential areas for growth over the next few years. How will the solution meet those functional needs?
  • Integration with existing and planned technology – Existing, proven integrations with automation, robotics, ERP and other supply chain systems play into the time and cost of your implementation. Many factors go into the timeline and cost of your implementation, starting with the architecture and configurability of the solution. The ability to setup the system quickly and easily will impact both initial implementation costs as well as the long-term Total Cost of Ownership.
  • Configurability and Adaptability – Will the WMS evolve and grow with you as your needs change? Can you make changes to the system yourself, or do you need to keep going back to the vendor for changes, which can be time-consuming and costly? That can dramatically affect the Total Cost of Ownership.
  • Usability – is it easy for warehouse staff to learn and use? Is the User Interface intuitive?
  • Architecture – A lot of WMS solutions are built on old, clunky architecture that do not meet today’s more modern technology. First and foremost, the architecture needs to allow for scalability, so your business does not outgrow the system. A WMS is a long-term investment, and as your business changes and grows, you want the system to adapt with you, so you don’t have to replace it in three years.
    Also, with the right architecture that offers codeless implementation tools, you will be able to lower your support and maintenance costs, by owning the system internally and not being at the mercy of the WMS vendor.
  • ROI and Total Cost of Ownership – Price is a key consideration with a selection of this magnitude, and even more important is the total cost of ownership because this is a long-term investment. Will the solution require many modifications to meet your needs? What are typical timeframes for implementation? If your system is up and running faster, you will be gaining those benefits faster. How do deployment options affect the cost over time? How do integrations to other systems affect total cost and timeframe? Adaptability and configurability of the solution are key criteria to examine for long-term cost and ROI.
  • Commitment from the WMS vendor – Your success is dependent on finding the right solution, executing a successful implementation and thriving with a reliable, long-term partnership. Do you feel that level of commitment from the vendor? Will you be a valued, long-term customer? We also recommend you look at the experience and life of the companies you’re considering. You want a partner who is committed to your specific market and has a lengthy list of satisfied customers. It’s perfectly okay to ask about customers and references, too.

We know you’re here to get some answers about the WMS selection process. So, we invite you to take a minute and just ask us what’s on your mind or request a demo to see what we offer. It will help you understand what’s available and might just speed up your selection process. We are happy to help.

If you want further information on the WMS selection process, read this white paper, “6 Indispensable Tips to Choosing the Right WMS for your Warehouse.”

Download the White Paper here

Contact our Supply Chain experts.