When athletic shoe and apparel retailer Finnish Line implemented a new WMS, technological gaps and glitches disrupted the supply chain, causing $32 million in lost sales. People, process and technology all failed costing CEO his job and closure of up to 150 stores through 2020. Horrifying, isn’t it?
New WMS implementation can boost efficiency and facilitate procedures, but faulty implementation may have a devastating effect. Firstly, enterprises need to shed off their ‘way we’ve always done it’ mentality when implementing new technology and approach WMS implementation with forecasting, demand planning and testing systems under conditions that mimic real-world needs.
Deferring key elements during WMS implementation will not only have you retracting your steps but also leave much of the promised ROI on the table.
The 5 phases approach presents a faster ROI, reduced deployment complexity, an accelerated time-to-value, a shorter implementation schedule and lower overall costs. The challenge lies in ensuring an efficient set up at every phase of implementation – from initiating the project, system integration and configuration to testing and training to provide the best result for your business.
Phase 1: Project Initiation: Business Review to Understand Your Requirements
Make sure your cross-functional team develops a detailed map of your current business processes. Understanding how each component will work together will help you plan your WMS implementation better. Document all operational processes to understand the needs and requirements of the warehouse and how WMS will work in your environment. The review will also help you identify any specific gaps in the existing processes, and how WMS functions and features can satisfy your business needs. They are essential to consider early in the process to have an efficient operational strategy in place.
Major Steps in Phase 1
- Confirm scope, statement of work and assumptions
- Establish budget and a realistic and flexible project timeline including deliverables and milestones
- Identify problem areas, business challenges and weaknesses processes, procedures, technology gaps and technology requirements in your operations to improve operational processes
- Discuss and address processes and issues of key customer accounts
- Understand your distribution centers, plants, 3PLs and vendors/ customers
- Identifying opportunities for improvements and gaps
Phase 2: Configuration: Determine the Hardware Requirement
This phase involves configuring the system to develop virtual warehouses/ zones/ locations/ racks and rows, make mandatory customizations to match unique needs of your industry. It involves environmental survey for final hardware recommendations, hardware procurement integration of third party hardware. The phase also involves setting of business roles, user access rights and groups, etc. to import data from employees/ goods/ customers/ suppliers/ users etc. Also included in the stage is setting up of procurement and sales rules, reordering flow and integration of third party hardware together with additional customization.
Although today’s highly configurable WMS can match most business requirements yet, the project manager must pursue a survey to determine the hardware requirements. The phase includes setting up a virtualized environment for cloud deployment and installation of software on your hardware for on-premise deployments.
Major Steps in Phase 2
- Conduct an analysis/ survey for mobile hardware solutions, RFID, printers’ peripherals and third-party solutions
- Procure hardware (with approved purchase order)
- Install/ configure, test hardware platform, or support your IT staff for on-premise deployments
- Develop charge controls following an established software development life-cycle
Phase 3: Testing:
Test, Test, Test, you can’t test enough. When time frames are under pressure, testing is an area that either gets diminished or compressed. Because it is labor intensive and requires you to produce test scripts, run test scenarios often multiple times, we often see it being skipped or cut short to free up time or resources for other projects. This stage includes testing the business processes across types of testing that include Unit/ System/ Acceptance/ Load/ regression Testing using different test scenarios and repeating these exercises several times.
Although most WMS vendors provide standard training courses such as system orientation, training is also provided by an integration firm that brings extensive experience in conducting training programs with WMS software. Proper training and hand-on experience with real warehouse processes for your team ensures that at go-live your employees are skilled, confident and efficient.
Major Steps in Phase 3
- Implement, test implementation of WMS in the hosted environment
- Setup and configure the system to best meet requirements and goals – simultaneously providing key user training
- Define test criteria/scenarios and lead functional/operational testing
- Produce system documentation
Phase 4: Training
The fourth phase stage involves your team to undergo comprehensive WMS training. Unless your employees know what exactly they’re doing, the true potential of WMS will never be realized.
Often neglected for being time-consuming, training extends beyond educating employees about the controls pertaining to their daily operations, instead provide a wider understanding of the WMS as a whole. For successful WMS implementation projects, train early and train often because this helps ease the implementation process and ensure that the system eventually provides the best-fit value. This phase is critical to when transitioning from one WMS to another. Regular training helps you achieve the full potential of your WMS system. Ensure to verify your training material is accurate and that all the changes that you made to the system are well-documented.
Major Steps in Phase 4
- Under Go Full WMS training
- Provide end-user training for mobile-based and web components
- Used acceptance training
- Develop plans for and perform data transformation/ migration
Phase 5: Deployment & Support
Upon testing and configuration, and on an agreed date, an accurate data snapshot of the warehouse data is uploaded to the database of the new WMS. Initially, both systems are used at the same time to ensure data accuracy. Given the complexity of WMS deployment, support is important post-deployment to cater to issues that were not addressed during implementation.
While delivering both onsite support, the WMS project management team together with Go-Live support staff will ensure that the launch goes smoothly and any hiccups or issue that arises is quickly resolved. This is where a reliable and experienced cloud based WMS provider comes into its own and provides the necessary information, support and access and collaboration on any customization.
Major Steps in Phase 5
- Perform WMS deployment and provide onsite support
- Ensure ongoing customer support
- Provide support in accordance with mutually-agreed upon Service Level Agreement (SLA)
- 24x7x365 Support
- Ensure documentation of incident resolution process with tracking/reporting
WMS implementation brings greater productivity to your warehouse operations. As you must’ve noticed that implementing WMS is a multi-stage process that must be planned and handled smoothly.
Get a head-start by choosing Cygnet experts in WMS integration and customization with proven track record in WMS implementation and a history of providing quality support. With reports showing that only 48% of WMS implementations realize the ROI they expect, a reliable partner like Cygnet maybe just what is required to overcome WMS implementation challenges and revenue risks successfully. To know more on how Cygnet Infotech can help, schedule a meeting talk to one of our logistics expert today.