The Importance of an Assessment When Selecting WMS Technology

By Mark Highhouse, Director of Business Development, Americas

The decision’s been made to implement or upgrade your warehouse management system (WMS). It’s a big investment, yet a smart business move for staying competitive. Warehouse management systems have many benefits from improving productivity to lowering customer order cycle time to allocating labor efficiently.

Yet what is the best solution for managing your warehouse in the future? To answer this question, you need a roadmap that identifies current pain points and defines growth requirements. The assessment is vital at this point to determine the right fit for your operations.

It should be comprehensive. While each facility and industry have their unique characteristics, there are some main points that should be part of each review.

Building Your Team

This group will be responsible for analyzing your business and helping you make key decisions. Who should be part of the team?

  • Operations/Warehouse
  • Supply Chain
  • IT
  • Maintenance
  • Quality Assurance/Compliance
  • HR
  • Finance

You will want input from every level of the organization from the C-suite to the frontline. This diversity will provide the needed perspectives for a holistic view. Additionally, it is important to include your end and super users early in the migration. They will be key influencers who help with the new technology and process adoption.

Analyze Your Current WMS & Solutions

If this is a planned migration, an evaluation of the current WMS system is a must. Gather a list of key complaints, likes and wishes. These can probably be divided into areas such as performance and functionality.

A review of other solutions is also important. Typical questions include:

  • What ERP are you using?
  • What third-party systems are installed?
  • Are there any near-future IT upgrades planned?

This information enables a better evaluation of possible new systems.

Perform a Walkthrough

This step will provide hands-on experience on how the operation works. A facility walkthrough helps you evaluate the flow of goods through the distribution center. It also lets you see the tasks performed. Interviewing key staff members during this time is also recommended. You can capture challenges and what’s working right first-hand. Note that this part of an assessment can also be conducted virtually using floor plans, flow charts, video capture, AR headsets, etc.

Gather Data

Hopefully, you are already tracking basic KPIs or operational metrics for analysis. This data should show any trends and variances that will reveal issue and opportunity areas. Below are some common areas monitored.

  • Accuracy
  • Costs/Financial
  • Cycle Time
  • Efficiencies/Effectiveness
  • Quality
  • Utilization

Benchmarks help you compare your warehouse to the industry at large and top performers. This information has multiple applications from determining where you need to be as well as what your priorities are.

Evaluate Warehouse Management Systems

Warehouse management systems address a wide variety of challenges as distribution has moved from traditional stocking warehouses to flexible multi-channel fulfillment centers. Solutions range from basic to robust systems that fit different types of operations. For example, SAP has multiple options:

  • Stock Room Management
  • Inventory Management
  • Basic Warehousing
  • Advanced Warehousing

Lower volume warehouses may only require stockroom and inventory management. Some may even consider a template implementation of Basic Warehousing. Complex operations require Extended Warehouse Management (EWM Basic or Advanced) more integrations for transportation, logistics and even traceability. A demo allows your company to better understand how the system works and if any customization might be required.

Your analysis of the required functionality needed will help guide your selection. This information will be paired with your current solution review to provide a more complete picture of what you need.

Prepare for Change Management

As part of the process, you’ll want to account for managing the change in operations. This step is an important part of an implementation plan. It is also useful during the assessment stage. The team and each element of the evaluation provide good information for addressing possible pushback and what communication will be required during and after the project. Download our change management guide for a detailed overview.

Final Points

There is a risk of bias when conducting an internal assessment. Industry knowledge, current experiences, beliefs, preferences and more can cloud decisions. For this reason, many companies bring in consultants to assist with the evaluation. They are skilled in finding any gaps and how they might impact your company.

Finding time for a non-revenue generating project is difficult when operations are at capacity. However, it’s well worth the effort. An assessment of your warehouse will ensure you select the right WMS that will help you handle what you have now and in the future.

And there are additional benefits from going through a comprehensive audit. You learn more about your processes and be able to set new standards and metrics. The result is your warehouse works smarter through improved efficiencies.

For more information on our Warehouse Logistics services, please visit our overview page here.