What did your warehouse say to you today? Well, I am not literally talking about it, but rather having the next best thing – the ultimate warehouse visibility. Think about a warehouse operational framework, where you have the visibility across all operations, inventories, labor activities and processes all at one go. As we step into the next phase of the 'new normal', supply chains are getting more complex and the pressure of accelerated order fulfillment in this scenario is mounting. As a result, the importance of data and operational visibility has grown multi-fold and pushed businesses towards taking strong measures in making their operational frameworks smarter. In this emerging trend of fortifying the business operations and creating resilient digital supply chains, warehouse management systems (WMS) has become one of the keys. From driving accuracy, faster processing and aiding in smarter decision making with the real-time availability of data, WMS has proven to be an effective medium of creating a seamless and error-less warehouse of the future.
No matter what the size of your business is, having a WMS protects your business from the current and the future challenges. And as the 2018 WERC survey goes “30% more facilities have implemented a WMS than in 2008”. Soon WMS is becoming an important component of strategic business improvement and a competitive differentiator for businesses across the globe and of any sizes.
But the implementation of a WMS requires its own due diligence, and the process of selection has to be full-proof to ensure it is the perfect business fit.
From the past experiences, what I saw was, it's always hard to take the very first step. So let me simplify that process for you. Let's formulate a strategy and provide you with a simple 5 step process to get you started in the process of selecting a WMS for your business operation.
Though similar to the linear supply chain model which encompasses (a linear sequence of suppliers, manufactures, distributors and the end-user), still the difference lies in the core of circular economy, which is the changes in the product design, which is now focused more on reuse. To further delve into it, we can say that circular economy adds four more layers to the traditional reverse logistics:
Step 1: Understanding your existing processes and identifying the gaps and requirements
One of the most important step is understanding the business process gaps you plan to overcome with implementation of a WMS. Analyzing and prioritizing the requirements helps you make a list of outcomes and features that you expect from you WMS solution. To create a seamless process of requirement study you can try dividing the major factors into a segmented framework to deep-dive into: Defining the type of system, Dividing the expectations across the processes and creating milestones, Segmenting the users of the system and Setting expectations related to automation.
Step 2: Create end-user groups and gather their inputs
End-users will be the major decision makers when it comes to the fact that whether your WMS implementation will work or not. The advantages of the WMS die down if your end-user is unhappy with the change or the tool. You need to identify the segments of the users (as done in earlier step) and then create groups to gather their inputs on the usability needs and other data requirements.
Step 3: Research the market, search for the solutions that fit your business needs
With a crowded market space of WMS solution providers, it becomes important for you to take onus in researching the providers thoroughly. Few of the areas you should look into while researching the providers are like Features and their alignments with your business needs, the scalability and flexibility of the system, the integration capabilities, the sustainability factor and the system provider's change management process, to say a few.
Step 4: Create a RFP for the vendors of your choice
You need to prepare a short RFP or Request for Proposal document (not more than few pages) to describe in broad terms what issues you are currently facing and what you want to achieve with the WMS , while outlining your business operations structure, transactional level inputs, company future plans, warehouse operational details and plans.
One major aspect that needs to be taken care of before the RFP preparation is deciding on the type of system you are looking for? SaaS or On-premise? Based on the business requirement analysis you have performed before, at this stage you should be able to determine the type of solution you want, to ensure your RFP is on the same lines.
Step 5: Understand the WMS vendor pricing categories and calculate ROI
The vendor pricing and ROI calculation becomes important for justifying the features you desire and the features you need immediately. It helps in understanding the vendor deliverables and cost to be incurred along with it. The vendor pricing can be divided across four major categories: Licensing/Subscription/Usage Costs, Development/Customization Costs, Support Costs and One-time Implementation Costs.
Though the process of selecting the perfect WMS for your business doesn't end here, this is just the initial steps to get you all started in the process that what I like to call as the “transformational journey” for your warehouse and in a way for your overall supply chain. The performances and KPI metrics will itself tell you the difference, from a pre-WMS and post-WMS operational efficiencies.
If you want to go in-depth into the selection process, we have a 10 step extensive guide for you that will help in understanding the process even further and go deep into the associated terminologies before you make the final call. You can find the 10 step guide at this link
Also, if you are starting your journey towards selecting a WMS which is a perfect fit for your business, then you can take our cloud-based, smarter and highly customizable Highway 905 ® WMS under consideration.
So what are your plans for your warehouse in the next one year?