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
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
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
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
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.