Inventory Loading Strategies for a New WMS – The Ups and Downs of Five Different Methods
How you plan to load your inventory at start-up or go-live of your new WMS is one of the key decisions you’ll need to make before (or during) your WMS implementation. Typically this is achieved by one of the following methods:
- Manual Entry (via RF or desktop applications)
- Automated Conversion (convert positions from another system into the new WMS)
- Load from a manual file (spreadsheet or data file)
- Load as received
- ASN for existing inventory
Let’s take a look at the upsides and downsides of each method.
Manual Inventory Entry
There are several situations where the only solution to enter your inventory will be via manual identification, cycle count, or inventory adjustments. For example, if you currently have no system, then conversion is out of the question. Or, if you don’t have the time or enough details to build a data file to load it, then manual entry is often required. The nice things about manual entry are:
- Users get more time to practice the system
- Every location and part gets processed manually and verified
- Accuracy tends to be very high
Of course, the downside of manual entry is time, labor, and human error.
Automated Inventory Conversion
This is achieved when you have the data in an existing system that you can trust and it has enough details for the new WMS, including correct location information. When we have a client who is replacing their existing WMS and they have good bin level accuracy (99% or greater), as well as sufficient details to make the conversion reliable, conversion is always the way to go.
The upsides are:
- Speed – this is usually the fastest way to load it
- Practice – you can load your inventory position multiple times from production data
- Accuracy – if the source system has good accuracy, then you will start with that accuracy in the new system
The downsides are:
- Cost to develop the conversion – keep in mind this might be offset by the cost of a manual entry
- Accuracy – your accuracy is only as good as the source data (garbage in, garbage out)
Load Inventory from a Manual File
A third option is to load inventory from a spreadsheet or external file that is manually created. This is probably the least accurate and most error-prone method we see and we never advise it. This method might be fine if you have static external warehouses where the inventory position does not change. One of our consultants had a client that loaded a spreadsheet that was over a week out of date and needless to say, the startup was very challenging.
Load Inventory as Received
This method is generally only an option for empty warehouses; if you will be going live with an empty warehouse, this is clearly the best method to load your inventory. In the case of an empty warehouse, we always look for opportunities to try to get receiving up and running first so we can simply identify the inventory as it comes in the door.
ASN for Existing Inventory
A fourth option is sort of a creative hybrid of previous options. With this option, you use an ASN (Advanced Shipping Notice) which includes everything that is physically in the current warehouse (and logically in the old WMS) but not yet logically loaded into the new WMS. All existing will then go through the receiving process and be put away to their current location. This method is labor-intensive but has several advantages:
- All new will have gone through the receiving process (i.e., has a “receive key” which ties it back to the initial load)
- During the actual process of receiving, it gives management a good view of what has been touched and what has not (i.e., anything still in an “Expected Receipts” area is yet to be processed)
- It acts as a pseudo physical count because the person doing the receiving and put away will confirm that it is actually in the location
- Your storage locations don’t have to exist in the old system for this method to work since you will still need to confirm put away to the final storage locations.
In summary, consider these options and methods for loading your initial inventory into your WMS at startup. The method that you choose will greatly influence the quality of Day One. If you have multiple options available, it’s worth having a team discussion so that you can choose the best one for your operation.