How Proper Planning Can Help You Get More Out of Your Next WMS or Labor Implementation
For many supply chain organizations, the idea of implementing a new warehouse management system (WMS) or labor management system (LMS) will evoke one of two reactions: a) “Oh, no. Everything is going to change, and I might be out of a job within a few months,” or b) “Oh, yeah. We have needed this change for a long time, and we are now going to rocket our business on to the next level.”
Notice that both reactions are very human in nature. The software itself will do what it is going to do, so be careful about how you select it. The people side of your implementation is where your business will feel the greatest impact. To ensure the best possible outcome beyond system launch, prepare carefully to ensure a positive team experience.
How do you define success?
To ensure the best possible WMS/LMS implementation, it is critical to bear a few key things in mind upfront.
Start with strong leadership
Successful implementations start at the top. C-level buy-in brings everyone in. From there, populate your project team with ringers: a top IT exec, a veteran employee who knows the ropes, an expert outside consultant or partner from the software company. Fill in the roster with champions from across the organization: folks from operations, accounting, finance, sales, and customer service, being sure to provide for all locations across the company.
Explore needs, wants, and desires
Consider this your chance to get everything on the table that might be holding your operations back. Allow space to hear needs, wants, desires, and concerns from every corner. Be sure to survey those who will only hear about the project (i.e., customers, salespeople), see the project (i.e. transportation folks, service reps), and use the project (i.e., folks on the warehouse floor). Then draw your plans with these ideas in mind and define KPIs to hold your team on course through delivery.
Prepare your worksite
With your team and plan in place, the next step is to physically prepare the actual worksite where your new system will operate. Review your warehouse layout to ensure that software commands are practically aligned with physical locations on the floor. Are your workflows in order? Can everything on the system be sequenced in reality? Are your racks in place and robots activated to receive commands and provide input? Remember, your software will not be operating in a vacuum. Plan accordingly.
There was a time when customization was the way to go, but modern WMS/LMS software has come a long way since then and, quite frankly, customization is too costly to endure. To start, writing code is expensive. The changes it makes downstream often require additional code changes. As each customization cascades across the system, suddenly your software is out of warranty, incomprehensible to anyone attempting upgrades, and fast on its way to obsolescence. Best advice: work within the confines of the software, adjust workflows to accommodate where possible, and avoid customization at all costs.
Consider the integrations
Modern enterprises are run using a variety of software solutions for a variety of business purposes. These applications must work together in order to keep the business rolling. That includes vendor systems that interface with specific house assets. Therefore, it is vital to factor in the integrations upfront. Find out what data is needed by each interrelated system and task your cross-functional team to plan how that data will make its way back-to-front to ensure a streamlined, end-to-end solution.
You can be sure, adopting a new solution will expose entrenched processes in silos across your organization. Some of these will be considered “sacred cows.” Take this opportunity to scrutinize everything. Ask why. Examine alternatives. And most important, engage your people in the dialog. We’ve already talked about the “hear-see-use” groups. These are the folks you will need to engage to make your “go live” not only productive but a celebratory event once you flip the switch. Communicate early and often and market your project from day one. Set up a communications team to issue emails, updates and hold meetings. With everyone on board, the change will be positive. No one will be left out.
The Bottom Line
Before you launch any new WMS/LMS project, measure twice, cut once. Enjoying the fruits of a new system – including new cost efficiencies, improved margins, and a better all-around user and customer experience – depends as much if not more on the people part of the equation as the actual software deployed.
Do you want peak performance from a new solution? Promote it by performing proper people planning upfront (or, P3, if you want to get fancy).
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