If you are in the market for a Warehouse Management System there’s a few things you are going to need to know before you even start looking. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy finding the most expensive system on the market and plugging it into your warehouse, some of the biggest companies in the world (take Nike, HP and Heinz for three) have brought their own warehouses to their knees with poor software choices or bad implementation practices. In all three of those cases the company failed to find the WMS that met their specific business requirements.
It’s important to remember the rule…
“A good system implemented poorly will always fail”
This blog offers 7 questions to ask when you or your company is in the market for a new WMS.
1.Do you know your company’s warehousing requirements?
Before you even start looking at WMS providers it is important to conduct a business needs assessment. Identify and document the warehousing requirements of your business then you will be able to compare one provider against another to see which one best fits your business.
2. Does the WMS Provider have operational experience?
Look for WMS providers with hands on operational experience in warehousing. Software Developers are a clever bunch but they are not renowned for spending time in the warehouse. It is up to you to find the WMS providers that combine leading edge software with operational knowledge and experience to create a practical system that works with your warehouse staff, not against them.
3. Is the WMS configurable?
Look for a configurable rules based WMS. Systems that are able to handle your warehouse processes without modifications are going to save you big dollars in the long run. Customized software development isn’t cheap so if your provider is not able to tailor current WMS configuration to your business needs, start looking for one that can.
Tip: Generally WMS providers that cater to Third Party Logistics (3PL) warehousing are able to configure on the fly, after all 3PL’s never know who tomorrow’s customer will be.
4. How user friendly is this WMS?
Right off the bat, if you’re using the keyboard more than the mouse, you’re looking at the wrong WMS. If you’re looking to get the most out of your Warehouse Management Software it needs to generate a positive feeling for the user. Point and Click graphical user interfaces (GUI) make it much easier for the user to enter enquiries regarding stock levels, outstanding work, audit history and generate reports. A warehouse manager should also have access to a traffic alert driven dashboard to keep them abreast of what is happening at all times.
5. How easily can this system be integrated to my current business systems?
Ensure that your WMS is easily integrated to any other current or future ERP/business systems. The best Warehouse Management Systems on the market have open architecture and can be easily integrated to the top ERP’s on the market including SAP, JDEdwards and the Microsoft suite just to name a few. If your WMS provider does not have existing interfaces to any of the top ERP systems then they are most likely not running any large operations and paying to develop these interfaces can turn into a very costly exercise.
NB: Most ERP solutions also have ‘bolt on’ WMS modules but beware, it is not their core business. Look for a WMS provider that specializes in Warehousing and an ERP provider that specializes in resource planning.
6. Can my WMS provider support me when I need help?
Support for your WMS is not only required for the implementation of the system, your WMS provider must offer a well staffed 24 X 7 help desk throughout the life of the system. If something goes wrong in the middle of the night no business can afford to bring the warehouse to a stop until working hours the next day. WMS providers that own their software and deploy it around the world are much more reliable options than companies deploying 3rd party software under license.
7. Last but not least, is your WMS provider your partner or just your vendor?
Make sure that the Warehouse Management System provider you choose to implement understands your needs and wants to help grow your business, not just sell you software. The best approach when choosing a WMS is to make sure your provider understands your business and is genuinely interested in your success. There are many Warehouse Management System providers throughout the world but the best choice is a provider that best fits your business needs and has the operational experience to guide you where necessary.