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Guide to implementing a WMS: "Manage the risks"

Design process

Purchasing and implementing a vanilla WMS is extremely rare as businesses typically enhance the functionality of the WMS to suit its business requirements and integrate the system to other core systems such as an ERP system or a web based portal. It is important to understand that the design of the integrated solution not the responsibility of the WMS software vendor as their focus is on their application itself. It is the client's responsibility to provide key internal or external resources to assist in the development of the design by defining business and technology needs based on their knowledge of the business. This business requirements document only serves as the framework and its circulation requires considerable feedback from key stakeholders to ensure that all requirements have been considered and documented.

Establish clear ownership

Your organisation must take ownership of the project management process and follow your standardised project methodology or use the services of an outsourced PM specialist. This will enable all aspects of the project to be managed by your specialist PM rather than relying on the software vendor’s implementation methodology. Their tasks and timeline should be incorporated within your overall project plan.

Team selection

The team must consist of topic experts, business representatives and core stakeholders that have an extended understanding of systems and the supply chain. Depending on the project, the best approach is to establish an on site team, who are able to navigate failure points and any delays to the project leadtime. Clear levels of authority, decision making ability and ability to respond to issues head on will make the project a success.

Resource management

Organisations typically allocate resources on a time based method balancing the project effort and operational effort. This can be challenging to manage as the PM has more of an infuencing role, which at times will require micro management to enaure that commitments are delivered. Back filling of key project resources to be made available on the project for the majority of time during the implementation phase and at least 2 weeks post implementation. Release a key resource who will become the onsite champion that needs to invest considerable time learning about the new system and ask intelligent questions during the implementation phase. This is a critical role and is essential to the success of the project.

Training methodology

If you are being provided a “Train the Trainer solution” by the software supplier, your organisation will need to provide a super user, person from previous point, who will be trained how to use the system and then pass this knowledge to all other users. This will entail the development of a training program and documentation designed around specific job functions utilizing realistic examples of the current work flow and a competency based program.

Testing Phase

Need to implement a “User Acceptance Testing” environment on site which will entail full testing and validation of setup, interfacing, configuration and base functions to produce acceptable results and perform to expectation. This needs to include a small number of transactions through linear steps as well as a load stress test to reflect a full production cycle. All testing needs to occur in an environment that mirrors the production environment and issues that arise through the testing cycle need to be remedied and retested prior to formal signoff for go live. The super user and project team are critical to this process.

The signal coverage on site can be a significant problem as dropout rates experienced daily will turn users against the system due to the delay it will add to their productivity. Ensure that the right communications infrastructure is in place in order to achieve a sub second response time for transaction processing via RF.

Post Go Live

Take control post Go live – Problems will occur and require an immediate focus by the project team, rather than relying on your organisations "Super user". Resources must be backfilled to accommodate this as discussed earlier