Warehouse Management System: Be Smart. Be Prepared.
By Robert Sushinski, Marketing Coordinator, Westfalia Technologies, Inc.
Have you been struggling to find the answer for more efficient ways to run your warehouse(s)? This is where a warehouse management system (WMS) can save the day. A WMS gives you the ability to track order fulfillment, shows real-time inventory, and allows you to follow the movements of your inventory throughout the warehouse. Not with paper and a pen, but easily accessible on a computer or tablet. Sounds great, right? It is! If you are considering a new WMS, there are a couple things you should ask first.
Is it worth it?
Return on Investment (ROI) is an important part of the buying process and is often the primary focus of decision makers. Why would you invest in a WMS if you aren’t going to see that investment blossom into profitability? Also, after you make the initial investment, how much is it going to cost to maintain the system year over year? A WMS can reduce inefficient labor and overhead, manage the warehouse labor, and can provide accurate data at any time.
Ask how much is expected annual costs for support and maintenance. Most experts agree, it should be around 15% to 18% of the total cost of the system. After you can see the total cost, you can start to figure out when the system will be profitable. A company should look at cost and headcount reduction, but don't forget the business advantage of the information gained. Although it’s not a monetary gain, it is a competitive advantage. Take the numbers to your finance department and find out the estimated time for your ROI.
What’s my time?
Find a software vendor that instills trust when they discuss their product, and find them early! One simple mistake some companies make is that they wait too long to start talking to a vendor. Rather than pressuring the vendor to meet strict time and budgetary constraints, start the conversation early. This will help you avoid making assumptions about the software’s capabilities. A software vendor should take the time to help you understand the available options and how their solution can be customized to meet your specific business needs. Fast implementation isn’t the problem -- when you are ready.
The U.S. Marine Corps teaches this concept with the 6 P’s—proper prior planning prevents poor performance. A WMS, when implemented correctly, can create an efficient warehouse. But, a WMS that is implemented without any support or planning can be the beginning of a very big headache—and a headache is what the system is trying to get rid of! Work with your software vendor to create a timeline that includes all of the necessary steps needed for implementation and will help you stay on schedule.
Where’s my help?
No system is worth investing in if you cannot get the support you need to use it. While we all hope that your WMS works flawlessly for many years to come, we know that hiccups can happen along the way. The key to success is to find the problem early and take the necessary steps to fix it before it becomes a bigger problem. A good WMS vendor should offer you a software support and maintenance agreement. In addition to defining the type and amount of support you will receive when something isn’t functioning properly, this agreement will provide a timeline of expected upgrades and enhancements that will keep your software from becoming legacy.
A good WMS should also be scalable. As your company grows, so should your software. Find a system that can be designed to meet your future goals and expectations. You don't want to buy a WMS now with the expectation that you will have to purchase another one five years down the road when your company experiences unforeseen growth. Discuss the future of the software, including upgrades and add-ons, with your software vendor. If these options are limited, it may be time to find another company.
Although there are many factors to discuss with your team prior to implementing a WMS, taking the time to sit down and work through the problems will save you time during the implementation process. Remember that you are the one who has to work with it daily, and if you are not getting the support you need from the vendor now, do you expect better service in the future? Westfalia believes in creating a partnership that gives you exactly what you are looking for. We have developed a system that is flexible and able to work with all sizes of warehouses so we can create a unique solution for you. We want to sit down and discuss your needs so that when we implement the WMS, it functions as we said it would and will help prepare your business for future growth.