As e-commerce continues to dominate as one of the fastest-growing business industries today, many companies are trying to catch up. Running businesses online might seem relatively simple, but fulfilling these orders can be a big headache. Accordingly, there has been a rising demand for warehouse management system implementation.
What Does a Warehouse Management System Do?
A warehouse management system (WMS) offers visibility over inventory and supply chain fulfillment operations. This way, companies can apply certain functions that will make the transition from distribution center to shelf a whole lot smoother and more effective. Some key features of warehouse management include:
• Inventory management — Store, track, and update inventory data, such as stocks, expiration dates, delivery notes, and so on.
• Barcoding system — To make it easier to determine data points on batch orders
• Order management system — To take care of bulk B2B orders
• Shelf management — To store and segregate orders within a warehouse
The warehouse management system market is growing, and e-commerce businesses that haven’t implemented a warehouse management system should undoubtedly start putting up such a system if they haven’t done so yet.
Warehouse Management System Implementation Tips for Your E-commerce Business –
#1 Create an adhoc setup team
#2 Create an audit of your current systems
#3 Decide which features to prioritize
#5 Build a rollout plan
#6 Build in a budget for gradual implementation
#7 Provide training
#8 Implement a grace period
#9 Don’t forget to close up the project
#10 Set up regular evaluations
If you’re looking to implement a Warehouse Management System (WMS) in your warehouse or operation, then here are a few tips to help you through that process.
1. Create an adhoc setup team
Implementing this change will be an ad hoc project that will require someone’s headspace and attention. That said, it’s best to have a team focus on the setup process so that everyone in your current organization can still keep things running. That way, the business doesn’t stop operations from making this major shift.
• Project manager — To run point on the whole process
• Technical manager — To help implement any technical setup of software and other digital systems
• Training manager — To take charge of vision casting the changes and training staff on usage
• Database administrator — To handle any audits and data collection for the transition
You can either hire a consultant to help with the setup process or build an internal committee and give them free rein to focus on this implementation project.
2. Create an audit of your current systems
Many of today’s inventory management challenges deal with contextualizing a warehouse management system setup with your current workflow. So before setting up anything, it’s crucial to perform an audit first of your current systems. That includes manual systems and digital ones if you already have any software being used in your operation.
In some cases, a company might have ERP software or CRM software already set up. Find out how these systems might conflict or integrate with the inventory management system or warehouse management processes you would like to implement.
3. Decide which features to prioritize
Not all essential features of warehouse management software will be a priority for your organization. You might only need two or three to begin with, or your company could need more. It all really depends on your current setup and how much of your business you need to start automating with warehouse management software.
Also, determining what types of features you’ll prioritize will help you decide which types of warehouse management systems to implement. Not all WMS providers are built the same. Some are better equipped in a certain area than others. Still, that would depend on your specific needs. So start by determining which features you’ll need in a system and choose the software solution that effectively provides a solution in those areas.
4. Start implementing automation
Many of the key features of warehouse management software are automation-centric, meaning they take a task once manually done by staff and lets a system do it. Here are some of the automated tasks you can start implementing with your warehouse management system:
• Data analysis
• Monitoring and alerts for when stocks hit a critical mass
• Order processing
• Picking and packing activities
• Autonomous driving and stacking
This automation roll-out will also affect your manpower, so it should be in your company and team members’ best interests to determine what people affected by these automation systems will end up doing.
5. Build a rollout plan
Once all the assessment has been done, it’s time to build out a plan for roll-out. Do your absolute best to roll out changes in phases instead of implementing everything in one go. You can start by changing the inventory management processes first before digitizing your order management systems. As a best practice, it should be best to implement internal systems first before implementing anything client-facing.
6. Build a budget for gradual implementation
The WMS implementation process will cost money for sure. You’ll have to pay for digital software, manpower, and training. So factor in those costs. Try not to squeeze in everything for the sake of cost-saving. Those costs will be justified over time as automation and technology are predicted to help lower costs.
7. Provide training
When you implement a WMS, the most crucial part isn’t the setup, but the follow-through across the organizational chart. Installing a warehouse management system will mean nothing if people don’t use it. So the other essential part of this whole process is to provide your staff with adequate training to use the system.
Consider hiring someone who has proven experience in certain warehouse management systems to give the training. Much like the rest of the process, giving this training in groups can help ensure quality and follow-through. Implement an on-demand training system and set up the best learning management systems that fit you where current staff can get refresher training when they need it. Training with the help of an LMS will also come in handy when you’re onboarding new hires who might use the new software. You just need to integrate your LMS with your other tools.
8. Implement a grace period
While it’s in the company’s best interests to roll out the system flawlessly, that rarely happens. There will be a few hiccups here and there and it’s always good to be ready for that. So provide your team with a grace period as all systems will require a learning curve. Always leave margins where possible, especially in terms of delivery schedules and operations backlogs. Once the system becomes clockwork, the team will catch up in time.
9. Don’t forget to close up the project
When running a warehouse management system project, one crucial part that people tend to skip is the project closure. This involves evaluating the whole process and celebrating the win with your staff. If you’re hiring a consultant to help with the setup process, set up a few follow-up meetings to determine areas where you can improve and other possible improvements you can have on the system later on.
10. Set up regular evaluations
Running a warehouse management system is going to be a long-term cadence. So try to take the time to regularly evaluate your system. Be on the lookout for software upgrades and feature roll-outs that could significantly improve your operations. Most systems will have a maximum number of users or SKUs per payment plan, so it might be good to stay ready to upgrade your plan or system as needed.
Future-proof your business with WMS
There’s no questioning that setting up a e-commerce warehouse management system will take time and effort. It will also be a collective effort across the board. So ensure that you have buy-in from the team, especially among stakeholders and supervisors. If everyone stays committed to this change, there will be progress. And this should be a priority given that automation will continue to shape the landscape of business as we know it. Getting left behind could mean serious downsides for the business as a whole.
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