How to identify the perfect WMS vendor demo

If your WMS vendor is going to sweat bullets, it’ll be during the platform demo. Every demo is a make-or-break sales opportunity for them, so it’s often a place where bluffing, slightly inflating capabilities and completely honest answers mix.

Your task is to sift through it all to find what works best for you and get an accurate feeling for how the WMS will work. Warehouse professionals need to judge each WMS demo individually and compare them against each other — beyond spec lists — and there are six main pillars of these comparisons that allow you to identify a standout WMS demo and platform.

1. You see the real software in action

Let’s start with the first must-have: you must be watching a real, live WMS demo. No slide deck or other presentation can cut it, ever.

A demo is a chance to see some of the inner workings and ask questions. You only get the dynamic experience you need if you’re testing the platform your team will work with one day.

The vendor should take you through the entire transaction management process as well, covering receiving and shelving to picking, shipping, inventory audits and generating your customer reports or invoices.

2. Ask to see your preferred integrations

In many cases, a WMS will feed into several other software platforms to share the information you need to run your business.

If you’re relying on commercial software for database management, ERM, managing a storefront, or otherwise managing day-to-day operations, a WMS designed to work with these will save you plenty of frustration, but only if that integration is successful and easy to manage.

You can get a small idea of this during a demo by asking to see sample integrations and operations.
This is one of the few areas you may want to provide a clear heads-up to each vendor because you’ll want to see the demo from someone who knows your platform.

This step-by-step WMS selection survival guide will help you make the most out of your vendor demos

Few things are as painful as watching someone else struggle with the software you use every day as they try to sell you more software. That experience could kill your desire for a system that otherwise is a right fit for your needs.

3. Ask about your data too

Some of the best WMS demos I’ve seen have used data from the companies I was assisting, not just demo data.

If a WMS vendor is willing to show you the platform using your own business data, it becomes much easier to see how you’ll use it during your work. Plus, this screams confidence in their WMS, which is one thing you want to judge.

When this is available to you, make sure your team looks through the data ahead of time to remove sensitive information while leaving enough information to get a real feel for the platform.

4. You see support for your gear

Does your WMS rely mostly on handheld barcode scanners? Do you use RF gates for tracking? Are your scales or label printers connected to a platform?
Ask about the equipment you use to manage your warehouse and see if the data you need from these devices is captured in each WMS. Your investment in a WMS should increase the data you capture and its usability, not cause harm to these elements.

5. They largely ignore pricing

A WMS demo is poor time to discuss total cost of a new system, and it could be a bad sign for the business whose WMS you’re considering. Try not to engage if a vendor wants to start a negotiation in front of everyone, instead of just focusing efforts on your purchasing managers or decision makers.

Pricing can be discussed in broad terms, such as established user fees or what some software add-ons may cost each year, but the demo is the time to see what a platform can do, not debate how much implementation will cost.

Perhaps the largest concern is if someone is trying hard to sell you on a price when you’re trying to discuss features. It gives the impression that they’re competing as a commodity instead of a service partner.

6. Your questions get real answers

WMS vendors with a proven track record have seen a wide range of situations and problems. Your demo representative should be able to answer most of your questions and provide you with similar scenarios to consider.

Bring a list of what’s most important and make sure you can address these elements — whether it’s a set of metrics easy to read and understand, support for Oracle’s business solutions, or advanced features like lot control and slotting optimization.

At the end of the day, you want a partner who is response and treats your questions with respect. If the demo doesn’t go well or if they blow off standard requests about features or customer references, then you may want to keep looking for your new WMS.

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Geoff Whiting

About the author…

Geoff is an experienced journalist, writer, and business development consultant with a focus on enterprise technology, e-commerce, and supply chain development. Outside of the office he can be found toying with the latest in IoT, searching for classic radio broadcast recordings, and playing the perpetual tourist in his home of Washington D.C.

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Geoff Whiting

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