How to project manage a WMS implementation

WMS implementation is one of the most daunting tasks that any WMS project manager will face during their career. It’s months of demanding work and stress that culminate in a few days where there’s more coffee in your body than blood.

Every implementation process is different and will be unique based on your warehouse and your technology. Project planning is critical for your success and management of errors or challenges. Let’s look at a high-level strategy for your WMS project manager to follow for your next implementation.

Define and verify your requirements

Each RFP has a laundry list of requirements and yours may or may not have been created by the WMS project manager who is responsible for implementation. When you’re creating your game plan, always start with a review of requirements and make sure they are defined well enough for IT and other staff to properly implement and verify.

Implement WMS successfully using this step-by-step WMS implementation guide

Expanding requirements to touch on specific business processes and needs can help you set the schedule for implementation and steps to follow. A successful WMS implementation is one that works at the end of the run, so it’s okay to move steps around or phase-in your rollout if inventory accuracy and customer satisfaction don’t suffer.

Secure your data offsite

Something will go wrong during a WMS implementation. So, have your WMS project manager plan for the worst by backing up your business-critical data offsite just in case. This should be separate from any data you silo to run tests of the new WMS configuration.

Look to minimize modifications and maximize integrations

Typically, when it comes to WMS implementations, the fewer software customizations you need, the smoother things will go.

Get all this development in place before your start the implementation process and have your team on-hand when you’re testing and going live. If you’re hiring outside developers for assistance, make sure your agreement has them available and dedicated to your work when you run the implementation.

If possible, use existing WMS integrations that are available to you instead of creating custom bridges between the software you use. True customization can be made later when the core WMS is operational and helping your business.

Create a detailed plan for implementation through transition

There is no checklist that will cover every specific element of your own implementation, so WMS project managers will need to build one specific to your processes, people, software, and overall deployment. This plan needs to run through all phase of the WMS implementation and give detail whenever possible.
Here are a few broad things to include in your implementation plan:

  • Complete proof of concept
  • Load and create application operating environments
  • Development process to understand and test integrations
  • Fit-gap analysis and integration go-forward plans
  • User acceptance testing
  • Plans for mock go-live and revisions for true go-live
  • Audit checklists for your core processes and phases

You know the KPIs most important to your business, so work to incorporate them in all your processes and reviews.

Train a small team by testing configurations

After you’ve got your checklists and processes completed and reviewed, it’s time to train your core team with the WMS in a test environment.

Your goal here is to run through scenarios and tests to make sure everything is operating correctly and that the entire process from order to post-audit. Keep in mind that you’ll need a way to verify that your data is being used and generated throughout.

WMS project managers should acquire and use all the tools they need to validate data during each process.

Go live and follow up

After training your core team and working out the kinks, it’s time to expand that to everyone who will need to use the WMS during and after implementation.
Here’s where you’ll want the closest work with your WMS vendor. They’ve been through the process before so use them to verify everything is in place before you throw the switch. Having someone onsite is a smart move when possible.

During the process, run tests and verify systems as you go. Take data and system snapshots during the usage of the new WMS, and you’ll position yourself for an easier audit to ensure data accuracy in orders and inventory.

Any WMS project manager will let you know that an implementation has hiccups you don’t expect. Vendor support is a must during that review of complexities. Your partner should have an audit process to follow, so work with them to gain an understanding with that process and your own list.

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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