What is driving your interest in a new WMS?

One of the most useful explanations a software vendor gave me was, “You have a big problem, but unfortunately for me, you don’t need a big solution.”  I liked this bit of wisdom for two reasons: (1) He didn’t try to sell me something that wasn’t going to make me money, and (2) by doing so, he acknowledged that his software was too sophisticated for my problems.

What is driving your business interest in a new WMS?

Most companies invest in a new WMS system for one of three reasons:

  1. They understand how and why they make money with warehouse operations, and they see how software technology could act as an enabler. 
  2. They know they have warehouse problems and they have convinced themselves that the problems are unsolvable without a WMS.
  3. They inherit a new WMS module or bolt-on as part of an overall ERP implementation, particularly if the implementation is being paid for out of another budget.

Companies in categories 2 & 3 need to err on the side of simplicity when choosing and blueprinting a WMS, because they will not comprehend how much effort is required to achieve differing degrees of solution complexity. Companies in category 2, particularly, are susceptible to becoming irrationally enamored with the thought that a computer will magically make their process, performance, quality, and discipline problems go away. The sobering truth is that exactly the opposite is true. Institutionalizing poor processes in software design simply replicates problems with greater velocity. Transactional discipline failures which can be worked around in manual systems will radiate outward to all functions literally at the speed of light when they occur in a WMS.

Get advice on selecting a new WMS to suit your needs with our step-by-step WMS selection survival guide

WMS sophistication guidelines

Any company, in any of the above categories, can choose a profitable degree of WMS sophistication, if they follow some basic rules:

  1. Be able to articulate how and why you make money (or how and why you add value if you are not a P/L center). 
  2. Be able to articulate a “should be” process that delivers or improves the ability to deliver what was articulated in rule 1.  “Should be” blueprinting is painful and demoralizing when done poorly, so stack the deck with the right resources to ensure success.  
  3. For any benefit promised by WMS, be able to verbalize how things will change with the new software and deliver a benefit that cannot be achieved with today’s software or manual systems.   Be able to explain to anyone why you will achieve improved inventory accuracy with your implementation.  

The old cliché is “sell the sizzle, not the steak.” Unfortunately, this is just as true about selling software. It’s the fancy dashboard, and the automated workflow emails that fuel people’s imaginations about how great a sophisticated software solution would be.  The fact is, if there was a product that really made warehouse operations simple, everybody would have that solution, and there would not be so many companies competing on the margin.  There is a level of sophistication that is right for you, but you must thoroughly understand your business before you will find it.

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Shane Starr

About the author…

Shane Starr is a former ERP project manager, with business experience in manufacturing management, supply chain, finance, and strategic planning.

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Shane Starr

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