The pros and cons of hiring a WMS consultant

A WMS consultant can make getting the right warehouse management tool much easier by doing the challenging work of finding software, narrowing down selections, and presenting management with a prioritized selection for the final decision. A poor consultant can do the opposite; costing you money by making incorrect assumptions and decisions when they don’t fully understand all aspects of your business.

Here are some advantages and disadvantages you face when using warehouse consulting companies, plus how to decide if you should work with one.

Why you might want to hire a WMS consultant

Consultants tend to be experts on their given topic and related processes. Few others will have a broad understanding of all the software options and advancements in any WMS; a consultant can serve as an uncomplicated way to make up for any knowledge gaps in your team.

A WMS consultant will have an idea of vendors that target your industry and size, as well as what features businesses like yours might need (or what you can avoid being up-sold). They’ll review your operations and give you advice designed to address concerns and grow with your business plan.

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Good consultants know the software, and its limitations, allowing them to make recommendations suited to you. Always be sure to ask if they have any financial relationship with software providers. You want a consultant who isn’t getting paid by both you and a WMS provider for their recommendations.

Impartiality is another significant benefit. A worthwhile consultant will focus on improving processes, without the tunnel vision the rest of your team may have, and often without other bias. A neutral opinion may provide your best chance to understand where you are today and where you can reasonably be tomorrow, especially with a specific budget in mind.

Why you might want to go at it alone

There are two major concerns when it comes to a WMS consultant: cost and knowledge.

In general, it’ll be more expensive to hire a WMS consultant than appointing someone on staff to take control of the project. Fees can range from a few thousand dollars to a significant percentage of the cost of the software you select, and the more complex your situation, the more you should expect to pay. If you don’t have the budget, take a moment to reconsider your outsourcing.

The knowledge concern is twofold: information the consultant may lack, as well as details your team may miss.

Consultants aren’t aware of your company’s inner workings: they can only perform as well as the data they gather in interviews and system reviews. WMS consultants may miss requirements you have by not asking the right questions or speaking to the right people — anything that makes your warehouse unique could throw a wrench into their understanding.

In the same light, a WMS consultant will make a variety of choices to narrow down potential platforms and prioritize certain features before they bring the information to your team. This will keep staff out of the early decisions where they might have discovered modules that could help your business, or simply not learn why your operations need scanner support, but won’t benefit from supporting RF gates.

Your team needs to work with a consultant for that to be a smart hire. There may be some pushback from your staff when you bring in an outside consultant; if a consultant would have to operate as a standalone person, whether by choice or because your staff would bristle at working with them, it could be harmful to your operations in the long run.

How do you choose?

Deciding if you want to hire a WMS consultant ultimately comes down to team and budget. If you can afford it and your team is willing to work with the consultant, it could be beneficial to ensure you’re getting the right tool the first time. If your operations are specialized or you think your team will not be forthcoming with the consultant, it could be more affordable to have an existing employee head up this task.

WMS implementation alone can cost thousands of dollars, so you want to give your business the best chance possible to get your WMS selection right the first time.

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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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