WMS implementation pitfalls to avoid

Warehouse management systems can be invaluable tools to help your floor run smoothly, but adopting a new one can be problematic. Here are some implementation pitfalls you should avoid when setting up a new WMS.

Not planning ahead

Implementing a new warehouse management system isn't something you can do overnight, so it's important to plan ahead. You might want to have a new system in place for your upcoming busy season, but that's the worst time to set it up. You don't want to toss your new management system in the deep end and hope it can swim. Instead, implement your new WMS system during your slow season, and plan your downtime effectively. This enables you to figure out what works and what doesn't and make changes when downtime isn't going to have a catastrophic impact.

Succumbing to peer pressure

There are a lot of different salespeople out there, and every single one of them wants you to choose their WMS instead of anyone else's. It's the nature of sales, but that doesn't mean you have to buy into the first product that comes your way. Don't succumb to peer pressure and do your research before choosing the system that you will eventually use in your warehouse. Spending some more time being picky can save you a lot of time and trouble in the long run.

Not being flexible

Warehouse management systems are not one size fits all. Even a system that looks like it fits your warehouse correctly might need to be changed here and there. Be flexible. If you have a system in place that doesn't quite work for you, then make the necessary changes. Customize the system to work for you instead of having to work for the system.

Failing to achieve buy-in

There's more than just financial investment at stake here — you need decision-makers personally invested in the proposed changes, too. Without buy-in from leaders at every tier of your organization, you risk rolling out a new system with which some of your most important team members are not familiar and cannot "promote" to the people who report to them in turn.

Enthusiasm for moving to a new warehouse management system has to come from the top, and you have to convincingly portray to the rest of the company the improvements it will bring and why everybody should become familiar with it quickly.

Skipping the testing phase

You wouldn't implement a new production process without testing it — so why would you bring a new warehouse management system into your facility without a shakedown run first? No matter how long it takes, don't skip the testing phase. This will also give you time to figure out what works and what doesn't for everybody who comes in contact with the system in an average day, so you can change workflows as needed to suit your company and staff perfectly.

Not knowing your best point of contact

The ideal outcome in partnering with a service provider for a new management system is twofold. First, you have a reliable point-of-contact who can put a "face" on the software and other services involved, answer your questions, and provide ongoing advice as needed. Second, you come away with the peace of mind that bugs and issues don't have to be solved by in-house IT personnel.

But some of the biggest mistakes leaders make tend to occur in this "last mile." There should be a clear and easy process for employees and managers to deploy support tickets when things don't work as expected. The modern warehouse management system is software-driven, which means you should know how to react when problems occur — because they will from time to time. A good vendor won't leave you with a stalled warehouse and they won't leave you guessing how to bring any issues to their attention.

Instead, take a deliberate approach

A warehouse management system might not be as straightforward as you'd like, simply because of all the moving parts to implement and all of the stakeholders involved who deserve consideration, including the employees whose daily workflows might look a little different after the changeover. Just make sure you're flexible and that you shop around for the right system and vendor for your warehouse. Remember: not all warehouse management systems are created equal. Choose one that has all the features you need and enough customization to turn it into the perfect tool to make your warehouse run even more efficiently than it does already.

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Megan R. Nichols

About the author…

Megan R. Nichols is a technical writer and blogger. Her work has been featured on Manufacturing.net and Industry Today. Megan also manages her own blog, Schooled By Science, posting twice a week. You can keep up with her by following her on Twitter or subscribing to her blog.

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Megan R. Nichols

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