Why WMS implementations fail
Implementation is the boogeyman of any software project. It’s where something can reach out of the darkness and take away all that cash and time you’re investing, leaving you with a gaping wound. And, like that towering figure in the night, the risk comes from what we don’t know.
Thankfully, it’s all still software, so you can bring these dangers into the light, discover their weakness, and stop staying up all night worrying about how you’re going to pay for the whole thing. Here, we’ll tackle three of the common reasons WMS implementations fail and how you can banish the boogeyman.
Poor data management
Implementation can feel slow, painful, and confusing. One thing that makes it this way is when a company relies on the erroneous information during their selection and implementation process.
Using metrics that don’t correctly measure the things you want to change makes it challenging to choose the right platform to adopt. You must walk into implementation with data as well as clearly defined goals. When you lack either, it’s difficult to know how well you’re doing right now, which means you can’t really understand how well you should do with a new system.
Get the right WMS by first setting clear goals (increased sales, fewer returns, more accurate shipments) and then looking at the data you need now to judge current success. After you have that foundation, you can then look at the specific solutions a WMS provides.
Many separate groups will interact with your WMS. Each has its own need and expectations for what the platform will address. If these aren’t met, your team is likely to view the new system as useless and try to avoid adopting it.
Work with stakeholders for each group to understand what they expect and ensure these expectations are realistic. A WMS isn’t going to reach positive ROI on day one, and often not within the first few months. However, many can generate significant savings within the first six months or sooner.
Work with vendors to set your expectations around cost and functionality before you buy anything — and please note that most companies will get about 80% of the features they’re after, not 100% of what’s on their list.
Expectation management looks up and down the food chain, requiring you to work on efficiency gains and cost savings with leadership, while warehouse employees need guidance on functionality. We don’t often think of it this way, but success here really comes down to your daily users, which brings up our third significant risk.
Lack of training
A system is only ever as good as the people using it each day. When people aren’t using the software, the implementation is going to be a significant failure, and the main reason people don’t stick with a WMS is that they lack training.
For your WMS, training helps your team change habits to use your new WMS, instead of trying to work around it and find a new path to doing it the old way. Successful implementation often requires intensive training and workshops to help people understand the system, then follow-up learning to solve questions or remind people of new tactics.
Look for vendors who offer multiple training options and consider platforms that encourage training while limiting ways to work around a system — such as a WMS that requires product scans during picking and ties individual performance scores to those scans.
Preparation starts with communication
That’s the rough news. What you’ll like to hear is that all of these concerns can be tackled. There’s even a unifying force that makes resolution easier: communication.
The more you and your team, stakeholders, and potential partners communicate, the easier it is to understand WMS implementation. Communication and a good checklist clarify where you’re at, how a WMS can help you reach the gains you need, and identify (and solve) knowledge gaps that might get in your way.
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