Updated: Jul 6, 2021
The selection of a Warehouse Management System is a very important decision for a warehouse operation. In this post we explore this topic in collaboration with Lanark.
Important - as with every project - is to approach this question in a structured way. We suggest the following steps:
1️⃣ ASIS Scan – What is the “context” and what are the “decision factors”?
Don't rush straight into functional requirements! First define "the context" in which the decision needs to be made!
Create an image of the organization is created using the following questions:
- How does the operation work in general and what are its strengths and weaknesses?
- Which solutions are already present?
- How flexible is the operation towards changes?
- What is the "technology maturity" of the company?
- What are the future needs towards functionalities and processes?
- What are the exact initiators and/or drivers of the project? Cost? Continuity? Future readiness? Service?
- Is the company prepared to compromise regarding to functional requirements when budget becomes an issue? Or do they work with a wish list without compromises?
- And so on...
This "AS IS" review will later support the selection of the WMS solution.
For example, an organization without its own IT-department needs to watch out with complex WMS-products. Another example is a company that goes for continuous improvement and/or is active in a changing environment needs a flexible solution.
This effort of becoming familiar and clearly describing the company needs, allows in a later phase to evaluate which solutions will work and which ones won't work.
💡 In this phase the decision factors are determined that will be leveraged to make the final choice. Notice that this is all done before going into depth towards the WMS solution.
2️⃣ Functional Analysis – What does the system need to be able to do?
In this step the functional needs are clearly listed. Think in this about the needs towards for example stock management and stock-control, about the methods used to the receive goods and perform order-filling (RF, etc.), or about the special needs such as cross-docking. At the same time the exact criticality and priority is added (crucial, opportunity, etc.).
💡 Tip: do not start reinventing the wheel here... it’s easier to start from existing lists.
👉 Important is to "rewire your brains" and distance yourselves from how the processes work currently and take the crucial step towards functional thinking. It is extremely important to "open-up" for doing things differently! Be aware that WMS' are build on logic and will be able to support most of your processes in an efficient manner!
👉 Also do not forget its "only" a WMS! It will be able to do a lot if its well-constructed and setup, but most likely it’s not going to make your coffee or polish your shoes. It's important to identify the functional scope of the WMS in your overal system landschape and architecture. A WMS is in the first place a transactional system meant to drive a warehouse operation. Some systems dare to go very broad in this "support", but if you drift to far from the core; then at one time you 'll run into the limitations.
Also do not forget in this phase to look at the "non-functional" requirements, meaning elements such as ease of use, hardware, cloud, security, upgrade strategy, support model, ...
3️⃣ Determination of the "long list" of candidates
Next step is to list the possible available WMS solutions and validate them with the input from the "scan" 1️⃣ and the "functional needs" 2️⃣. In many cases its quickly possible to limit the number of candidates and go into depth not taking along all candidates. This off course makes the entire process more efficient.
💡 Important when setting up the long/shortlists – is to understand of the bat in which "tier" your organization resides. Often we refer to 4 tiers: going from basis stock management systems, more expanded local solutions with a clear set of functionalities (e.g., Corax), regional players with flexible extensible systems (e.g., Reflex or Consafe) and the global players (e.g., SAP, Manhattan and JDA/BY). Depending on this basic choice the workload, project time, costs and resulting in a completely different business case.
4️⃣️⃣ The review of the options and The final selection
After making a first "long" list, one needs to quickly push towards a shortlist. Try to reduce this a swiftly as possible to a maximum of 3 parties. In this the weighing factors of step 1️⃣ are to be leveraged incl workload, project time, costs and functional fit. Als take along the “cultural fit” or “gut feeling” element towards the future partner. In the end based on the scoring (based on the weighing factors) the right WMS solution can be selected.
Some last suggestions in respect to this:
💡 Experience of the parties in your sector or with similar companies , but also dare to look beyond this. A keen team with some fresh insights can come with original solutions.
💡 Make sure there is interaction with the parties within the selection process and preferably beyond the sales team of the candidate. That way you become familiar with the supplier and can validate if there is a fit in culture and approach. Don't forget that this might be the start of a long relationship.
💡 To validate the quality it’s possible to request demo's or proof-of-concepts. Preferable already including somewhat your products and/or processes. Also doing interviews of the team that would be assigned is an option often used. All of this to allow you to get a better idea of what you are buying/selecting.
To enable your transformation to journey and understand your potential feel free to get in touch 👉