Easy? Just get it installed, give your people a bit of training a few days before and it will all go smoothly yes? No. No again. Swapping out your WMS is a major change as it is one of, if not the most important software system in your logistics business. Planning the change carefully and monitoring progress during the implementation are key. While occasionally WMS implementations fail due to “poor software”, most fail due to the human elements around planning and execution. This brings me to the first part of the WMS Change Management Process:
Start by identifying the key staff you will need to help select and implement the software. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to ensure you have a wide range of team members. Stacking the selection and implementation team with IT and Finance isn’t going to be a winner. Why? Those teams are not the ones that are going to be using the system day in and day out. I am not saying you should not include them, but ensure you have good representation from Operations. Make sure you have a mix of roles from the Operations team as well. Team diversity reduces risk.
Don’t just give each department 4 hours of training the day before going live. Start your training months in advance. Use real life scenarios, don’t sit your warehouse operators in front of a desktop computer. Get them on the hardware they will be using and run real life like scenarios. Do this in meaningful but manageable time slices, like 1 hour. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat again. Repetition is your friend when it comes to retention.
Your Customers (Internal and External):
The WMS change is going to affect your customers. You really hope it is going to a positive change. You can take steps to make sure it is. Engage with your customer well before you have implemented the software. I am not suggesting that you get them involved in the selection process, but just after the project has started is a good time to socialize the upcoming change with your customer. Prior to go live, give them a demonstration to show the forms, reports, alerts and other customer facing outputs they will be receiving. Customers don’t like surprises, so don’t spring a new WMS on them on go live day!
This is between my team and my customer(s) only? No. This change impacts many more stakeholders, like perhaps your customer’s carriers. Let them know what is going on once you get closer to go live. They can help you be successful. You can help them adapt to change, its mutual self interest. Perhaps you will offer an online appointment booking tool for carriers. Offer to train the carriers staff in the use of it. If you don’t how much do you think the booking tool will be used by them? In today’s world self service is key. Invest in some orientation and training, you will reduce labor costs and gain some ROI from it.
While you are changing only the WMS, there is most likely going to be an impact to other systems, both yours and your customers. Quite likely you have these system integrations:
- Internal integrations to ERP, TMS etc.
- External integrations to customer systems. Either through EDI or API
As with people, planning the change regarding your other systems is critical. As an example, with your internal integrations, you may want to enhance or increase the frequency, types and amounts of data you want to exchange with the new WMS and your other systems. There are some real benefits to looking at this and improving the information exchange. One example is, perhaps your customer service people who use the ERP have no visibility into order status in the warehouse and must call down to the warehouse to inquire about an order? This wastes time and costs you labor. Why not have the new WMS send order status updates to the ERP as the order flows through the warehouse? Once you have spec’d your integrations, insure they are developed by your team or your vendor in a timely manner. You don’t want to be testing the integrations a day before go-live. Test early, test often.
External systems integration can be challenging. They are multi-faceted. But they are critical and integrations must be configured and tested prior to go live. Nothing is going to anger internal or external customers more than the order interfaces failing. Having said that, typically you can’t just call up your customer and say, “right can we test some integrations tomorrow?” As mentioned earlier, engage your customers in the beginning of the implementation. Plan for multiple rounds of integration testing, well before your go live date.
Ensure you set weekly meetings and I suggest daily meetings 3 weeks or so before going live. If you have selected a quality vendor such as Infolog, you will have a project plan to follow to track your progress. Hold your team and your vendor to target dates. Missing the date on one item can have a trickle-down effect on others. As an example, if your integrations aren’t ready to go and you need to print data from your customer’s order file on your BOL, you won’t be able to test your document.
Encourage constructive criticism. Its a complex project. Stuff is going to happen. Nothing would worry me more that every week my team reporting everything is fine, there are no issues. You want the truth. “yes men” will doom you to failure.
Thanks for reading. Careful planning, execution and monitoring of the implementation will ensure a smooth transition.
At Infolog, we believe in the art of simplicity. And we practice that daily, infusing technology into our Logistics and Supply Chain software. The result is streamlined workflows and superior information visibility. Simply put we are all about increasing productivity. Contact Infolog today to find out more.