How to Get Started With a Warehouse Management System

Companies trying to build resilience into their supply chains increasingly recognize the need to introduce or upgrade their warehouse management systems (WMS). The right WMS could help companies adapt to rapidly changing external conditions, meet customer demands for quick and efficient order fulfillment, and address the perpetual labor shortage in the warehouse industry.

A WMS is an investment in your business’s future, but implementing it requires significant money, attention, equipment, and time. You can maximize your benefits by considering specific issues before introducing your new system.

Evaluate Your Wireless Connectivity

Your WMS depends on a strong wireless connection throughout the facility. A wireless site survey to determine whether there are dead zones in your warehouse is a critical first step when considering a WMS. Placing access points for optimal connectivity and minimal interference is essential to ensure your WMS functions perfectly across all areas of your facility.

Optimize Your Space

A good WMS will receive goods on the loading dock and direct the most efficient placement. When the product leaves the warehouse, the WMS will instruct a picker where to find it and how to get there. If your warehouse is not organized for maximum efficiency, you severely limit the WMS’ ability to streamline your operations.

Proper space optimization is both an art and a science. From placing overstock to locating frequently used items, from preventing theft to minimizing employee fatigue and injury, there is more to placement than meets the eye. An experienced 3PL provider could assess your products, space, and operations and suggest ways of making the space you have work better for you.

Consider Potential Barcoding and Scanning Issues

A WMS uses barcoded labels to identify inventory and locations throughout the facility, from receipt on the loading dock to delivery to the customer. Careless barcode placement can lead to errors and erode the efficiencies the WMS is designed to implement.

Barcodes on racks identifying bins should be far enough apart from each other that a worker is unlikely to pick up the wrong barcode when scanning. Thoughtful scanner selection is critical, as well. Handheld tablets, gun-type scanners, and wearable devices are readily available, but each has its benefits and disadvantages. Considering which device best suits the needs of a specific operation or job function can improve the effectiveness of the WMS and ease implementation.

Choose Your Team Carefully

A WMS provider will send an implementation team to your facility, and you will need to provide a team to work with them. Warehouse operations staff and executive staff should be a part of this group, but the best people for the team are not necessarily the best at their respective jobs. The best implementation team members are the people who possess good communication and collaborative skills, are open to innovation, and are comfortable with creative problem solving.

Invest More in Training Than You Think You Need

Training means more than showing people how to use new equipment or extract data from it. Effective training generates buy-in and establishes confidence in the system. Just a few malcontents can cause unnecessary delay and difficulty implementing a new WMS and increase your implementation costs.

Ideally, begin training as soon as you have selected the WMS that is right for your needs, and continue training for the entire ramp-up and implementation period. Some WMS providers will train internal personnel to serve as trainers after implementation. Once implemented, shifting WMS training in-house for most purposes could keep costs down.

Consider Outsourcing to a 3PL Provider

Implementing a WMS is a process, but the gains in efficiency, productivity, transparency, and agility make it worth considering. Working with a 3PL provider could give you all of these benefits and more, and allow you to place your supply chain issues in the hands of an expert.

Working with a 3PL provider allows you the transparency you need, but your logistics partner handles warehousing, staffing, fulfillment, and shipping/delivery. Their services are customized to your needs and scalable, ensuring you do not make a significant investment that you never grow into. If you are considering implementing a WMS, consider working with a 3PL. Call now to learn more.

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