If your warehouse management system (WMS) is terminal-based at your facility, you may be considering moving to a cloud-based system. Cloud-based systems offer more adaptability, are better-suited to e-commerce warehousing operations, and will significantly reduce your IT expenses, allowing you to devote more resources to your company’s actual business.
However, comfort with your legacy system, implementation costs, and the fear of disrupting operations—even temporarily—might be holding you back from investing in this technology. While implementing a new system will require some changes, they might not be as difficult to manage as you think. Here are some pointers on switching to a cloud-based warehouse management system.
There are two prominent models for providing cloud-based WMS. One is software as a service (SaaS), in which servers are off-site, and the customer pays a monthly licensing and service fee. The other is a true cloud system, which also may require a monthly fee, but has more flexibility as business needs shift.
The SaaS model offers core system functionality out of the box, but there is little room for customization. The vendor’s employees maintain the servers and system functionality, so companies that utilize the SaaS model will save on IT staffing and warehouse staff training.
Data is stored securely on the vendor’s servers, but one company shares server space with one or more other companies. Access is strictly segregated, but security-conscious companies should evaluate the risk. Data security is better in SaaS systems than on-premises legacy systems, but if data security is a high priority, investing in a true cloud-based WMS might be a better alternative.
SaaS is an affordable and easily implemented solution for smaller or mid-sized companies, and those whose rapid growth is not yet showing in ROI. If your business needs are not complex, it could be all you need to streamline your labor force, increase transparency throughout the supply chain, and bring operational efficiency to the next level.
True cloud-based WMS offer highly customizable software on a private or segregated server. It provides the highest level of data security currently available and is the right choice for companies that make data security a priority. The software offers more agility to respond to changing business needs, and could be the best solution for complex, multi-site operations. True cloud-based systems are more expensive than SaaS products because of their enhanced security protocols and customization capabilities.
Some vendors are providing true cloud-based WMS but offering payment terms that more closely resemble SaaS arrangements. Such a model could be an attractive solution for many companies.
Whether you choose SaaS or a true cloud system, its implementation does not have to be unduly expensive or disruptive. Most web-based WMS’s can integrate simply with legacy systems, although integration could be more complex if your legacy system is highly customized.
If you choose a true cloud system, you will likely want to customize it, requiring a larger investment in time and money. Initial training costs will likely be higher, but that too is customizable—you can decide which team members require total fluency with the system and which need only task-based training.
Change is always hard, and employees must understand the benefits they will derive from the new system. Focus on showing workers how the system will make their jobs easier, safer, and more secure.
If your scanners or other equipment will not work with your new system, you will have frustrating implementation delays. Make sure your equipment will function with the system you are buying and if not, update it as soon as possible.
Money spent on training usually has a great ROI. Work with your vendor to create a comprehensive training program and get clear about how employees will access technical support if they need it.
Allow employees and managers an opportunity to practice with the system by doing one or more trial runs under the most realistic conditions possible. Offering employees the chance to climb the steepest part of the learning curve before the system comes online reaps benefits in terms of smooth implementation.
If all of the above seems like a lot of work—it is—but it is well worth it. However, if managing the implementation of a new system is too much for your company to take on, a third-party logistics provider could help.
Partnering with a 3PL provider takes a lot of the planning and all of the guesswork out of the transition. Bringing a 3Pl provider onto your team helps you reap all the efficiencies of web-based warehouse management without all of the headache. Call now to speak with a knowledgeable specialist on our team.