Will a new WMS solve my problems?


A new car will make me a better driver, right?

Of course, it will.

It will also make you six inches taller, three times as handsome and will give you the charisma of George Clooney. Unless you are a megalomaniac narcissist who wants to rule the world, you won’t believe a word of the above sentence.

However, that logic is pervasive for many leaders when they are looking for a new Warehouse Management System. And it’s common thinking among their own staff too. To get an accurate idea of what you need and why you need it, you need to do a little homework with your team.

Bias bogeyman

Your software doesn’t have emotions. Your people do. Determining your needs may be more difficult than you think because of the built-in biases of your own staff. Let’s delve into potential biases.

If your last software implementation was akin to a two-hour root canal, there is a good chance your staff may still be suffering from trauma. Tread carefully. To get the real answers, you’ll need to ask specific questions that won’t elicit an emotional response.

Another bias is the people on your team are acutely aware that machines are making employees redundant at an alarming rate. They may not consciously communicate this, but it is a fear. “Will a better system replace me?”

Every situation and organization are different, but emotions play into people’s feedback. Cultivate the feedback loop in the way that encourages your team to take a more holistic approach when it comes to your organization’s software. Most of your people use software frequently in their daily lives. Have them benchmark the features and performance of your WMS to the software they use in their daily lives.

Also, ask them what the software is doing well and what it does that your customers cannot live without (the customers may not even know this). Finally, gather suggestions for improvement not only with a new package, but in your current application.

The spreadsheet rodeo

Ask your team if they use any other applications to support their daily tasks beyond the WMS. For your Operations teams, beware the spreadsheet rodeo. It’s 2018. If your team spends a lot of time in MS Excel, it’s a clear sign your software sucks.

Be sure to ask your IT team the same question. Third party applications can mask a lot of basic functionality deficiencies. Third party reporting tools are an example. There are some great packages, but if your IT team is spending a lot of time building reports and your Operations staff is having to go to another app to run reports, this is costing you productivity.

Need for speed

Ask your team if the system performance is acceptable. How long does an inventory query on a product take? Slow systems make your people tear their hair out (see emotion above) and there is a labor cost. If there is a five-second lag in Operators getting the next pick task in your current system and you process 1,000 orders a day, that is close to an hour-and-a-half in lost time per day. Is that acceptable?

Reliability rational 

Your team’s confidence in a system directly relates to its reliability. This takes two paths, one for Operations and one for IT. For Ops, perhaps ask your folks: “Does the system automatically and reliably alert you of potential short shipments?” Beware the labor costs of unreliability with this type of notification – multiple report generations, calls, floor walks and worse, service failures.

For IT, (stability) questions on how much system administration work they must perform will give you a clue to how much effort your IT team is putting into keeping the application running. Worse, they may be outsourcing it to your WMS vendor or another party and costing you significant sums. Spend time with your IT folks on these questions. Are they performing herculean tasks to keep the application going? If so, that is costing you productive time. Also, what if their herculean efforts fail? In today’s world you can’t even afford a one hour outage.

Integrating integrity

Query your team on the integrity of the system. Do they trust the information they get from the application? Careful here, areas such as inventory accuracy also have a human element. To avoid the human equation, engaging your IT team to assist by evaluating the database integrity may be beneficial. There may be a correlation to the amount of third party applications your people are using and your data integrity. The common lament of the failed: “I don’t trust the system, so I am tracking it on my own spreadsheet”.

Support 911?

Ask your team about the level of support you are getting from your current vendor.

How many issues are you logging a month?

How timely are issues resolved?

How much are you paying for support?

When it comes to the last question, remember that even if the software company is fixing your issues for “free”, you are still spending labor on recording, follow up and testing of software issues. Ask your team for examples of where the software may have contributed to service failures. All of these are ongoing costs to support your current application.

Team analysis

So, you’ve asked these questions and told your people to provide feedback based on their expectations on software in general, not just what their expectations are through the lens of your current WMS. By going through this exercise, you should have clear candidates for your selection process and implementation team. If you haven’t stop now and refocus.

Your new car isn’t going to make you a better driver unless you have the ability and willingness to embrace the new technologies your car includes. The same goes for a new WMS. If your team won’t embrace your vision and doesn’t have the ability, bandwidth and willingness to implement a new package, you’re better off staying with the old.

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.