May 2016 | How-To | Ten Tips

Choosing a Warehouse Management System

Tags: Warehousing, Warehouse Management Systems (WMS), Technology

Before selecting a warehouse management system (WMS), it's important to know what drives your company so you can identify the key needs you want the solution to address. Steve Hitchings, senior vice president of information technology for Kenco, offers this advice for choosing the right WMS.

1. Assess your business needs. Know the problem you are trying to solve and match those requirements to the system's functionalities. Identifying your company's key business requirements plays an important role in WMS selection.

2. Assemble a cross-functional team. Utilizing a WMS is a decision that should involve both your business and IT teams. During implementation, your company's business and IT teams should work together to ensure a smooth process.

3. Create a scalable system. Make sure the system can address both the low-end and high-end requirements for each engagement.

4. Ensure interfacing capabilities. Your WMS should have an open architecture and be able to interface with your enterprise resource planning system without incurring excessive costs. The WMS must also be able to integrate with your other materials handling equipment to improve warehouse efficiency.

5. Minimize modification costs. Select a system that is configurable to support different business processes. Over time, business requirements change and the system must be able to flex with your shifting needs. Ensure the WMS you choose is adaptable. Configuration, not modification, is the key to success.

6. Make data accessible. Look for a WMS that allows for easy data retrieval. The ability to provide flexible reporting and online queries (business intelligence) is critical.

7. Insist on a user-friendly system. If the system is not user-friendly, the operating staff will likely be unable to maximize its full benefits. Make sure you select a system that is easy to learn and use.

8. Examine implementation or deployment options. Determine if your solution should be on-premises or a hosted, cloud, or Software-as-a Service solution. Also decide if you should deploy it utilizing multiple methodologies.

9. Research vendor capabilities. Support is critical. It is important to select a WMS vendor that offers a responsive customer service center and enough resources to provide ongoing support.

10. Select a WMS provider that shares a similar focus. Choose a vendor that has a vision and values similar to your company. WMS implementations run smoother when you and your WMS provider work in lockstep. If you and your provider don't have the same vision, values, and work ethic, the project will likely fail. You are in it together for the long term.