A Step-by-Step WMS Implementation Guide for Your Business
Originally published on July 5, 2022 by Logiwa Marketing, Updated on October 23, 2023
WMS implementation is no simple task. If you haven’t already experienced the process yourself, you’ve likely heard horror stories of software implementations gone wrong. The symptoms are always the same: 1) more time, 2) more manpower, and 3) more money spent on correcting the issue.
Getting your WMS implementation done properly takes effort. There are plenty of opportunities for the process to go awry, whether that be taking longer than expected, costing more than initially expected, or failing so badly the entire implementation must be halted in pursuit of a more compatible system.
Luckily, with the right approach, you can ensure your next warehouse management system (WMS) software setup is not only a success, but a breeze. Let’s discuss the ideal planning phase for WMS implementation, how to assess the results of your implementation journey, and best practices for supporting a smooth and seamless transition.
In this article, I’ll guide you through the complexities of implementing a Warehouse Management System (WMS). We’ll explore the key steps, best practices, and strategies to ensure a smooth WMS implementation journey.
- Understand your business requirements: Clearly define what your business needs from the WMS to avoid implementation issues.
- Identify key stakeholders: Engage the people who will interact most with the WMS to ensure their input and expectations are met.
- Plan and prepare: Create a detailed project plan, estimate costs, and make sure your hardware and software infrastructure is ready.
- Test and train: Thoroughly test the system and train your team to ensure a successful implementation.
- Monitor and optimize: Regularly evaluate system performance and continuously refine the system based on feedback and changing needs.
Planning for a WMS Implementation
Understand Your Business Requirements
Before you launch into the warehouse management system implementation process, you need to make sure you identify what it is your business needs from your next WMS software. If you cannot accurately communicate how you plan on using WMS software, then implementation is doomed to fail from the start. Afterall, without being able to list out the critical functions needed by your business, there is no way of guaranteeing your WMS provider will even be able to meet your operational requirements.
Take time to identify the users who will interact the most with the new WMS software to compile a list of critical capabilities. Bringing together an implementation team and figuring out a WMS implementation project plan will go a long way towards ensuring the successful implementation of WMS software.
Identify Key Stakeholders
The first step to determining the needs of your business and how WMS software will help you meet and accomplish those goals is to assess who will have the most touch points with that WMS software. These are the ones who are likely to have the most interactions with your logistics and supply chain management, so they will be able to help you determine what’s needed most both for your next solution and the implementation process.
Establish the Implementation Team
Even though your wms provider will have a designated team to help oversee implementation, it’s a good idea that you assemble your own dedicated task force as well. Give your WMS implementation team a designated project manager to oversee from beginning to end. They will make sure deadlines are met, requirements are satisfied, and communication is maintained between your company and the software provider.
Other key stakeholders should be in charge of gaining product knowledge, testing procedures, and making sure the program satisfies your particular operational requirements. They will be the ones to put the WMS implementation process into action by testing and verifying everything.
Post-implementation, this group will double up as the training team for others who might need to be onboarded with the WMS software.
Create a Project Plan
We will discuss this more in-depth in the following sections, but one critical component of a smooth WMS implementation is having a project plan in place. This plan will need to be organized and cover everything from the preparation stage to beginning implementation, steps to focus on during integration, and your strategy for evaluating results after the WMS software has been implemented.
Estimate Costs and Budget
Unfortunately, there are countless opportunities for unexpected costs to arise during software implementations. Your WMS implementation team needs to be able to sit down and discuss all the various possible features and their costs, the labor required for data preparation, and the amount of time expected to get everyone trained and up to speed on the new WMS software. Then, consider formulating an additional segment in your budget for unforeseeable costs, so you are prepared for every possible scenario during implementation.
Assessing the Warehouse Environment
Before beginning the WMS implementation process, your key stakeholders should have assessed every facet of your logistics and supply chain operation. By doing so, they should be able to account for your entire warehouse operation, every process within it, and all possible data request points in your fulfillment processes to better assist your provider with the initial WMS setup.
In terms of the physical environment of your warehouse, make sure special consideration is given to your inventory management practices. The way you categorize inventory and organize products might not be immediately compatible with your new WMS software. That said, top-tier WMS solutions are able to make the most of existing inventory data and physical setups by using features like smart inventory management and space optimization – so make sure your inventory data is accurate and accessible from the start.
Reviewing Warehouse Processes
After you have reviewed your entire logistics and supply chain operations, your WMS implementation team should be familiar with the processes your company utilizes. Compare your list of fulfillment requirements with the functions of the WMS software you are considering implementing to ensure everything lines up appropriately. If there are certain functionalities missing, talk to your provider to see if there are any customizations or manual alternatives to fulfilling the need.
Data Backup and Migration
The data preparation and migration phase of the WMS implementation process might be one of the most time-consuming operations of all. But as previously mentioned, it is key to starting your new system off right. While this part of the WMS implementation process does offer a great chance to purge your data and start over, the data has to be readily available by the start of your implementation process. This can be time-consuming and labor-intensive, which is why some companies choose to perform an exhaustive inventory count, update all SKUs, or start building from scratch.
Procuring Hardware and Software
Occasionally, you may need to upgrade your hardware based on your WMS software and its various system requirements. This isn’t an invasive step in the process but is worth noting and paying close attention to. If you have physical hardware helping with any part of your fulfillment operations (ex. robotics), make sure no other solutions need to be upgraded before attempting to integrate your new WMS with it.
Identifying Third-Party Integrations
As a fulfillment service provider, you likely have your fair share of few third-party integrations that your company relies on for smooth ecommerce operations. Before deciding on a WMS software, verify which integrations are required and compatible with your new WMS platform. This can be an overlooked part of the WMS implementation process, but one which has great potential in causing delays and costly disruptions.
Installation and Configuration
Now that it is time to actually implement and integrate your WMS software with your fulfillment network, the first step is to work with your provider to install, configure, and set up the software using your unique operational data. Make sure you, your IT team and data are ready for this phase before it begins.
Customization and Testing
The fun part of the WMS implementation process begins when you are able to start customizing your WMS software based on the needs of your operation. Spend as much time as you need to tweak settings, features, and processes to better support your fulfillment processes. These initial setups are not permanent – but meant as a jumping off point to keep the whole implementation rollout moving. There will be time to adjust throughout your entire implementation journey.
User Training and Adoption
As we mentioned earlier, your implementation team will eventually transition into your training team during this phase of the WMS implementation process. Start with employees who need to have access regularly and then work your way across departments as needed. As a best practice, make sure your entire staff knows how to manage basic processes with your system.
Integration and Data Migration
Start integrating all of your third-party tools and fully migrating data for all departments into the WMS. Sometimes it is best to let each department handle this on their own terms and timing, but make sure the implementation team is involved for a smooth transition. At the end, re-confirm that the information within the WMS system matches the physical environments it’s representing digitally.
Finally, once everyone is trained, all your data is migrated, and third-party integrations are installed, it is time to take the leap and transition your entire operation. This is the moment everyone has been waiting for, so make sure it’s a celebratory moment by ensuring success.
Moving forward, you can begin investing in the continuous improvement post-implementation phase of your WMS implementation process.
Performance and Stability Monitoring
When the WMS software has been fully integrated with your logistics operations, it is time to sit back and monitor everything. Consider this a data collection phase, post-implementation, to see what is working, what needs improvements and what can be tweaked or optimized for better performance down the line.
In the initial days and weeks after your go-live, you are predominantly going to observe and track data. Things aren’t going to go as smoothly as you hoped, and other operations are going to function better than imagined. Keep gathering data and observing, taking notes of where you can start improving while everyone is continuing to adjust.
Continuous Improvement and Optimization
Your implementation team will likely continue to have thoughts on ways to improve your WMS implementation process because they have worked with it the longest. Take their feedback in conjunction with any other data and observations and start to synthesize a strategy for ways to improve.
Ideally, this is something that will continue to happen, but a first round of improvements and optimizations is inevitable. There are always small tweaks to make here and there. Afterward, though, set up a schedule for making continuous improvements as a permanent part of your WMS implementation process with your provider.
Reviewing the Implementation for Success
Once your WMS implementation has been concluded, aside from ongoing assessments and optimization, it’s time to take a step back and look at the efficiency of your entire process as a whole. Spend some time debriefing with key stakeholders, anyone else who was part of the WMS implementation team, the project manager, on what you’re observing and follow up with your WMS software customer service team. Run the whole process by everyone and determine what went well and what didn’t.
Hopefully, you have the WMS software you will use forever, but it’s good to have a process in writing in case you ever need to scale up or down, or switch to a different WMS software in the future.
1. Define project scope and goals
Clearly define the scope and goals of the WMS implementation project to ensure that the system meets the business needs.
2. Assemble a dedicated implementation team
Having a dedicated team responsible for implementing the WMS ensures that the project is well-managed and stays on track before, during, and after the WMS implementation process.
3. Identify key stakeholders and involve them in the process
Engaging key stakeholders in the project ensures their needs and expectations are met. This also allows them to provide valuable input to ensure a successful implementation.
4. Conduct a thorough business process analysis
A thorough analysis of the current business processes can identify areas where the WMS can improve efficiency and streamline workflows.
5. Prepare and stick to a detailed project plan
A well-planned project can minimize risks, keep the project on track, and ensure that the project is completed on time and within budget.
6. Perform thorough testing and training of the system
Comprehensive testing and training can ensure that the system works as intended and that users are comfortable with its use.
7. Ensure that hardware and software infrastructure is adequate and properly configured
Proper hardware and software configuration ensures that the WMS operates optimally and meets the needs of the business.
8. Establish good data governance and management practices
Effective data governance ensures data is accurate, secure, and available when and where it is needed.
9. Regularly monitor and evaluate system performance and make necessary adjustments
Monitoring the WMS software’s performance can identify issues early and ensure the system continues to operate at peak efficiency.
10. Continuously optimize and refine the system over time based on user feedback and changing business needs
Continual improvement is key to ensuring the WMS remains relevant and useful to the business over the long term.
Ready To Get Started With Your WMS Implementation?
There are so many benefits to implementing high-quality WMS software within your logistics and supply chain operations, but spending time carefully preparing for and evaluating the WMS implementation process is paramount to the successful use of a WMS software solution.
At Logwia WMS we make sure you have access to our incredible customer service team who can help you with your WMS implementation process and even get fully integrated in as little as 4-6 weeks. Book a demo with one of our warehouse management experts, to see how switching to a cloud fulfillment solution like Logiwa WMS can transform your B2B and DTC operations.