Congratulations! Your business just purchased a new warehouse management system (WMS). This is one of the most important decisions in moving away from out of date paper processes and spreadsheets to improve productivity. The future of warehouse automation will enable the warehouse to better serve your customers, operate more efficiently, and grow your business faster.

Now that there is a commitment to running your warehouse efficiently with technology designed to streamline operations, it is important to implement the new software by starting off on the right foot. But what is the first step? Preparing for a smooth transition and a successful implementation, all while making sure the warehouse and team are prepped and ready to go will require planning, coordination, and the right resources.

To help navigate this critical project, use this checklist alongside your WMS technology partner for a successful implementation.

Build the Right Team

Selecting the right resources may be one the most important decisions when looking to deploy new technology. The implementation team is crucial to ensuring project success. This team will determine scope, confirm business requirements, communicate project expectations, and execute a timely implementation.

This team should consist of a project lead, warehouse operations or project manager, database manager, and department heads. Each of these members plays a significant role in making sure your warehouse business achieves its goals and runs a straightforward project.

In some cases, a warehouse may hire a consultant to help manage a WMS implementation. This can help key stakeholders prepare for launch by utilizing a consultant’s valuable experience to help guide teams and manage expectations.

Implement Best Practices

Change is hard. However, it can also be good for business. Best practices offer warehouses a fundamental foundation to improve efficiency, reliability, and visibility for warehouse teams and customers.

When implementing a WMS, understand and learn how to get the most out of the software. This can be achieved by building industry best practices directly into the day-to-day processes.

Use this time to optimize your warehouse and ensure workflows are designed to scale alongside business goals. This should include receiving, picking, packing, shipping, and even billing. The implementation team should ask how the business currently supports these work functions and if there are ways to enhance warehouse layouts to increase productivity. What fulfillment types does the warehouse support (e.g., B2B e-commerce or omnichannel)? How can multiple customers be supported using best practices that have been tested and accepted by logistics professionals to increase satisfaction? When using best practices, the warehouse will have the added benefit of tested and accepted workflows to best serve their customers.

Data Migration and Backups

Whether a warehouse is moving from Excel, a homegrown system, or migrating from one warehouse management system to another, they will need a plan to manage their data. This is where having the right team is going to make a big impact.

A database manager will ensure that existing data is safe, secure, and intact prior to implementation. This role will help adapt a new data scheme, map data to the new system, and make sure it works for the new set up and workflows.

Note that in some cases, missing data must be added, or existing data modified to meet any new system requirements. As always, make sure the business has a backup of all data prior to migration. This will safeguard everything should something unexpected happen.

For warehouses who don’t have an IT team in-house, they can usually work directly with their WMS partner or consultant to ensure that the right skills and expertise are available for this important step.

Training and Testing

Training is one of the most important aspects of a new WMS implementation. This includes not only warehouse workers, but also customer service reps and billing reps, and even warehouse customers — especially if there is a customer portal where they can self-service reporting and access inventory.

Proper training will ensure everyone is familiar with not only the new technology, but any new workflows, scanning capabilities, or layout changes like dedicated picking and packing stations for increased productivity. This is also the final test for the WMS to ensure the system works as designed and there is final buy in from the entire team. Testing may also include creating core key performance indicators (KPIs) to track warehouse efficiency and productivity. KPIs will help the business understand where to optimize or make changes to any workflows that are performing as planned.

In many cases, the new WMS partner will offer administrator training, recorded trainings, or on-site training for warehouse workers. Make sure the implementation team plans and schedules training prior to launch as well as continued sessions post-launch to answer any unforeseen questions the team may have.

Go Live Checklist

You’re ready to go live! Best practices have been added to ensure scalability and growth to align warehouse technology and the business, warehouse data was scrubbed and migrated, and the team has been trained. What’s next?

Before pulling the trigger, be sure to do one last walkthrough. Touch base with key stakeholders and make sure they are all on the same page. Test the system and networks one last time to confirm data is flowing. Speak with warehouse staff to answer any last questions or offer additional training where needed. And lastly, make sure there is an up to date data backup just in case.

Once the business goes live, monitor warehouse people, process, and technology to make sure everything is aligned and working as expected.

Now that the implementation is finalized and the new warehouse management system is running smoothly, reap the benefits and calculate the return on investment. From improved efficiency and productivity, enhanced best practice workflows to meet customer demands and increase satisfaction, to revenue gains from cost reductions and better performance across the board, the warehouse is ready to grow and improve the bottom line. Good luck!

Chelsea Mori is Director of Marketing, 3PL Central and has over 17 years of B2B experience. For the past four years, she has been working with logistics leaders to help share best practices on how to optimize warehouse efficiency and increase productivity. As the Director of Marketing for 3PL Central, Chelsea is responsible for thought leadership, market education, and resources including the State of the Third-Party Logistics Report, Peak Season Playbook, and The Practical Guide to Growing Your Warehouse.

This article originally appeared in the September/October, 2020 issue of PARCEL.