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People: The Ironic, Yet Critical Element To WMS Success?

Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) aim to implement best practise. This usually means operators following a set of “fool-proof” rules and instructions, designed to allow them to receive goods, put away, pick and despatch orders in the most efficient way possible. And therein lies the potential point of failure for a WMS - people.

You can install the most efficient, most expensive WMS in the world, using the most sophisticated mobile data capture and printing technology available, but unless your staff members use the system as it was designed, the WMS you’ve installed may not solve the problems you intended it to.

Take one of our customers from a few years ago. A manufacturer, who was looking to scale up their business by making their warehouse more efficient and therefore increase order processing throughput per day and improve accuracy. A full WMS was purchased to integrate with their Sage 200 ERP, designed and installed to follow “best practise” transactions, but what the Managing Director hadn’t factored in, was the reluctance of the employees to use the new WMS. Such was the revolt, that they decided to shelve the project altogether and stick with their existing “system”; a costly lesson for all involved.

Managing change is an art form and people can be fickle, and even defensive, when something new arrives, that they feel disrupts or replaces a job they believe they can do blindfolded. As a result, operators find ways to get around working with transactions that they feel hinder them, or aren’t necessary. Data capture hardware may suddenly be broken all of the time, so that it can’t be used or they may just refuse to use the new system at all, making for an uncomfortable conversation with Directors and Board Members, who are looking for return on investment.

Conversely, staff members shouldn’t be so involved in the process that the new WMS is designed to replicate the paper-based, staff-driven system you may currently use. Cries of “But we’ve always done it that way!” and “That will take longer, not save us time!” will no doubt be heard when the system is put in. But let’s be honest. If the system was so efficient in the first place, there wouldn’t be problems with finding products, tracking orders or shipping products to the wrong place, that make companies consider a WMS in the first place.

So, how can you prevent this from happening and find that perfect balance?

Ultimately, communication is key. As a person advocating the purchase of a new WMS, first impressions really do count, so ensuring the system runs as efficiently as possible and shows almost immediate returns, can really help to increase adoption. Relearning how to do familiar tasks in a new way takes time and patience, but by explaining processes and setting expectations within different areas of the business, as well as involving all relevant departments during the testing phase, you will ultimately ensure a smoother Go Live and adoption of a new WMS, and as an additional bonus, make yourself look great for suggesting the project in the first place!

Looking to explore WMS further? Take a look at our Dexterity WMS solution and we’ll guide you through every stage of design, implementation and installation, to ensure your WMS Go Live is as smooth as possible. Or contact one of our consultants on 01200 441977, to discuss your business needs.

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