Upgrading a Warehouse Management System?

Originally Published: April 17, 2013 – Updated: June 2020

 

Are you upgrading to a new WMS or improving the current version of your WMS? The inclination to recreate the current system, to have the processes, reports, and enhancements must work precisely the same is common. However, this might not be the best approach for every business.

Modifications are costly, more susceptible to bugs, and can impede upgrade paths. You are upgrading your system for a reason. If you want the new system to behave the same as the old one, then ask yourself why you are upgrading in the first place?

Before duplicating existing functionality, ask yourself:

Is this warehouse functionality still used?

I've found that when customers answer this question, they find that no one is using the functionality anymore. In past experiences, customers would ask to duplicate an existing report, integration transaction, or enhancements, and when trying to determine the requirements, no one knew its usage. If a system has been in place for many years, the need for this function may have faded out a long time ago.

Can I change my process to adapt to the system?

Operations don't usually like to hear this, "There's a reason we do things this way." Software companies spend a lot of time and money on research and development on a product that can adhere to industry best practices. While some processes work for hundreds of other companies, there's a good chance it will work for your operation as well.

Do I NEED this?

This question is another one that operations don't like to hear, "If we are supposed to be upgrading to a better system, why should I lose functionality I currently have today?" It can be difficult to manage expectations, but if operations are forced to justify functionality, they often realize that while it may be 'nice to have,' it's not necessary. In some cases, it may be best to wait and see what is actually needed.

Can this wait?

You won't fully realize the intricacies of a new system until it has been up and running for a while. Too many times, I've seen large, budget-busting enhancements go wrong as soon as the operation realizes how the system really works. If something isn't needed on day one, the results can be much better if you can wait to determine the best approach for moving forward. By waiting, it could determine that the change isn't needed at all, or a completely different approach is necessary instead.

Is there a realistic ROI?

It's possible to get the same answer when asking about the above questions, but when asking about justifying ROI, the answer can change. If a costly enhancement is needed to save a user 15 minutes a week, you may never realize the ROI before it's time to upgrade again.

After asking these five questions, there will still be necessary enhancements. I've never been part of a WMS implementation that didn't involve customization. Nevertheless, by keeping enhancements limited to necessities, there is a better chance at successful implementation.

Remember - With a new upgrade, you'll be getting new functionality that can benefit your operation. Remind customers of this when making sacrifices to existing functionality. While a process may have to change in one area to adapt to the new system, there will be benefits to offset this in other areas. There's a reason customers are upgrading their WMS, remind them of that.

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