In my 6 years of experience implementing supply chain systems, I have been involved in many different kinds of projects.  Few of these projects invested in automated testing.  Think about it as a tool that hammers the system with real-life test cases without the need for a human to run it. The main purpose of such an exercise is to validate the functionality and stress test the system in the attempt to fix business logic and increase the performance.

While there is a lot to discuss and unravel in this topic, I will focus on my personal experience from a managerial point of view. If I am a manager, what would I need to worry about considering the great benefits of a successful automated test?

Focus on the main scenario. Is it really worth it to automate the testing of some value added service in warehousing? I noticed that due to the nature of various industries and their lines of business, some customers invested in the effort while others didn’t. I recommend customers with more than 1 DC, and who are processing an upward of 10K order lines a day to think about automated testing. Within the 4 walls of a warehouse, the scenarios are numerous so focus on your critical path as time is a highly precious consideration and a commonly underestimated factor in many projects.  Allocation, release, host interfaces and MHE (material handling equipment) are major candidates for automation testing.

Prepare your data set needed to run the test. This might take a couple of iterations before you get a successful, start to finish test. During one of my projects, we ran an automated test for an automatic storage and retrieval system (ASRS). This meant populating thousands of locations with various-sized inventory and covering various pull and place scenarios. Initially, this data setup took considerable time. It became much easier during consecutive runs, but the initial run required lots of effort to end up with a smooth, non-interrupted and successful test.

Involve operational staff. Human error during go-live is often hard to predict. In all my go-lives there have been surprises. Users interact with the system using RF device and the GUI screens. In fact, most human errors are harmless, however the remaining few that are harmful end up costing a lot. So let engage your operational guys and let them review the tests first.

In a future post, I will look at automated testing from a technical point of view, including which technologies and simulation tools to use.

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