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New Course professionals are among the most sought-after speakers and specialists in the supply chain, logistics, material handling and technology industry. We share our perspective to all viewers of our website in our responses to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs below).

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Why are “future state” process flows important prior to commencing a WMS implementation project?

How many times have you been involved in the design or blueprint phase of a systems implementation project, where excessive time is spent reviewing and agreeing to disagree on how existing processes work? How many times do you end up designing “to be” processes” that are the same or very similar to the “as is” that provide little to no improvement, or fail to properly take into account anticipated changes to layout, SKU mix, order profiles, volumes or automated material handling systems? How many times have you let a software vendor or systems integration firm lead the future state and, in doing so, missed critical process details?

In order to create a uniformed vision for the future and avoid missing critical details that are found during testing, dry runs, or worse yet, deployment, it’s important to spend the time creating “future state” process flows.

To effectively create the “future state” processes, you must first understand, document and obtain internal consensus on the “as is” material and system flows. Once the “as is” flows are completed, you can now take into account anticipated business, facility layout or automated material handling system changes, and develop the “to be” process flows including exception handling. While these flows may not match up completely with how processes will be handled by the new WMS, they provide a unified vision for the future and help shorten the blueprinting or design process, while making sure that costly details are not missed. The “future state” documents also allow the systems integrator or software vendor services team to scope out and more accurately price the work.

The final agreed upon “future state” flows that come out of the design or blueprinting phase as a result of how the WMS will support processes and exception handling, can then be used in the creation of standard operating procedures, training programs and test scripts.

What responsibilities should be expected of a project manager during a WMS implementation project?

The project manager or program manager for a WMS implementation should be responsible for the overall project which includes managing change, project scope, budget, communications, and resources and deliverables from all parties that are involved in the effort such as IT, operations, engineering, and outside resources from RF, material handling, software and system integration vendors. The PM should develop and maintain an integrated project and resource plan that clearly articulates the activities that are to be performed and, which parties are responsible for completing the work. On large, complex implementations, the PM should assign accountable agents or leads from each of the major functional areas such as IT, operations and engineering, to manage their teams and make sure their resources are completing milestones, on-time and on-budget. The PM should also be accountable to a project steering committee and provide project updates on schedule, budget and resource requirements.

What pick media (label, RF, Voice, etc.) should we use with WMS and why?

The “best” pick media to use with WMS should be analyzed and determined on a case-by-case basis. Information that needs to be considered are number of SKUs, volumes, anticipated growth, material handling costs associated with receiving, storing, picking, packing and shipping items, downstream processes at the DC as well as the customer/store, estimated capital expenditures, and return on investment.

For pallet in and case pick-to-pallet and pallet pick operations, RF combined with voice is often the best pick media. However, if cases need to be labeled prior to be shipped, it may be beneficial to use RF along with labels.

For high-volume piece pick-to-tote operations RF combined with automated material handling systems may be financially justified. For example, A-Frames integrated to WMS for the ‘A’ movers, pick-to-light integrated to WMS for ‘B’ movers, and RF for ‘C’ movers, may be appropriate.

For low volume operations, list and / or label picking may be the most economically feasible pick media to use.

Label picking is frequently used in industries such as food service or retail. Voice picking is big with grocery retailers. RF integrated with voice is often used by larger CPG companies, and high-volume parts operations traditionally use RF with some automated material handling systems.

What is a typical ROI for an WMS project?

The payback associated with an WMS implementation typically ranges from 12 to 36 months from beneficial use of the system. The key to achieving a viable return is to leverage the technology to improve and streamline the operation, not just automate existing, inefficient and archaic processes. Most WMS implementations result in qualitative and quantitative benefits such as fewer product handling steps, increased productivity, reduced errors, tighter inventory control, and improved inventory accuracy and order quality.

What are the major reasons for Supply Chain Execution and WMS project slippage during implementation and what can we do to minimize or avoid?

Project slippage often results in financial overruns, loss of momentum, and in some cases, continuity of resources. Based on our 20+ years of experience in deploying systems, the main causes of Supply Chain Execution (WMS implementation) project delays or slippages are as follows:

  • Poor implementation preparation,
  • Insufficient project resources, and
  • Lack of strong project leadership.

Proper implementation preparation for WMS projects should include a complete set of detail functional requirements, “future state” process flows for each of the functional areas, and a realistic and detailed integrated project and resource plan that describes all the activities, dependencies, milestones, target completion dates, and roles, responsibilities and budgets. The detailed project plan should clearly outline all of the prep and execution of activities that need to be client-driven including hardware procurement, hardware and network installation, “future state” process design, and testing, configuration, functional testing, integration testing, user acceptance testing, volume testing, training, change management, facility prep, dry run planning, dry run management, go-live planning, deployment, and support.

Once the integrated project plan has been developed and approved, it’s important to assign, commit and dedicate the appropriate resources. In many cases, this will require you, the client, to contract with an outside firm or outside resources to assist you in the effort. However, the project should be managed and staffed in a way that allows you, the client, to build internal competency and develop Super-Users.

Finally, it’s important to assign a strong overall project or program manager. Someone who knows how to plan, manage, lead and communicate effectively. On projects that have been properly planned and staffed, the difference between one that is considered successful and one that is marginally acceptable, often comes down to the project manager.

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"I've had the pleasure of working the New Course team members on several strategic supply chain projects over the years. They have always done a great job and delivered the projects on time and on-budget."
VP of Operations, Leading CPG Company