WMS Implementation Guide: A Complete Checklist
August 14, 2023
WMS implementation can be challenging. From budgeting and change management planning to training and data migration, the process requires careful preparation if you want the WMS to launch smoothly and integrate correctly with your warehouse operations.
Don’t attempt this process alone. Instead, follow our WMS implementation guide and checklist to ensure you’re set up for success.
WMS Implementation Challenges
WMS solutions can transform your warehouse environment, taking control of inventory, providing real-time updates, optimizing shelf space, lowering operating costs, and optimizing your warehouse activities. However, these products come with a unique set of challenges that make it more difficult to implement than other supply chain software.
Warehouses are physical buildings, with people, inventory, and equipment to navigate. Synchronizing these real-world operations with digital software is a difficult task. Additionally, production and distribution environments often have intricate systems, multiple processing areas, and overlapping product flows to further complicate things. The WMS software must not only coordinate across these physical spaces but also plan for the complex operations that go hand-in-hand with warehouses.
WMS Implementation Checklist: 9 Steps to Follow
Follow our WMS implementation checklist to ensure you complete all the critical steps in the implementation process and take full advantage of your new WMS solution.
1. Create a Project Plan
Start with the big picture. Create a project plan that includes a timeline of the entire WMS implementation process as well as project goals to guide decisions, resource allocation to ensure you have everything you need to get the job done, and metrics to help you evaluate the success of the process.
2. Build Your Implementation Team
WMS implementation requires a team of individuals working on the project together. The size of your team will be based on your company and project, but in general, you will need to fill several roles:
- Project manager
- Warehouse operations leader
- Database administrator
- IT team member or engineer
- WMS expert
Additionally, consider your current warehouse operations. Do you have a manual process? If so, you won’t need to worry about integrating the WMS with your existing software. Do you use enterprise software like an e-commerce platform, enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution, or ordering tools? If so, you may need to appoint someone to manage the integration process and ensure your data is transferred correctly to the WMS.
You may also need extra hands on deck when it’s time to launch the WMS, so consider who can help when you’re ready to go live.
3. Develop an Organizational Change Management Plan
Implementing a WMS in your organization will significantly change business operations. It’s important to develop a plan for how to address those changes as well as any challenges that arise during the process.
Create an organizational change management plan to help staff, leadership, and other stakeholders adapt to the WMS. While the details will depend on the unique needs of your business, the plan should include several elements:
- Estimated implementation costs
- Implementation timeline
- Training schedule and options for learning how to use the system
- Testing plan
- Description of the go-live process
- Plan for evaluating implementation success
Keep everyone in the loop so they stay up to date on the WMS implementation process and see the value this system will bring to the organization.
4. Estimate Implementation Costs & Budget
WMS implementation costs depend on several factors, including the type of WMS software you are using, what type of training you provide to your staff, and the size and nature of your warehouse operations.
While maintenance expenses are often (but not always) included in the original WMS purchase price, installation and implementation usually comes with additional costs. On-site installation is more expensive, but remote WMS software based in the cloud can be installed remotely, which may lower the cost. Training costs will also vary, with digital, hands-on, and hybrid training all having a different price point.
Estimate these WMS implementation costs and create a budget, allowing for flexibility if additional surprise costs pop up before, during, or after the system launch.
5. Backup & Migrate Warehouse Data
Data accuracy and security is critically important to the WMS implementation process.
Before migrating your data to the WMS, you must ensure it is accurate and backed up. Create a backup of your existing warehouse and customer data to use during implementation as well as a separate backup located on a different media source in case loss or damage occurs during migration.
Your database administrator, IT team, and/or integration specialist should be responsible for backing up and migrating the data, ensuring that data is not lost during the transition, and setting new data formatting rules so the new WMS runs smoothly.
6. Train Your WMS Users
Employees in your warehouse, staff in the billing office, account managers, and more employees will be using the WMS, and they need to be trained in how the new system works. Training all relevant workers may take several days, especially if some employees are shift workers.
This training time will not only show your team how to interface with the WMS but also provide them with an opportunity to ask questions in practice.
Your WMS vendor may have on-site training, digital training, or hybrid training options, or even a combination of different training methods. Many companies offer courses, training materials, or custom lessons to meet the needs of your workforce.
Train your WMS users so they are ready to hit the ground running when the new system is live.
7. Prepare for Launch
Create a go-live plan, which may include several different last-minute tasks:
- Check in with leadership and stakeholders to make sure they are ready for launch
- Verify that data has been migrated successfully and that your backups are secure
- Perform a test of the WMS with a subset of data to ensure it’s working properly
- Ensure relevant team members have completed WMS training
- Test your network to make sure it can support use of the new software
- Schedule additional team members to be on-hand during the launch
- Announce the time and date of the launch so that all employees are in the loop
- Confirm the list of metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) you will measure to determine implementation success
When your team has completed the pre-launch steps, it’s time to go live.
8. Go Live
When you launch the WMS at the predetermined time, immediately have your go-live team start monitoring the progress of the system. There will likely be stumbling blocks, missed steps, errors, or concerns you have to troubleshoot in real time, but the goal is to keep the WMS up and running as you solve problems and streamline workflows.
Your IT staff and database administrator should confirm data quality and make sure the WMS is correctly processing new orders. The warehouse operations leader needs to keep an eye out for areas where staff performance is diminished to identify system roadblocks.
9. Review the WMS Implementation Process
After the WMS is live, you can review the WMS implementation process.
Are warehouse operations more efficient? Have you reduced costs or saved time? Are orders more accurate, and are database updates more reliable? Look at the metrics and KPIs you established to verify if you have achieved your project goals.
Take Your Warehouse Operations to the Next Level with CAI WMS Solutions
At CAI, we create innovative, production-oriented software to help our customers across a variety of industries streamline business processes and optimize their manufacturing, processing, or distribution environment. Our goal is to provide you with industry-leading solutions that improve your business operations, all with excellent service and support.
Whether you are looking to automate production, increase your return on investment, reduce costs, or streamline operations, we can help. With our suite of tools and access to our expert team, optimizing your business processes is easier than ever.
Contact us today for a free consultation.