Warehouse Operation Evaluation

The best way to evaluate a WMS is to see it in operation

Getting the right goods to the right people, at the right time and for the right price, has never been more critical. So why is it that such a large proportion of warehousing activities and processes are still being performed manually?

Supply chains are now a ‘make or break’ activity within any business that involves the distribution of products to consumers or other businesses. Getting the right goods to the right people, at the right time and for the right price, has never been more critical. So why is it that such a large proportion of warehousing activities and processes are still being performed manually? Paper-based warehouse processes cause shipping delays, the wrong products being picked and additional costs that are eating at company bottom lines. Margins are continually shrinking so why do some companies continue to procrastinate when it comes to going paperless?


This is something we see time and again and this blog explains some of the many reasons why, with suggestions for how to overcome them. How can decision makers de-risk the process of implementing a new Warehouse Management System (WMS) and ensure they make the right choices?


From our experience, many companies often do not always have a dedicated logistics professional inside their organisations and they are finding that as business has expanded – and many operations have during the Covid pandemic – their legacy warehouse systems are creaking at the seams. These companies now have multiple channels to fulfil, from traditional bulk orders, drop-shipping to intermediaries and even B2C single item orders. They have no choice but to invest, yet they need executive buy-in.


Internally, it can be difficult to engage the C-suite in the value of a WMS. Amongst senior management, there can be a general concern about the need to embrace WMS technology when the company will have managed with paper-based processes for many years. That’s the issue. They will have managed, but they won’t have been in a position to scale their operations efficiently without having to employ many more people, which increases both cost and complexity. They won’t be able to take advantage of the commercial opportunities presented by the boom in e-commerce. Companies sticking with manual processes may also have had issues with accuracy. Paper-based warehouses are notorious for experiencing problems with order error rates, which in turn impacts customer satisfaction. Who wants a supplier that is always shipping the wrong items? These are the arguments to present in favour of a WMS.


There is also fear within some companies of changing to paperless, and this is coupled with uncertainty and doubt about starting to use what can be perceived of as a complex system. One that requires a complete change of warehouse culture and working patterns. However, if you choose the right WMS, this isn’t the case. Automating your warehouse will simply improve existing processes and create a more transparent and efficient working environment.


At Indigo Software, we have also observed another concern among companies, which relates to training issues when warehouses rely on a transient workforce to cope with seasonality or where there are difficulties employing and retaining staff. Since Brexit, finding good people to work in warehouses has become an even bigger problem. It is therefore important to try and make the best possible use of the workforce you do have, by making them as productive and efficient as you can. Another good argument for the C-suite.


The internet can also be a factor behind some concerns to automate and there are lots of scare stories out there, describing business disruption especially at a go live stage and then there are the over lengthy implementations and inflated ROI figures. Whilst a lot of this is unfounded scare stories from a poor project the reality on the ground may not be so unjustified. To help you avoid some or all of these issues it is absolutely essential when investing in a WMS to ensure you have the right warehouse processes, adequate numbers of people in the right places and are working with a WMS vendor that has proven experience in your industry sector. If you understand these key elements and select a system with the right technical features, you will never look back. It has never been more important to have accurate warehouse stock figures that the business can really rely on and you cannot achieve this with a paper-based system.


Indigo is a best-of-breed WMS software supplier and we pride ourselves on having an outstanding track record of success when it comes to implementing WMS solutions. We invite all companies who are considering whether Indigo WMS is right for them to qualify our suitability through the customers we work with. The most powerful way for an end user to appreciate the potential benefits of a WMS is to find a vendor that can demonstrate a good track record of success with live implementations and a willing set of referenceable customers who can verify how the project was successfully concluded.


Companies looking for a WMS are advised to evaluate vendors who have a diverse range of clients and through whom they can most benefit and learn from – because they have relevant industry expertise in your specific areas. Although the basic activities inside the warehouse are pretty standard, the individual user’s ultimate requirements from a system will be quite different. What a building supplies warehouse needs from a WMS will be very different to a fresh food manufacturer and a vendor with a diverse set of customers demonstrates the versatility of their software.


Ensure that the WMS vendor can meet your exact needs by going to visit their customer sites and seeing their warehouse operations first-hand. Talk to current users directly about their experiences with the project and all the lessons they have learned. Finally, de-risk your project by having as much contact between the WMS vendor and client pre-project as possible. This ensures you are much less likely to miss anything. Indigo uses a structured project methodology that sees us go through all the foundation and implementation phases systematically. When scoping your project, look at doing phased implementations in small steps rather than taking a big bang approach, it is less likely to result in business disruption.


On the financial side, investing in a WMS is now more commercially accessible than ever before. For companies that want to pursue the capex route with a one-off investment, there is the potential to claim R&D tax credits to reduce the ultimate cost. Alternatively, the software is also available as a monthly subscription and investing in a WMS can come out of the operational budget.


If you are interested in evaluating how a best-of-breed WMS can improve the efficiency and accuracy of your warehouse, contact Indigo Software for further information.

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