Top 3 things to consider when choosing a Warehouse Management System (WMS)

The biggest reason for issues or delays in the implementation of a warehouse management system is the integration between systems. I have been involved in implementing more than 1,000 warehouse management system projects. This one is the one to get right. There are often no workarounds and if it’s not right at the start, when customer orders don’t correctly import into the WMS from the website for example, the confidence from users will drop off a cliff. So checking the integration works as you need it is key when choosing a WMS. 

Here is a quick checklist to prevent this happening to you:

1) List all requirements of what the integration between each system must do. For example, to integrate with an ecommerce platform like Shopify, you need:

  • Import of items into WMS, both simple and bundle
  • Import of item attributes into WMS
  • Import of new/amended sales orders into WMS
  • Import of customers into WMS
  • Export of sales order changes from WMS
  • Export of inventory changes from WMS
  • Export of tracking data from WMS
  • Export of returns from WMS

2) Understanding which system is boss is key, for example:

  • Shopify is considered the master of sales order data
  • The WMS is considered the master of fulfilment. There is no requirement for any changes in sales order changes in the WMS to be reflected in Shopify (for example, if a carrier or service is selected in the WMS).
  • WMS is the master of warehouse inventory data. So manual changes made to inventory figures in Shopify will not be reflected in the WMS.

3) Write test cases to check each of these touch points performs correctly. Be sure to test it at the volume you expect. There are tens or hundreds of test cases that you should use to ensure everything is covered. 

Here are 10 quick headline examples of some tests that you could use for goods in receipt with a 3rd party purchasing system like NetSuite:

  • Test 1: Check PO (purchase order) with 1 line imports from NetSuite to WMS with all correct data.
  • Test 2: Check PO with multiple lines imports from NetSuite to WMS with all correct data.
  • Test 3: Receive single line item in multiple quantity in a single receipt.
  • Test 4: Receive single line item in multiple quantity in multiple receipts.
  • Test 5: Receive more than expected quantity of items that are on PO. Mobile user should not be able to do this.
  • Test 6: Receive items that are not on PO. Mobile user should not be able to do this.
  • Test 7: Check that the warehouses in NetSuite match to the sites in WMS.
  • Test 8: 1 PO, 10 items, received by GRN 1 x 5 items then reconciled and reconciled with NetSuite. Then create another GRN and received by GRN.
  • Test 9: Test that the multi-site works when adding items onto PO that were from a non-WMS recognised warehouse. It did not import which was expected outcome. To get that item into WMS on the PO, change the PO line item to WMS warehouse and check it imports fine.
  • Test 10: Edit the items while PO is in submitted state in WMS. Test adding an item that already existed on the PO.

The second tip for choosing the right WMS is to check whether it can operate in your environment now and in the future without necessitating inefficient manual workarounds or huge extra development. Here is a list of some things to consider:

  1. Do you have multiple sites? If so, you may need to split purchase orders for receipt, split customer orders to pick but consolidate at packing.
  2. Do you have conveyors that are gravity lead or driven electronically? If electronic, look at what needs integrating and what to do if they fail.
  3. Do you have mezzanines where trolleys are used but the trolleys will not be transported between each floor? If so, you will need to have a way to batch pick and send those items down to packing in an efficient way.
  4. Do you have just one door for your warehouse and need to manage goods being received and despatched efficiently so that you do not get clogged up?

The third tip for choosing the right WMS is ensuring it has all the essential core features. These could include:

  1. If customer orders are mainly for single item orders, you will need a specific method to pick them efficiently, which will be double the pick rate of multi-item orders.
  2. If you sell items like female apparel, where 6 items get bought and 5 returned, your multiple item orders picking method and returns system better be great.
  3. If you are going to be changing your operation, say from ecommerce only to wholesale as well for your own brand, this will require a combination of pick methods to ensure the different order profiles work in harmony. 

There are of course other things to consider when choosing the right WMS, but these will certainly be a good start if you are looking to improve your fulfillment and stock control.