If you’ve done your diligence prior to implementing a new warehouse management system (WMS) into your eCommerce warehouse then, all being well, you should have no problems. That said, things are not always perfect and your implementation may stumble over a speed bump or two so it’s best to identify what they could be and plan ahead to avoid or solve them.
What follows is a list of eCommerce WMS implementation mistakes that we have witnessed over the years.
Mistake #1: Unrealistic deadlines
Okay, so you want your WMS implemented before peak hits because otherwise you will miss out on the real significant return on investment. That said, if you’re a seller of beachwear and your peak dates start around June, you won’t want to be implementing a WMS in May.
Be honest with yourself about what deadline you can realistically work to. Consider the blocking issues, staff availability, and other projects on the horizon. An eCommerce WMS implementation is almost always more successful when it is planned with enough time to be tested and the staff have been sufficiently trained. After all, having no system at peak may just be better than having a system that has been taped in hastily.
Mistake #2: Poor warehouse flow
Imagine that you have bought a brand new, squishy leather sofa. It looks fantastic and it does the job of making you comfortable very well, but if you’re going to put it in a room that smells of stale socks and looks like a rubbish truck threw up in there then your swanky new couch isn’t going to be all that great to sit on. The same goes for your eCommerce WMS. If you implement it in a warehouse that has less flow than Niagara Falls then it just won’t function as well as it should.
Get your warehouse sorted before implementation starts. This involves a lot of little jobs but warehouse flow is a pretty important task. A WMS is only going to be as good as the warehouse in which it is implemented so make sure that yours is up to scratch.
Mistake #3: Clueless staff
Not everyone is going to be thrilled about the decision to implement a new eCommerce WMS right away. In particular, the staff working in the actual warehouse might have concerns that a WMS is going to put them out of a job. Having workers who aren’t on board with the project will only slow things down and make the implementation more difficult.
Simple – get your staff on board. Find out what their concerns are and address them. Worrying about losing their job is a very rational fear and left unchecked it will cause problems. The key is to be entirely transparent with your workers about how the change will affect them and their role.
Mistake #4: Poor training
Linked closely with the previous point, one of the most common mistakes that make a WMS implementation fail is poorly trained staff. A good eCommerce warehouse management system should require very little time to train operators but no system can be implemented and understood straight away. Operators that don’t know what they’re doing can damage your processes almost as much as power failure because either way orders won’t be going out efficiently.
The time it takes to train your staff will depend entirely on the WMS that you implement. Generally a software-as-a-service WMS requires very little training because the processes are designed to be simple and easy to pick up.
Mistake #5: Unsuitable system
There’s no good time to find out that you’ve invested in a warehouse management system that is not suitable for your eCommerce operations, but finding out at the implementation stage hurts. eCommerce is a difference beast to traditional warehousing and requires a different kind of WMS to operate efficiently.
As we said before, you have to do the diligence. Deciding on a WMS, for eCommerce in particular, should not be a quick decision. There are lots of factors to take into consideration, from cost and return on investment, to required resources and long-term maintenance. There also the question of how much customisation you will need and whether the WMS vendor can provide this. Taking the time to do thorough research before making a decision will save you money and hassle in the long run.
Mistake #6: Unrealistic expectations
You know the saying ‘Don’t try to run before you can walk’? Well that is quite fitting at the start of an eCommerce WMS implementation. Far too often we see companies who are just implementing a new system and expecting it to solve all of their logistical and order fulfilment problems on day 1. Realistically, that is not going to happen.
Don’t kid yourself. It might be ideal to pull out the key problems that you’d like to see fixed and then liaise with your WMS provider to see what they consider a decent timetable. Depending on the WMS you choose, the resources you have available, and how your business runs, it could be that your problems are solved gradually over a period of several months.
Mistake #7: Poor preparation
Believe it or not, implementing a warehouse management system in your eCommerce warehouse cannot be done on a whim. There is a lot of preparation that needs to be done beforehand and not only will doing the prep help stop your implementation from failing, it will also speed up the process so you can boost efficiency sooner.
As we said, there is a lot of prep to be done and we cover it pretty thoroughly in our implementation preparation checklist but some of the key things include optimising your storage types, getting bulletproof wireless, and speaking to your suppliers.
Mistake #8: Buying copper, expecting gold
This is no dig at the cheaper systems because if they do just as much as you need then that is fine, but when we’ve spoken to clients and they’ve told us stories about previous WMS implementation fails, one of the reasons has been because they bought cheap and expected so much more than what they paid for.
Though it might seem to be, the solution here is not necessarily that you have to pay a vast amount for a good eCommerce WMS. Instead, you should simply be aware of exactly how much you’re getting for your money. Never assume that you will get the frills that you’d like – check that they are part of the package before you commit.
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