Top 5 tips to go from a paper to electronic warehouse

I visit many companies each week that are considering throwing out their paper system in favour of an electronic paper-free solution. Here are my top 5 tips if you are one of these companies looking to make this move:
1. Getting everything barcoded can be seen as an arduous task. Best way is to start immediately by labelling items as they enter your warehouse. Get the design right first in order to do this, with the correct symbology (type of barcode), to ensure they can be used as you scale. Then when you have to go live with the warehouse management system, WMS, you will have less items to barcode.

2. Do a reference visit to potential supplier's Client. these implementations will nearly always have some bumps along the way and it is often about choosing a supplier that acts as a partner and treats these like an emergency procedure with a dedicated human to quickly handle these issues.

3. Do not pay for the software until it is working and ensure you get a fixed project price. Many suppliers ask for a % payment in advance and will not commit to a fixed price. If the supplier is not capable of providing an accurate quote that is fixed, make that their issue. That should also apply to the service over 5 years to prevent any surprises there.

4. Take it in stages, avoiding feature creep. As soon as you involve more people in the project, besides the warehouse manager and IT, they will ask for 'this and that'. Build their requests in, but make it in phase 2+. I have seen many companies add more and functionality, where the core functions can bring 90% of the benefit, helping budgets and timeframes to not slip, so companies start getting the benefit straight away.

5. Companies that have taken the time and money to put in a warehouse management system must use it as a competitive advantage and not just a cost saving, promoting it to your existing and prospective Clients, plus your employees.

In a future post, I will talk about the steps to take to implement a simple barcode system / warehouse management system, in a business with 3-10 operators in the warehouse that is currently using pen and paper.

Author: Jonathan Bellwood