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The Top 8 Reasons WMS Implementation Fails

Top 8 Reasons Why WMS Implementation Fails

March 13, 2023

Why Warehouse Management System Implementation fail?

You probably already know that implementing a warehouse management system (WMS) is challenging. The entire process can take anywhere from three to six months to complete. How smoothly the implementation goes depends on many factors, and there are many reasons why WMS implementations don’t run smoothly and sometimes even fail. 

In this article, we’re going to explore eight of those reasons.

Not defining clear objectives.

One of the biggest reasons WMS implementations fail is unclear goals and weak direction. The key to a successful implementation is communication.

It is the Project Manager’s and the Project Sponsors’ responsibility to communicate the project goals and objectives to all stakeholders at the beginning of the project. Communication should never stop throughout the implementation, regularly keeping all stakeholders abreast of all aspects of the project via formal weekly or bi-weekly meetings. Also, once you are clear on exactly what it is that you want to achieve, you can decide on the software you need to drive your efforts. Starting with software and then trying to force the solution into the software is a recipe for failure.

Poor planning or project management.

The Russian proverb, “Measure seven times, cut once is apt in any WMS implementation. The project team must allocate sufficient time in the planning phase to set the project up for success. At Apex, we use our experienced team to map out the project requirements and ensure that the plan we put in place covers all aspects of the project, and the risks, to the best of our knowledge before we start “cutting”.  Investing time at this stage saves the implementation team many headaches. In our experience, a WMS implementation without the appropriate project management software and proper planning is doomed to fail. So, plan vigorously.

WMS software will solve all our problems.

There are many examples of warehouse operators implementing the latest WMS software with the hope that it will improve processes, productivity, and profits, only to see it fail miserably. Software is certainly not the answer; it is only part of the success puzzle.

In our experience, culture and process are two of the most vital aspects of successful WMS software implementation and ultimate utilisation.

First, having the entire company onboard with the project is imperative to the success of the project. Involve the workforce as a whole by explaining the reason for the implementation and, more importantly, how it will make their job easier and increase their contribution to the organisation’s success. Once again, communication is the key. If the workers (and managers) feel involved in the process, the buy-in you get will pay massive dividends in the long run. Second, most organisations don’t have a software problem; they have a process problem. Look to improve your processes and only use the software as an enabler.

Using every feature in the new software straight away.

WMS software has many exciting features to help organisations improve efficiency, productivity, and profits. However, before using those features, the basics have to be solid first.

In the last point, we spoke about the process. Unfortunately, most companies haven’t got the basic foundations right in the first instance. The marathoners’ adage is appropriate for WMS software: “Slow and steady wins the race.” Master the foundations of the software (and your process) before moving on to other features. 

Insufficient training and support.

A tool is only as good as the person using it. So, for your WMS strategy to succeed, ensure that you plan and execute effective employee training in the new processes and software. Once again, this comes down to the culture of the company. Successful companies realise that employees are an asset, and they put time into helping set them up for success. So, training your employees, in general, is a good idea, and training them on the WMS process and software is essential if you want the system to work correctly.

Incorrect data.

Garbage in, garbage out: software is only as good as the data fed it. Incomplete, erroneous, and bogus data is one of the biggest reasons that WMS software doesn’t work. Warehouse operators’ productivity and profits strategy are reliant on accurate data. Thus, the implementation team must check the data very carefully and ensure that it is correct and complete before inserting it into the software. 

Not planning for change or handling out-of-scope issues.

In an ideal world, all software implementations would run smoothly. They don’t. In many projects, the scope is allowed to change (scope creep) without proper controls.  Sometimes this is due to poor planning, but in others, the needs of the customer change, and a change of scope becomes necessary.  Allowing these changes without proper controls leads to confusion in the project and, ultimately, a disconnect between the WMS supplier and customer regarding objectives, timelines, etc., leading in many cases to disputes, late delivery, a breakdown in the relationship, and potentially a failed project.

In any change of scope, it is essential to analyse the new requirements and their associated impact on the project delivery and, ultimately, the project’s ability to meet the customer’s needs.  If the project team deems the change essential, then the impact in terms of time and costs needs to be communicated to all stakeholders, and the project expectations adjusted accordingly.

Not taking enough care and attention to system integration.

Successful WMS software implementations consider the entire operation, including processes, people, controls, and automation. All these have to work seamlessly to get the best out of your warehouse management system and software.

Choosing the right-fit implementation partner is, therefore, vital. When you embark on a WMS overhaul, ensure that you interview at least three potential implementation partners. Consider their experience, success rate (speak to their clients), and compatibility with your culture and vision. 

Any WMS implementation is multifaceted, with many moving parts to consider. View your warehouse management strategy as a holistic, interdependent system: people, process, software, and automation. Be clear on your WMS objectives. Plan properly. Be aware that unforeseen challenges can add to the scope of work and add more time/cost to the project. Make sure the data collated is clean and accurate. And choose an implementation partner with the experience to take your project over the finish line so that you can set your business up for success in the future.

Apex has integrated WMS over several industries in the last 16 years and is one of the leaders in this particular discipline. If you’re looking to move to a partially or fully automated warehousing and distribution operation, reach out to Apex for advice on integrating and implementing your warehouse management system with a warehouse control system.

Apex provides WMS support services and consulting for warehouse management, ensuring smooth supply chain operations and optimal inventory management efficiency.

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