Eight Underrated WMS Go Live Nuggets of Wisdom
We sat down with our resident wizened, grizzled WMS sage Jeff “The Oracle” Williams and asked him for invaluable WMS go live wisdom which is either too obvious – and therefore taken for granted and totally ignored – or so obscure or underrated that its only known by stalwart WMS veterans like him who bear the scars of countless implementations. In this article we’ll look beyond “avoid peak season” and “test early, test often” and look for what often flies under the radar in the leadup and execution of a warehouse management software go live.
- If this was the usual “go live checklist” there would be a well-deserved bullet point for performance/stress testing, and while its hugely important to do that, the often-overlooked aspect of this type of testing is validating the ability to have multiple users logged in at once. The focus tends to strictly be on pushing data at high volumes throughout the system, and so whether or not a bunch of users with varying privileges can log in and stay logged in at the same time goes by the wayside. Our WMS implementation gurus advise that database locks actually cause more issues at go live than anything else.
- If the data isn’t right, then nothing else will be. When making cut-over data migration plans from the old system to the new one, at the top of list should be the specific validation that proves that the data was successfully converted/migrated. Not far below that should be the question of how much legacy data to archive in order to prevent, or at the very least limit, slowdowns with the new system. The cross-functional team handling the go live should also have an experienced DBA that is not to be undervalued, and who’s schedule should be focused strictly on the transition. If someone on the team is needed at the drop of a hat, it will most likely be the database specialist.
- Before and after a major implementation personnel tend to work at odd times, which can set off security alarms as normal warehouse operations don’t occur at 2am like they do at 2pm. Include a facility manager in your team if at all possible; even just to keep him/her in the loop. At one unforgettable implementation, warehouse personnel were running tests late into the night in preparation for a go live and they – along with one of our WMS engineers who was working in a conference room – suddenly heard alarms blaring throughout the facility, and very shortly afterwards the police showed up.
- Sometimes teams look so far forward and are so pumped about kicking the tires and squeegeeing the windows of their new system, that they hastily prepare, or even forego altogether, system roll-back plans. What happens in the unfortunate but possible event that the implementation is a disaster? Customer orders don’t wait for your team to get the new system back up, and so contingency plans need to be ironed out and key decisions should be made like determining when the official “point of no return” with the new system happens.
- End users who are well-trained on the new system are key, but even better are trained users who can additionally work on the new WMS under the hood. There are only so many engineers and implementers available right after a go live, and end users are more intimately familiar with their own processes/procedures and so if they can also troubleshoot and fix the new system then they are endlessly valuable. They can bring some unique and critical talents to the table, like best knowing when to draw the “scope creep” line, accurately evaluating the impact of the new WMS on other integrated systems, and most importantly, they can do two jobs at once during crunchtime. Identify these rare user-engineers and give them prominent roles on your go live team from the very beginning.
- Don’t try to force dated or beaten-up tech on the new system. You don’t need to buy the latest and greatest, but strongly consider tossing that scanner gun from the 80s which only works when held at a 37.5-degree angle on Tuesdays. Shortly after going live with a new WMS, warehouse managers at large logistics company noticed their ancient conveyor system wasn’t reading the bar-codes from their shiney new bar-code scanners – thus resulting in a “false-start” go live. The perceived savings of keeping old hardware is just not worth the risk of bottlenecking and/or introducing compatibility problems.
- This nugget of wisdom sounds like the most obvious, and yet our WMS gurus advise that this problem is all too common…Make sure the implementation team has both logical AND physical access to the warehouse! Well in advance have guest logins created for the team and then add extra ones in the event that more engineers are drafted to help, as IT being stingy with accounts can result in implementation engineers sitting around waiting for logins and thus wasting valuable time. Make it easy for them to physically get on-site as well, since you would rather have team members heads-down working on the implementation as opposed to pacing around the guard gate.
- Communication and workspace plans for the team during and shortly-after the go live should be hammered out well in advance. Cell phones don’t always work well in big warehouses, and this should be taken into account.
Hopefully the above can help with your next WMS implementation. Please feel free to drop us a line if we can assist in any way!
This post was written by:
Sales Ops Manager
James has been working in software pre-sales and implementation since 2000, and more recently settled into working with a pre-sales team and occasionally writing blog posts. Drop him a line at: james.prior[at]tryonsolutions[dot]com.
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