Scanning the Marketplace


Three people sitting round a darkened table seemingly discussing papers that are in front of them.

After reviewing your warehouse processes and weighing up the pros and cons, you have decided that now is the right time to invest in a new Warehouse Management System. During this process you will have already uncovered areas that need improvement and perhaps already figured out where the real return on investment will come from.

The next stage is to scan the marketplace for suitable vendors, looking at both the functionality of the system on offer and the experience brought to the table by the provider. This alone can be daunting; with so many different companies and systems claiming to be able to do it all, where do you start?

Preparation of an operational specification sheet will greatly assist in the procurement process as you will have already mapped out your warehouse and the key elements such as size, number of pallets, aisles, bays, staff, etc. If you have historical data relating to your daily workings, including number of transactions for processes such as Goods In, Put Away and Picking, this could also be added in to the requirements. Basically, what you are doing at this stage is completing an internal business process review, and ascertaining exactly how you are working and identifying any peaks or dips in your operations.

It is not uncommon at this stage for companies to hire the help of a consultant – a service that our decades of experience in the industry allows us to provide – with the view that an external eye often provides a better perspective. If you choose to do this it is important that are aware of at least some of the potential pitfalls of doing so, such as your consultant working with a couple of “preferred suppliers” and pointing you towards one of these regardless of your specific needs.

Another danger is the use of a standard Request for Information Document, or Invitation to Tender, which may be downloaded from the Internet or provided by the consultant. The risk with these is that not all of the elements listed may reflect your true current practice and they can ask about features which may sound good but that will actually be of no benefit either presently, or in the future. In this case, when you are short-listing WMS providers, it’s easy to overlook a system based on apparent capabilities when, in actual fact, there is functionality that you do not require, and the system is really the ideal fit.

Preparing your own RFI document based on your operational needs is a good place to start, as all of the components are then relevant to your own business. You could try sending this out to prospective suppliers to fill out, but to gain a true idea of how a provider will support you, it might be a better idea to have them visit your site, prior to the RFI evaluation.

This may seem like a nuisance but, in the long run, this is beneficial to both parties, and it gives you a chance to meet with the company and establish if they have a sound grasp of how their solution can fit with your environment. For the supplier, it gives them a perfect opportunity to complete the RFI, or prepare a proposal, based on the actual scenarios that you face on a daily basis.

Next: Part II – Explore your options further