Explore Your Options Further


Two members of a Warehouse team wheeling a stack of boxes between aisles.

Explore Your Options Further

As well as the capabilities of the system, it is important to delve deeper into potential suppliers and find out more about who uses their systems, the number and experience of their staff, and projected future developments. Whatever your warehouse setup, you will want to make sure that the provider has relevant experience in a similar environment, and can add value by providing advice and expertise over and above installing a system. More importantly, system integration has become a key factor within the logistics world, and it is worth checking that the potential supplier has a proven track record creating the type of links that you need. These are usually of two main types:

  • Import of orders and expected goods in using a particular file type
  • More complex two-way messaging between your prospective WMS and a back-office system

Accepting that the above is, at best, a simplification, and a subject worthy of extensive discussion in its own right, make no mistake that this can often be a major difference between suppliers. Again, it is the syndrome of all suppliers to talk a good game, but in actual fact the experience of the market shows that claims can usually neither be taken at face value (even for large suppliers) nor that the resulting link will work robustly as knowledge may be limited, or there might be a lack of experience in the particular field. It’s good to try to talk to at least two of their customers of comparable size and ask how messaging issues are dealt with.

Some suppliers may ask to come back on site to carry out a detailed Business Process Review before moving on to the next stage of a tailored presentation. The cost of the BPR is normally absorbed within the final quote presented to you, but this exercise can prove to be invaluable to you. By the end of it, the supplier should be able to demonstrate a thorough understanding of your working practices and be able to offer practical suggestions that can help drive internal efficiencies up and ensure that labour is directed towards profitable activities. These recommendations can be geared towards the use of the product offering; this is okay, but it should be ensured that any tailoring required to deliver the brief is clearly articulated and costed and that the software solution can fit in and add value to your business.

Most software providers are reluctant to give out prices before they have been on site and got a proper feel for your operation. This is common practice and the reason for this is that true simplicity is rare and usually one will find so many variables to be taken into consideration that even providing a rough ball-park figure could be misleading and lead to troubles in the future when that original estimate bears no resemblance to the final cost. Sadly, however, there are companies who rely on the “subsequent additions” to bring up their invoice value to what they actually desire. The most common factors that may have to be considered are the number of user licenses, extra programming, hardware, training, consultancy, project management and support, all costs that some may hide away from the initial quote.

Suppliers are generally happy to pass on details of their customers to be contacted as reference sites. Find out if the offered site visit or telephone contact is a “reference site” who is contracted to allow a number of prospective clients to visit and talk – i.e. another salesperson, or an ordinary customer, like you may become, who is doing this as a favour to the supplier and to you. It should become clear when you talk to the reference site what group they belong to.

Having said all that, when offered the chance, you should take any prospective vendor up on the offer and speak with, or visit, at least one of their customers. Unless a direct competitor, most companies are happy to provide this service to the provider, as ultimately, at one point, they were in the same position as you are now. There is no better way for you to gauge the effectiveness of a system than to see it in live action, or to speak to users of the system who work with it every day. Speaking with existing clients also gives you the opportunity to dig deeper into the company and you can ask questions about the implementation process, the supplier-client relationship, and any other concerns that you would like clarified. The opportunity to do this is something that we at Clydebuilt will always be happy to facilitate for any potential customer.

Next: Part III – The Presentation