POINTS TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING A WAREHOUSE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM? PART IV

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POINTS TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING A WAREHOUSE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM?

PART IV

PUBLISHED 17 JUNE 2022

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Making Your Mind Up

There are many factors that you will take into consideration before making up your mind and selecting the WMS provider that you wish to work with:

  • System features – will the system deliver the functionality that you need?
  • Implementation – how easy will it be to implement, and what steps are taken to minimise disruption? Be absolutely certain of one thing – there will be change!
  • Understanding – Are you comfortable that the supplier understands what your business requirements are, and has a sound grasp of how you would like to move forward?
  • Faith – Are you convinced that, over and above the details conveyed to the supplier, they have the capability to support your investment into the future?
  • Tried and tested – what was the response from existing users of the system?
  • Personal relationships – although not an obvious factor, this is actually a key issue; will the company work in partnership with you to deliver the right results, and do you think that you will be able to work together? The nightmare scenario is when the sales people leave and the implementation team arrive to ask “what is it you want then?” Trust us when we say we know of this happening first-hand!
  • Support – Are there adequate resources from the supplier to ensure that you will be fully supported?

These are all things that we at Clydebuilt Business Solutions have been proven to deliver consistently over the years. Of course, there will be many more variables to be taken into consideration, but most of these should be accounted for along the stages of the decision-making process. Once you have established your need for a new system and start inviting responses from prospective suppliers you will already be forming opinions on both the system on offer and the company supporting the system.

It is easy to get carried away with the marketing hype surrounding some of the product offerings, but it is imperative that you stay close to your project and ensure that you are selecting on a “need to have” basis as opposed to “that looks nice”. Once implemented, a Warehouse Management System is a business-critical piece of software that can have significant benefit to your working operations, and, as such, your decision should be made upon the final result.

It can be daunting delving into the world of choice and, with so many companies making all sorts of claims, it is no surprise that it becomes a difficult decision. The best advice to give is to ensure that you have explored all avenues with your potential supplier and you will find that you will make the right decision based on all of the options above.

Finally, use your common sense, if you understand the needs of your warehouse operationally, you will see if what is offered will work on the ground and help the people there. At the end of the day, the objective is delivery to the end customer, real accuracy, getting it right first time, every time, and improving internal efficiencies so you are avoiding unnecessary costs. In jargon terms, this all equates to adding value to the bottom line!


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POINTS TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING A WAREHOUSE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM? PART III

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POINTS TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING A WAREHOUSE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM?

PART III

PUBLISHED 10 JUNE 2022

Three people sitting around a laptop having a discussion.

The Presentation

You may have initial thoughts on your preferred Warehouse Management System based on the information already gleaned through the marketing materials, visit to your site, discussions with peers and perhaps a visit to the suppliers’ client sites. The next stage is to allow your chosen vendors to do a presentation to the team (something that can be arranged with us from this page). If your company already have the capital expenditure budget approved, then the purpose of the presentations from selected providers is to market their company and sell their solution into your business.

You may, however, be in the position where staff on the ground are aware of the need for a new system but management haven’t yet approved a budget, and in this scenario an additional purpose of the process is for the vendors to justify the costs by demonstrating how the investment will provide a Return on Investment and bring real business benefits, especially on your bottom line.

Good vendors will seek to demonstrate “real-life” scenarios to you based on situations that may occur within your warehouse. Sample data from you will be uploaded on to their system and the transactions carried out, showing the end result. The presentation will also give your potential supplier the opportunity to demonstrate how they plan to work with your other stakeholders to create any communication links that are required to connect the systems, where applicable.

All cards should now be on the table and if there are any unresolved questions or issues then this is an opportunity to ask further and ensure that you are 100% comfortable with the offering presented to you.

Next: Part IV – Making Your Mind Up


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POINTS TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING A WAREHOUSE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM? PART II

Two people in a warehouse, one with a tablet and pointing, the other looking into the distance with a folder under their arm.

POINTS TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING A WAREHOUSE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM?

PART II

PUBLISHED 30 MAY 2022

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


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POINTS TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING A WAREHOUSE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM? PART I

Two people walking down a warehouse aisle with a checklist.

POINTS TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING A WAREHOUSE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM?

PART I

PUBLISHED 13 MAY 2022

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


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WHY DO YOU REALLY NEED TO CONSIDER A WAREHOUSE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM? PART IV

WHY DO YOU reALLy NEED TO CONSIDER A WAREHOUSE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM?

PART IV

PUBLISHED 1 APRIL 2022

SECURING THE FUTURE OF YOUR BUSINESS

As we all try to recover from the last couple of years, and forge into the future, more and more companies are investing in good software systems to drive their company forward – including your customers! And it is those customers who will expect complete integration between your businesses, that you will have suitably advanced IT capabilities, particularly in these days of increased remote and home working.

Despite perhaps what can be seen as uncertain pressures relating to the current global situation, in a number of aspects, it has been reported that a majority of those in Logistics and the Supply Chain are still expecting to see an increase in technology investment in the near future. The main concern for the majority of companies looking to invest in technologies, however, is finding solutions that provide a clear and immediate return on that investment, with slightly less focusing on putting finance towards a system that will allow for future growth.

The implementation of a Warehouse Management System pays for itself within a matter of months, of course, by reducing your on-going operational costs, as was highlighted in the previous parts of this article. It also provides a good basis for facilitating future growth, by improving your internal efficiencies and allowing for more work to be completed within the same timeframe.

Your manual warehouse may have been working without any issues for years, you aren’t aware of any immediate problems, and purchasing a WMS may seem like a massive investment that simply isn’t worth it to you right now. But say your highest value customer decides that they would like to send you files electronically, and they would also like an electronic file sent back, and on realising that you can’t support this functionality they decide to look elsewhere for a provider.

Where would this above scenario leave your business? In most cases the realisation that a forward-thinking investment a few months ago would have solved all your problems is a realisation that is, unfortunately, just too late. With the LocateIT Warehouse Management System from Clydebuilt Business Solutions, and the communication potential that it provides, however, you need never worry about being left behind.

Coming Soon: Points to consider when selecting a WMS


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WHY DO YOU REALLY NEED TO CONSIDER A WAREHOUSE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM? PART III

WHY DO YOU reALLy NEED TO CONSIDER A WAREHOUSE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM?

PART III

PUBLISHED 25 MARCH 2022

GETTING IT RIGHT EVERY TIME!

Getting something wrong is never a pleasant experience, but in a business environment the results can have a devastating impact that is amplified greatly. As well as dealing with your own disappointment, there are also customers who require answers! Clients are often particularly quick to notify suppliers when something has gone wrong, whether it be overcharging, incorrect items being despatched, or goods going to the wrong recipient. Regardless of what the nature of the discrepancy is, it is not in your best interests to have disgruntled customers.

Accuracy is expected as standard in the logistics industry, as customers are paying for that as part of a service. A few slip-ups here and there will usually be accepted, but wouldn’t it be great if you could increase your accuracy and provide the highest level of performance that could translate to only 3 errors in 1,000?

“Customer Relationship Management” is a broad term that opens up a whole can of worms, with the buck not stopping at improved accuracy – something that is expected as standard. Here are a few points, however, that do equate to Best Practice CRM:

  • Joint business reviews with a dedicated account manager
  • Senior management involvement where applicable
  • Accessibility and Responsiveness from supplier
  • Integration of specialist resources
  • Proactive implementation of “value added” services

Although the first couple of points are “soft” issues that are easy to understand, implement and maintain, they should not be overlooked as they play a massive part in making your client feel valued. If you can make each customer believe that they are your priority then you are off to a good start.

A Warehouse Management System will help you deliver on the remaining points, building a rounded basis for sound business relationships. Historical data relating to customer transactions and stock, and within the restrictions of current data protection laws, is kept within a WMS and can be generally accessed on demand, often in the format of choice. This eliminates the time, hassle, and headache of having to answer ad hoc customer queries in a manual environment.

Furthermore, value can be added to your customers by offering automatic reports detailing the business information they require, by email or whatever form of electronic transfer they may prefer. A WMS makes these types of transactions common practice, and once you have defined the frequency, contents, and format, no additional work will be required.

Remote access and real-time scanning further enhance a WMS by providing a means to automatically update systems as and when transactions are completed, improve accuracy to those higher levels, and immediately share this information with those who need to know.

It is maintaining this relationship through the use of a WMS, providing the information customers’ want, linking with their systems, and having good communications and visibility that will allow you to keep them, and in the position where they won’t even want to consider taking their business away.

Next: Part IV – Securing the Future of Your Business


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WHY DO YOU REALLY NEED TO CONSIDER A WAREHOUSE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM? PART II

Laptop and monitor displaying WMS invoice and dashboard screens.

WHY DO YOU reALLy NEED TO CONSIDER A WAREHOUSE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM?

PART II

PUBLISHED 17 MARCH 2022

IMPROVING PRODUCTIVITY

Following on from the initial blog post’s mention that a WMS can improve “productivity”, it can often be said that the whole warehouse and logistical environment in an organisation is found to be ripe for gains in this area. Manual or semi-manual systems are inefficient and costly, involving, by definition, staff creating and managing high amounts of paperwork and increased volumes leading to more staff and system pressures.

Indeed, there is a rule in operations management that any system will get diminishing returns as throughput reaches above the 70 per cent theoretical maximum, with problems occurring and costs increasing even more as that then rises above 85 per cent. These issues can lead to stock-outs, time wasted finding stock, picking inefficiencies, delivery failures, system non-compliance and paperwork failure; all of these are detrimental to customer service compliance, which can then lead to financial compensation penalties.

Of course, individual cases may have differing lead issues, but, in general, the time saving element is often said to be the biggest benefit gained from implementing an effective Warehouse Management System. By saving time in operational activity, greater attention can then be given to more productive tasks, ultimately resulting in extra throughput being possible with existing working hours. This then leads to value in two main ways:

  1. In a static situation, you will be able to get through the same work load as before in less time, freeing up hours for additional work. With extra efficiency and more varied work this can also lead to greater staff satisfaction.
  2. In an expanding situation, having tasks completed quicker, and physical capacity permitting, can lead to increased stock going through the warehouse. More business equals more billing!

Unless your storage space is totally automated and “dark”, all warehouse related tasks involve some investment of time. However, there are certain complex, time-consuming tasks that will be made easier with a reliable WMS in place:

  • Administrative paperwork associated with customer receipts and orders, including load manifests, stock reports and invoicing (especially in a 3PL environment) are easier to access and can even be made fully electronic.
  • Observing and controlling management information relating to stock, e.g. monitoring returns, stock discrepancies, quality control, tracking of hazardous materials, lot and batch numbers, etc, etc.
  • Space utilisation and tasks associated with maximising your space can benefit from stock put-away processes where sensible suggested locations can add significant benefits to the speed of your order picking and pick-face replenishment.

A WMS will certainly cater for all of the above demands with minimum effort, with the obvious exception of the physical side of tasks such as putting stock away and picking, allowing you to set parameters to tailor the software to your needs. It is also fair to say that having these tasks completed automatically without any complex calculations or spreadsheet work definitely saves you time, and perhaps even a headache!

Introducing a system in to your operation can remove the full-time management of paperwork, even allowing the opportunity for working remotely and allowing customers to access electronic data on-demand. With paperwork removed, certain aspects of the system administration can be moved to the warehouse floor itself and we can then talk of introducing wireless operations and scanning and staff updating the WMS as and when they perform the physical processes themselves.

Next: Part III – Getting it right every time!


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WHY DO YOU REALLY NEED TO CONSIDER A WAREHOUSE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM? PART I

WHY DO YOU reALLy NEED TO CONSIDER A WAREHOUSE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM?

PART I

PUBLISHED 11 MARCH 2022

Times have changed, of that there can be no doubt, and working from home, flexible hybrid arrangements, and remote connectivity are all now commonplace. All industries have had to change how they work and never has a reliable warehouse management system been more essential than it is now.

Trade journals and websites have been publishing stories of Logistics companies showcasing their new successful software installations for many years now. You need only look at our own case studies for some fine examples. However, it is fair to say that not all in logistics are using appropriate software solutions, even today, with some preferring the “old methods” and having a particular view point of not wanting to rely on computer systems as “they could fail”.

It is no surprise that as more advanced technologies are becoming available, the use of the WMS has become standard practice and it is really past the time for everyone to make the move and not be left in the dark.

All WMS vendors make bold statements regarding “improved efficiencies”, “reduced costs”, and “an increase to your bottom line”. Clydebuilt Business Solutions are no different in making these claims, and in this series of blogs, we will look at this and assess just how much benefit might be gained from software implementation and how it can help you adapt to the “new” world we now inhabit.

There are many benefits that can be detailed, but three major positives can be summarised as:

  • Being able to differentiate yourself from competitors by taking the initiative in presenting the latest opportunities in technology to your customer, rather than have them imposing it upon you. Having a seamless, and hassle-free, link between systems will solidify your customer relationships and make them more inclined to stay aboard for the long-term.
  • You have the opportunity to achieve greater logistical productivity, and flexibility, by enabling your existing resources, particularly personnel, to handle greater throughput, while also allowing the level of output to meet the desired levels not only in traditional ways, but also remotely, from anywhere, and on the move!
  • The third major benefit is that by installing such a system you are staying ahead of the game and putting yourself in the position where you can offer attractive services to potential new added value customers. If you don’t install, the fear is that others will, and once you are behind you will find it even harder to catch up.

Next: Part II – Improving Productivity.


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