Deploying a New WMS: Common Mistakes Food and Beverage Companies Must Avoid
Published on 13 April 2022
Fueled by recent events that highlighted the importance of operational agility well beyond the four walls of the warehouse, the digital transformation of supply chains everywhere is now well under way. Traditionally slower than most to adopt new technology solutions, the food and beverage industry has been picking up the pace. With Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things, more and more food and beverage companies are discovering that they have the means to invest in powerful warehousing and financial systems.
While SaaS solutions are indeed easier and less expensive to acquire and deploy than previous technology, their successful implementation is not guaranteed for all that. To ensure that they reap the full benefits of their new Warehouse Management System (WMS), Food and beverage companies must prepare for the challenges that await them during the implementation phase.
Remember: Things are going to change
A new WMS isn’t just another piece of software in a company’s tech stack. A warehousing solution like the SOLOCHAIN WMS/MES, listed in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, gives food and beverage companies the means to profoundly transform the ways in which they operate in their distribution center. A WMS accelerates reception processes at the dock, enables integrated replenishment activities, supports more efficient picking and staging methods, etc.
While these changes obviously improve an operation’s performance, they do require that employees on the floor adapt and let go of their old, comfortable ways. A common mistake management teams make is to downplay the impact of the cultural changes brought about by the implementation of a WMS and the importance of user acceptance. Training employees to use the system is obviously necessary, but it may not be enough to ensure that it is fully adopted by end users on the floor. And when workers resist the changes, food and beverage companies see their ROI diminish.
To facilitate user acceptance, stakeholders should involve end users early in the deployment process. The implementation team can lead workshops, for example, to help establish a strong feedback loop with employees on the floor. By being part of the conversation, end users gain a sense of ownership that not only fosters a feeling of comfort with the new solution, but also one of excitement for the new operational efficiencies they’ve helped design.
Don’t leave your implementation team locked out of your facility
Access to the facility and the company’s systems must be planned rigorously before the project kicks off. Without a deployment schedule that is strategically developed with a holistic approach, accessibility issues will arise. Needless to say, when accessibility problems force the implementation team to sit idly by until they are resolved, the resulting delays lead to further implementation costs and threaten the team’s capacity to meet deadlines.
To maximize accessibility and reduce the impacts of deployment on regular operations – and vice versa – food and beverage companies will want to schedule the WMS deployment outside of peak seasons. For the same reasons, it is also better to schedule implementation phases outside of operating hours whenever possible.
When deployment happens at night, management must think to reprogram alarm settings to prevent the team from setting off the system. In the same vein, security at the facility must be warned ahead of time of the team’s presence – it can be quite hard for guards to validate the visitors’ credentials when management is fast asleep!
Don’t skimp on data migration management
One of the key reasons food and beverage companies invest in powerful Supply Chain Execution solutions is that they want to benefit from the accuracy of its inventory management capabilities. For today’s food and beverage companies, data is the name of the game; their success heavily depends on their ability to rely on accurate and truly actionable data.
Every time data migration is an afterthought, companies face serious penalties that limit the WMS’ capacity to improve their margins. In order for their new WMS to deliver from day one, companies must ensure that the content of their database is valid when the solution goes live. Stakeholders consequently have to make sure that the implementation team has a well-defined data migration plan before the deployment phase kicks off.
Whenever possible, food and beverage companies can also consider having a database analyst dedicated to the data transition process. While this may seem like an avoidable expense, a dedicated database analyst is a great way to avoid slip ups and mistakes that will turn out to incur operational and financial penalties down the road, when the solution goes live.
Test early, test often, and don’t forget the hardware
Unsurprisingly, an array of tests should be performed during implementation to ensure that the last deployment phase was successful before moving on to the next one and that the system will perform adequately when launched.
Food and beverage companies will want to make sure, for example, that the system’s functionalities can handle the surges in data volume that come with peak seasons. Stress tests, where a high volume of data is pushed into the new WMS, are therefore a necessity.
Some tests, however, are less obvious and often forgotten during implementation. For instance: the system should be stress-tested for when many users work on the system at the same time, on different applications, and with varying levels of privileges. Hardware in the warehouse also needs to be tested. Will the old handheld devices successfully display the new system’s interface? Will current scanners on the conveyor belt function well with the new applications? Do we have the right cables to connect the old printers to the new system?
Finally, one cannot insist enough on the importance of conducting at least one mock Go Live before launch. A mock Go Live not only tests the system’s performance, but it also prepares the operator’s teams for the big day when the WMS is launched.
Skipping a few tests does not save time or money
Even the best deployments do not always go according to plan. Unexpected complexities, difficulties in the system’s configuration process, or applications that fail initial test cycles and require further work, can cause delays it the deployment process. Stakeholders may then be inclined to make the mistake of making up for lost time by skipping some of the planned testing phases.
In the face of adversity, whenever time and budget constraints allow it, all planned tests should be maintained. Stakeholders must keep in mind that, while delays are a costly nuisance, issues arising at Go Live or shortly after launch because of insufficient testing will assuredly cause much more painful operational and financial penalties. If time and resources are however lacking, then it is essential to maintain as many of the planned tests as possible by identifying what applications and processes should be prioritized.
Training end users on a new WMS before it goes live is an obvious necessity. Sometimes, however, is to forget to also train super users.
Food and beverage companies that do not leverage the deployment phase to train super users give up on huge operational and financial advantages. For one, the input of high-level operators augments the implementation team’s agility in developing and deploying a WMS solution truly adapted to the company’s requirements. After all, no one knows your operational needs and infrastructure better than your own teams.
Food and beverage companies also benefit from super users after the solution has been launched. Super users are trained to troubleshoot and fix the system. The SOLOCHAIN WMS/MES also makes it possible for them to implement changes to workflows and processes, thanks to Dynamic Workflows and its “low code admin changes”. Cheaper than engineers and with a much faster turnaround time than external IT teams, super users are an endlessly valuable inhouse asset.
Yet another advantage food and beverage companies draw from super users during and after implementation is that they solidify the perception among end users that management understands and believes in the new solution. This goes a long way towards facilitating the end users’ adaptation to the cultural changes brought about by the WMS.
To avoid making these mistakes, and others, as you implement your new WMS, you should rely on experienced and trusted implementation partners. At the Generix Group North America, we provide a series of solutions within our Supply Chain Hub product suite to create efficiencies across your entire supply chain. Our solutions are in use around the world and our experience is second-to-none.
We invite you to contact us to learn more.
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