I cannot stress this enough…the single most critical step in your selection and implementation process is Discovery. Your vendor needs to perform a Discovery session involving all your key personnel (operations, I.T., management, your local material handling supplier, etc.). Discovery should take no more than 2 solid days of effort. The purpose is to ensure the new system will provide the solutions your business requires and equally important, to eliminate the unknowns prior to deploying the WMS.
To properly perform Discovery, the vendor needs full comprehension of your existing operations in order to develop an “As-Is” model. A detailed walk through of your warehouse should accomplish that objective.
Once your vendor understands your “As-Is” operations, they should be able to provide a recommendation on each “To-Be” operation, and in many cases provide several options to choose from on how to best tackle your warehouse flow.
From the Discovery session, a ‘Document of Understanding’ (DoU) should be developed in 3-5 business days. You wouldn’t build a house without a proper set of specs; why would you do it any differently with software? As a result, the DoU should provide you with the following:
- Operational Considerations – Verbiage and flow charts on each specific process in the warehouse from Receiving through Shipping and beyond.
- Licensing – quantity and types. We will discuss types later.
- Architecture – computer & network architectures, as well as, any new operational equipment.
- Connectivity – how it will specifically connect to your host business system, including file design and the communication pipelines.
- Hardware – a list of all the hardware that will be required for the proposed solution.
- Final Cost – all increases/decreases in scope from the original proposal that impact cost should be itemized.
- Modifications – Details of any custom software provided – scope and time to deliver.
- Schedule – Time to deploy from the date of the purchase order to the time they turn over the system to you.
Depending on the scope of your system, the DoU can range from simple to complex. A full warehouse distribution system with automation may require a lengthy write-up, particularly if there are other parties involved, such as warehouse automation equipment providers. I have authored DoUs that are 20 pages for a simple system, and up to 80 pages for complex automated solutions.
The bottom line, the Discovery session is pivotal to a successful implementation. Fundamentally, you need to know exactly what you are getting, and the vendors need to know exactly what they are providing.
Lastly, Discovery can be done as a separate contract. Do not engage a WMS company that insists on the opposite.