Your ecommerce company has been managing the implementation of your new warehouse management system (WMS). Modifications and interfaces have been programmed and tested, and workforce training is complete.
As you plan out your go live day, what do you need to consider to ensure success right out of the gate? Based on our experience in implementing WMS systems in many ecommerce and direct-to-customer businesses, these 11 recommendations will help make your go live run as smoothly as possible.
Everyone is Responsible
Hopefully your implementation process established accountability across user and IT departments. Now at all costs avoid the blame game for mistakes, errors and process breakdowns that happen and employees forgetting what they were taught. Go live day has its own tensions, so don’t compound matters by prematurely assessing blame for issues. Not only is it counterproductive but problems often mask themselves. There will be plenty of time to reconcile accountability later.
All Hands on Deck
Ensure that any critical staff needed for go live are not scheduled for vacation or other time off. This includes department managers, leads and IT personnel.
Minimize Other New Initiatives
The WMS system in and of itself is new and that’s enough for many companies. Are there other initiatives that can radically change your operations but can be put off to another time? Often a WMS implementation is planned in sync with new facilities and new automation. Is there any way to change this? Can you minimize the number of marketing promotions planned for the go live date that may cause operational challenges or significantly spike volume?
Consider Peak Season, Other Surges
If you have an end-of-year holiday peak, avoid a go live date between Sept. 1-Dec. 31. Considering your daily and weekly order curves, weekend volume and Mondays are typically the heaviest, with Thursdays and Fridays considerably lower. Can you implement then?
Gain Vendor Support
Have sufficient on-site coverage from vendor implementation teams (software, hardware and other vendors). This needs to include support for all departments and facility locations. Include support resources from vendors whose systems will integrate with the new WMS. Not all of them need to be on site but should be aware of the date and available for immediate resolution of any issues.
Predetermine who is responsible for monitoring various processes and integration points. An example of this in an ecommerce business is order and return interfaces from ERP to WMS and shipping systems. Appoint someone to verify the number of orders and returns, looking for any problems or conditions which could spell trouble. With more complex transactions you may want to visually review the data being passed.
Answer Questions from the Floor
Even though you have trained people to the best of your ability, some of them will “freeze” in using the new system in production. Have a system in place to get them help quickly. Also, associates on the floor are often the first ones to detect and report potential errors.
Establish a War Room
Identify the issue reporting process for documenting any potential errors with the new system. This lets you control and document the intake and assignment of problems, including who is responsible for researching and resolving them through vendor teams and/or internal staff. This includes triaging severity and priority and estimating resolution time. All issues should be submitted to this group to provide company-wide visibility, reporting status and resolution.
Communicate Work Schedules
Ensure that associates understand operating hours during the first few days will be longer than normal. This gives them advance notice so they can reschedule their personal affairs. Will this require authorized overtime to get everything completed?
Keep Morale Up, Minimize Down Time
Consider providing staff meals on the first day and several days after, if necessary. This will help minimize negativity and keep morale up.
Start Go Live Day with a Team Meeting
Each department should plan to start go live day with a team meeting to restate key points and responsibilities. Tell them your projected volume and remind them how, where and who to go to for help, including how to report any issues. Keep the message upbeat and positive so everybody has the right attitude.
There will be challenges and issues no matter how prepared you are or how much testing you have done. Being patient, relying on the process and following the above recommendations will go a long way toward alleviating the pain of go live day.
Brian Barry is president of F. Curtis Barry & Company