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THE GPS TO WMS – READY TO REPLACE? Part 2 – WMS Project Leadership – The Buck DOES Stop Here

By Ian Hobkirk | 12/01/2015 | 6:58 AM

Leadership shot
Unfortunately, WMS implementation is not a plug-in-and-play proposition. A common story with WMS implementation is around companies seemingly “caught off guard” by the difficulty of implementing and going live. I’ve heard stories like these even from larger companies who have successfully completed very complex ERP implementations, only to struggle mightily with their “little” WMS project.



There are a host of reasons why WMS is so challenging to deploy compared to other business software systems: lack of true standardization, exceptions to the rule, interfaces with material handling equipment, high volumes of simultaneous transactions, and so on.

It is because if these complexities that many companies struggle to find a WMS implementation leader capable of building and LEADING a team of skilled resources capable of pulling off a smooth implementation.

Putting in place a WMS takes a unique set of qualities. Here are four characteristics your company’s WMS project leader should have:

Experience with WMS: Many companies are inclined to assign project leadership to someone in the organization who may have been a project leader in IT or for an ERP implementation. However, heading up the effort to bring a WMS on-line is an entirely different animal.

A WMS is unlike any other system in that it involves translating the mechanics of operational efficiency into a language of a software system. It involves defining physical structures (rack, docks, etc.) and physical material flow in a logical system. An individual may have great experience in a related discipline like ERP, but unless you have lived through a WMS implementation before, it is hard to have a true appreciation for what it takes to implement one.

If no one within the company has been intimately involved in a WMS implementation, consider bringing experience in from the outside with a new hire.

True Leadership Skills: Leadership is not about keeping track of tasks and schedules or writing status reports and risk assessments. Leadership is about empowering and protecting the team. A good leader moves the obstacles and gives credit for a job well done.

A good leader is one who “walks the walk,” embodies impeccable integrity, is honest, and gives unselfishly, yet is willing to draw a line in the sand and not back down when necessary. In short, a good leader puts the team in front of individual desires.

The Guts to Say “No”: Leaders also need to be honest with themselves and courageous enough to go to upper management to ask for time extensions or extra funding if needed. The leader must have an appreciation for the fact that a WMS is a mission-critical system and can shut down the business. Protecting the business is the first priority.

The Right Project Management Skills and Tools: For implementing a WMS as in all major projects there are hidden explosives waiting to go off—missed deadlines, disjointed coordination, and other issues that can go sideways. Defusing these potential problems requires attention to detail, constant monitoring backed up by regular reporting. Like an experienced captain, the WMS project leader must have the ability to recognize when the team might be hitting a reef so as to steer clear.

With the right leader in place, we will next talk about what goes into assembling an effective WMS project team.


For More Information

The Ultimate WMS Preparation Guidebook



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About Ian Hobkirk

Ian Hobkirk

Ian Hobkirk is the founder and Managing Director of Commonwealth Supply Chain Advisors. Over his 20-year career, he has helped hundreds of companies reduce their distribution labor costs, improve space utilization, and meet their customer service objectives. He has formed supply chain consulting organizations for two different systems integration firms, and managed the supply chain execution practice at The AberdeenGroup, a leading technology analyst firm.


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