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WMS - Good to the last byte...(Part 1 - People)

By Steve Simmerman | 04/27/2010 | 11:28 AM

We continue our discussion on making your WMS good to the last byte - let’s consider the people involved with your WMS.  Take a look around your organization.  How many people that were originally involved in the WMS implementation are still with your company, or are still involved with the WMS?   Employee turnover, new hires, promotions, transfers to other parts of the organization, acquisitions, consolidations, outsourcing are some pretty common causes behind the changes to WMS user community.  We’re not just talking about users either… how about the user relationships with company management, vendors, customers and carriers that were developed and contributed to the effective management of warehouse operations. 

Don Benson (http://www.wmssupport.com/), my co-contributor on this series of blogs very accurately points out that “These changes can develop slowly over time.  We notice bigger changes like when a new manager is brought in”.  As Don notes, “It’s the small changes that occur over time that sneak up on us and we really don’t realize the impact until one day we look around and realize that people are bypassing the WMS, with a decreasing level of performance, not developing new capabilities or sustaining capabilities to optimize performance each day”.  If the right people are not in the right place at the right time (sounds like a basic supply chain mantra to us) to support, improve and sponsor your WMS, you may be more at risk than you think.

I know of one situation where there was one person, yes one person that really knew the inner workings of a WMS.  The original vendor had announced ‘end of life’ of the WMS and was moving in another direction.  The customer loved the WMS.  In fact they loved it so much they contracted directly with the one person that knew the WMS and actually took out an insurance policy on that person as a risk mitigation strategy.  Now I know this is an extreme example, but if you are running an older WMS, how risky is your situation.  Take a census of your user, support and vendor community – how many people really understand the information, the patterns of daily demand, the workflow, the database and technology?  What steps have you taken to ensure that you have proper training, process documentation and system documentation to make sure that personnel changes don’t suddenly sneak up on you one day and you find yourself exposed to some unplanned risk?

We’re all pretty good at planning technology upgrades, but how many organizations truly assess their user and support community on a regular basis?  What training and transition plans does your organization have that are documented and reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that you maximize your aging WMS from a ‘people’ perspective?  How risky is the ‘people’ component of your WMS environment?  It’s worth taking a look.  We’ll look at the process and technology components in the next few blogs.

For now, we hope we’ve shed some light on the ‘people’ side of things.  We’d like to hear about your experiences with support and use of your WMS over the years as it relates to people…we’re guessing there are some pretty good stories out there…

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About Steve Simmerman

Steve Simmerman

Steve Simmerman is a Senior Director with JDA. Simmerman has more than 25 years of experience in the supply chain industry including software, consulting and material handling. He has focused his efforts on working with clients to achieve high performance supply chain results through partnerships and creative solutions. He is a member of CSCMP, WERC, and MHIA and is a regular contributor to several industry publications and events. Simmerman holds his undergraduate and MBA degrees from The University of Notre Dame.


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