20 Questions Manufacturers Should Ask When Selecting a WMS/WCS Integrator (part 2)

Modernisierung_Kleinteilelager_ODU_b14_NRThe second critical decision about a new warehouse management system (WMS)—whether it is best-of-breed, or SAP LES or EWM—or a new (or integrated) warehouse control system (WCS) to track and control inventory and its movement within your manufacturing operation, is how it will be installed. Careful evaluation of the software supplier and/or integrator of a WMS/WCS solution for your company should happen either before or during software selection (although it sometimes happens after the software is chosen, for myriad reasons).

Lots of suppliers and integrators provide warehouse execution systems (WES) that may or may not combine WMS/WCS software; not all of them have comprehensive experience with supply chain, warehousing and manufacturing operations. Likewise, your level of material handling automation (either existing or planned) can have a profound impact on the ultimate choice of supplier and/or integrator. Making sure the partner you choose truly understands your automation requirements—and how to apply the technology to support your business operations and technical landscape—is key to a successful implementation.

To help determine the ideal software and/or integration provider for your application, here’s a checklist of 20 supplier-focused questions to ask. Use them as you navigate your software supplier/integrator selection process.

Questions to Determine Your Ideal Software Supplier/Integrator

  1. How well does the software supplier/integrator know the supply chain industry?
  2. What is the software supplier/integrator’s level of experience with supply chain technologies and automated material handling equipment?
  3. Is the software supplier/integrator willing to establish and build a solid, long-term partnership with your company and operations team members?
  4. If you are a global company, can the software supplier/integrator support all of your global operations?
  5. Does the software supplier/integrator have a detailed project plan that accommodates and integrates with your requirements? For example, how will they manage enterprise resource planning (ERP) changes, facilities preparation, equipment acquisition, acceptance testing, end user training, standard operating procedures (SOPs) and—most important—change management?
  6. Is the software vendor and/or systems integrator certified to interface/integrate with your preferred ERP system (such as SAP WM or SAP EWM if automation is included), manufacturing resource planning (MRP) system and/or manufacturing execution system (MES)?
  7. If your installation involves the integration of automated material handling equipment, does the software supplier and/or systems integrator have extensive experience implementing warehouse management automation systems in a manufacturing environment?
  8. Does the software supplier and/or systems integrator offer standard, re-deployable options for integration of programmable logic controllers (PLCs), such as Siemens and Allen Bradley?
  9. If your project involves automation, do the software supplier and/or systems integrator have simulation tools to enable a significant amount of real life scenario testing prior to on-site commissioning?
  10. Does the software supplier and/or systems integrator offer tools to support volume testing to help validate that the software can support your operations during peak times?
  11. Are the software supplier and/or systems integrator willing to partner with your organization in order to fully understand your business process and support your specific business case and ultimate return on investment (ROI)?
  12. Is the software’s user interface and process flow configurable to help optimize your operations, or does it require your process to align to the software’s pre-determined path/process?
  13. Can the software supplier and/or systems integrator suggest new concepts, technologies and automation approaches from their comprehensive experience (both inside and outside of your industry) that could provide additional value to your operation?
  14. Does the software supplier and/or systems integrator have experience with similar retrofits in existing facilities or operations?
  15. Is the software supplier and/or systems integrator willing to accommodate the scheduling of your installation during off hours or pre-determined down times (including short windows, over the weekends, during third shifts, or spanning longer periods of time), without increasing your costs or raising their rates due to the limited time windows available with your equipment?
  16. Will the software supplier and/or systems integrator provide references that can confirm a successful, positive experience with minimal operational disruptions during a time-constrained implementation?
  17. Does the software vendor and/or systems integrator have experience consistently implementing projects on time and within budget?
  18. Does the software vendor and/or systems integrator have a strong training program and approach, allowing your operation to take ownership of the new system as early in the project as possible?
  19. Does the software vendor and/or systems integrator have a strong reputation for service and support across many vertical markets?
  20. Ask to speak to three customers in different phases of their relationship with the company:
    1. Currently in the implementation phase
    2. 1-2 months after implementation
    3. 5-10 years after implementation

Find out how Wika—a global supplier of pressure, temperature and fill level measurement technology—partnered with an experienced software supplier/integrator to replace its production warehouse’s discontinued warehouse management system/warehouse control system or WMS/WCS with no operational disruptions. Want to ask us all 20 questions? Give our software experts a call at 616.977.3950 to discuss your manufacturing operation’s needs.

About Nancy Malone

Nancy is responsible for US software sales & IT consulting at the North American headquarters of viastore systems in Grand Rapids, MI. She has over 20 years of experience in specifying, designing, building, implementation, training, sales and marketing of technology solutions for the Supply Chain. Her focus is on helping customer’s apply technology to streamline their business processes, enabling value added solutions through listening, offering solutions and then delivering.

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