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WAREHOUSE MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS


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SCM Plus Consultants:
If you have begun the task of a warehouse management system (WMS) software search you are probably discovering the numerous and somewhat overwhelming list of software suppliers and packages available today. You must have read or heard conflicting statements about the quality and/or performance of any one package or supplier. This is at least confusing and probably worrisome as you begin the process of selecting a software supplier, especially when you hear horror stories about software that took two times as long to develop as planned, three times the estimated cost, and provided something less than the performance expected.


The stories you hear on the negative side often begin with the warehouse management system purchaser not having clearly stated his requirements to the prospective software supplier. On the positive side you will regularly find WMS purchasers who documented a set of functional requirements and performance criteria that define the basis for selection, construction, integration, testing and performance of the software.


Here are some ideas about structuring requirements and qualifying a WMS supplier which can increase your chances for a successful software project. Be ready for some hard (not impossible) work. Remember that you are the business requirements expert for your company. Don't expect or allow the warehouse management system supplier to create your requirements for you.


Start by Writing a Solid Set of Functional Requirements
Functional requirements for a warehouse management system describe the work and activities to be performed from an operating perspective. Good ones focus on and describe what is to be done, not how. Make sure the requirements document is comprehensive, painting a picture of all the things you would like the WMS system to do when all systems work is "complete".

Shorten the List of Prospective Suppliers Early-on. You should get down to three or four at most. It is to this short list that you will submit a request for proposal. You can shorten the list and avoid holding "just a beauty contest" by organizing the functional requirements in a way that it permits suppliers (internal and external) to easily respond with their capabilities with respect to each WMS requirement.


Create a Request for Proposal document that enables internal or external warehouse management system suppliers to provide a tenable proposal describing specific deliverables and firm price. A good one will include the following elements:


Functional Requirements - As outlined above, a description of the all functions that the systems must support from an operating (end user) perspective. This is what the warehouse management system must do.

Operational and Technical Requirements - This describes how each function is to be executed.

Performance and Reliability Requirements - This describes the warehouse management system throughput requirements and the expected overall system performance (hardware and software) under normal and peak loads. All human and machine interface points are considered. The requirement details average and minimum response times for batch and on-line processing, system availability windows, back-up and recovery time, security, data integrity, etc.

Testing and Acceptance Criteria - This describes the test environment and the test conditions you will want executed to prove that the warehouse management system does what has been specified above. There are two parts to defining this requirement. The first is to simply ask the supplier what are processes and testing regimen for the software development and modifications being proposed. Second, (because you need more than a bench test) is a description to the supplier of the operating environment testing regimen that you will require and use as the basis for validation and acceptance of his product.

Support and Service Requirements - this describes your requirements for documentation, start-up/support, ongoing support, warrantee, and maintenance.