Medical Product Fulfillment: Avoiding WMS Challenges

If you’ve ever taken a road trip, the experience of being in unfamiliar territory can be stressful.  Knowing which exits to take, understanding what parts of town to avoid and being aware of problem traffic areas are all luxuries you don’t have when driving through an unknown city.  However, with a little research and planning, your trip can be much easier.  Having a predetermined route, knowing about road construction, and timing your trip to avoid local rush hours will put you safely at your destination without the headache of a dozen u-turns.  Implementing a WMS for your medical product distribution center can be quite similar.

While transitioning technology can be a difficult and intimidating endeavor; understanding the common challenges, or roadblocks, of the process can create a much smoother launch.  Here are 4 common WMS implementation challenges and their solutions.

1.) Maintain Focus on What You Need: A common problem that impacts the success of a WMS implementation is becoming awe-struck with the bells and whistles of launching new technology.  When you begin to prioritize the sophisticated, peripheral features over the basic and fundamental needs of the system, your schedule and budget can quickly get out of hand.  It is imperative to stick with your plans and achieve the goals that you set out to meet originally.  The beauty of new WMS technology and cloud computing is that upgrades and enhancements can be made at any point in the future.  Stick to your guns when it comes to the extras; doing so will help your implementation come in on time and within budget.

2.) Transition Planning: Having a thorough plan in place to convert from your heritage system to the new WMS is a vital step to take early on in the process.  Preparing your staff, customers and vendors for the impending change will make for a smoother conversion.  The most difficult part will happen when one system goes offline and the new one comes on.  Take the time to detail how the new processes will work and have contingency plans.  In these first days, user adoption can be negatively impacted without a trusted plan in place.

3.) Achievable Timeframe: Once the decision is made to transition your fulfillment technology, it is important to provide enough time for it to be done right.  Just as you wouldn’t want a doctor to rush through a diagnosis, you don’t want to set an unreasonable timeline to launch your WMS.  Many times, undue risk is taken to meet a forecast that likely isn’t accurate to begin with.  Your timeline can also determine the quality of the end product you implement.  Don’t sacrifice performance simply to meet an arbitrary date.  Ensure that you also account for employee training and system testing.  Having a flexible deadline, accounting for the unexpected interruptions can be the difference between a failed launch and a successful implementation.

4.) Test, Test, and Test Again: While time and resources are needed in the testing stage, it needs to be considered an invaluable investment.  This last, critical step, even with the best of intentions, can get lost in the shuffle of budget and time constraints.  While the software will have its own monitoring and analytical tools, the focus of these tests and trials should include the system in its entirety.  Discovering adoption issues and realizing inefficiencies are all opportunities that can be found in the testing phase.

Like most things today, technology is moving quickly and making things easier. However the further the gap between what you have and what you need becomes, the more difficult it can be to implement and catchup.  Understanding the challenges of an IT overhaul and WMS implementation can help you avoid the pitfalls that others have made.  Barrett Distribution Centers, with a focus on process visibility and technology, design and implement customized supply chain solutions.  For more information, click here.