Your e-commerce company has been managing the implementation of your new Warehouse Management System (WMS). Modifications and interfaces have been programmed and tested. Training the fulfillment center workforce is complete. As you plan out the actual first day of Go Live, what are remaining things to consider that will assure a successful first day (Go Live)? From our experience in implementing WMS in many businesses, here are 11 recommendations that will make Go Live a success.
1. Everyone is responsible for the success of Go Live.
Hopefully in your implementation process, you established this accountability across user and IT departments. Now in going live, at all costs, avoid the blame game for such things as mistakes, errors, break down in process that happens and employees forgetting what was taught. It may sound obvious, but refrain from assessing blame for problems. Not only is it counterproductive, but problems often mask themselves.
2. All hands on deck.
Ensure that any critical staff needed for Go Live are not scheduled for vacation or other time off. This includes department managers, leads and IT personnel.
3. Determine and communicate work schedules.
Ensure that hourly workers understand that the operating hours on the first few days of Go Live will be longer than regular work days for them. This gives them advance notice to reschedule personal affairs. Will this require authorized overtime to get everything completed?
4. Consider your peak season and largest volume days.
If you have a Holiday peak, don’t go live with a new WMS from September 1 through Dec 31st. Consider. your order curves daily and weekly. For e-commerce companies and retailers, weekend volume and Mondays are typically the heaviest transactional days for fulfillment. Thursday and Fridays may have considerable lower volume. Can you implement then?
5. Gain vendor support.
Plan for sufficient on-site coverage from the vendors’ implementation teams (i.e. software application, hardware and other vendors) during your WMS implementation. This needs to include support for all departments and facility locations. Include support resources from software vendors that you’ll be integrating with the new WMS system. Not all vendors need to be on site, but do need to be aware that you are going live and need to be available for immediate resolution of a problem should one arise.
6. Change one thing at a time.
Changing one thing at a time is critical to the success of your project. Are there other things that radically change operations which should be implemented at another time rather than Go Live day? WMS implementations are often planned in synch with new facilities and new automation. Does this have to be the case for your company? Can you minimize the number of new marketing promotions launched on the Go Live date, since these may cause operational changes or significantly spike volume?
7. Appoint someone to monitor for errors after go live.
Predetermine who is responsible for monitoring various processes and integration points. An example of this in an e-commerce business is order and return interfaces from an ERP system to the WMS and shipping systems. Appoint someone to verify the number of orders and returns, looking for any problems or conditions which create problems. With more complex transactions, you may want to visually review the data being passed.
8. Start Go Live day with team meeting.
Each department should plan to start the very first day with a team meeting to restate the plan and other key things about Go Live day. Tell them what your volume expectations are. Remind them how to get help if they need it, and how to report potential issues. Keep the message upbeat and positive so that everybody has the right attitude.
9. Establish a “war room.”
Identify the problem reporting process for documenting any potential errors and issues in using the new WMS system. The purpose of this is to control and document the intake and assignment of problems; who is researching and resolving by vendors and/or internal staff. This includes assessing the severity and priority of issues and estimating resolution time. All problems should be submitted to this group to provide company-wide visibility, reporting status and resolution.
10. Answer on-floor questions.
Even though you have trained people to the best of your ability, there will be some people that “freeze” in using the new system in production. Have a quick way to get them on-floor help. On-floor employees may be the first people to detect and report potential errors, too.
11. Keep morale up and minimize lost time.
Consider providing lunch (and dinner if needed) for the staff on the first day and several days after, if necessary. This will help minimize negativity and keep morale up.
There will be challenges and issues regardless of how prepared you are and the amount of testing you have completed. Be patient, rely on the process, and follow the above recommendations to alleviate the pain of the day one of Go Live on a new system.