Guest Post by Helen Peatfield
You have chosen a WMS system to optimize your warehouse management processes. As a wholesale and distribution business, you're excited to realize the potential benefits of warehouse inventory software but know any change in the workplace can be met with resistance. Exisiting employees are familiar with current processes and systems and are unsure of how new software will impact their day-to-day responsibilities. The purchase and implementation of new software is a large project that requires extra resources and commitment from staff, but the long-term benefits of better warehouse management will be well worth the work involved to get started. So, how do you implement a smooth adoption process to ensure ongoing WMS success?
Step 1: Communicating Change in the Workplace
By the time you have selected the right WMS software, you already understand the objectives and benefits inside out. But, this doesn’t mean that everyone else does. So far, only a handful of people in your organization understand what the new WMS will mean for day-to-day operations and the wider business.
Decide on how and when to communicate to the whole company. There are some key points that you should include in company-wide communications:
- Explain the primary objectives of the warehouse inventory software implementation
- Communicate the benefits to the business and staff
- Reassure staff that they will be adequately supported and trained
- Make sure everyone understands the importance of successful change
- Set out timelines for implementation and training
Communicating change shouldn’t be a one-way street but an ‘all-hands’ meeting lead from the top is a good start. Having the gravitas of a CEO or CTO deliver the first message will add weight to the importance.
You should also give employees a chance to raise questions. A short Q&A at the end of the first meeting is a good start, but make sure you also give people the chance to speak in smaller groups where senior management won’t be attending. Some of the most change-resistant might be afraid to speak out in large groups or in front of anyone that senior -and you can’t address their fears if you don’t hear them.
If you have an intranet, use it to keep all employees up to date. It can also be a good place to post FAQs and other key project resources, like implementation timelines, go-live dates, and training schedules.
Step 2: Identifying Stakeholders
You can’t handle all the work involved in the change management process alone. It must be a team endeavour with the right people supporting both the change and the staff implementing it. The more an individual employee is affected by the new WMS system, the more support they need.
Identify individuals that can perform key communication and training functions on an ongoing basis. The list below is a good place to start.
Leadership – This could include senior management, a consultant from the warehouse inventory software vendor and perhaps an external change management consultant.
Key Users – Identify department managers or experienced members of each department. These key users will help digest and communicate what the changes mean for their teams and can also manage the training specific to that user group. Key user groups for WMS include:
- Warehouse team
- Supply chain workers (e.g. delivery drivers)
- IT department
- Senior management
- Sales team (so they know whether an item is in stock)
Super Users – These will typically be the most tech savvy users in the organization. Identify and train them early so that they can help with the day-to-day monitoring of WMS usage and low-level user issues. Whilst you could just use your existing IT helpdesk here, consider including members from other teams if your structure permits it.
End Users – This is everyone else that will use the warehouse inventory software.
Step 3: Ongoing Training & Support
Training users is instrumental in change management success. Train each user according to their function in the stakeholder category and their individual needs. Set tasks, tests, and achievable milestones, and be sure to offer plenty of support to make their training relevant and rewarding.
- Pickers need distinct training from your inventory managers, team leaders and other users - create job-specific training scenarios for each job function.
- Set timely and achievable milestones to help set the pace and keep trainees motivated.
- Keep an up-to-date and searchable knowledge management system.
- Find the right type of training for your user groups. Use e-learning to provide flexible training modules where appropriate. If you have a shift-based workforce with limited access to desktop computers, face-to-face seminars might be a better option.
- Make use of all vendor resources on offer.
- Have your super users give face-to-face training to their departments.
Your business, people, processes and technology will continue to shift and so must the support they receive. Training and support must be ongoing in order to succeed in the face of change.
As with any change management, robust planning, clear objectives and buy-in are essential to WMS adoption and success. A WMS system might appear to be a technology-focused project, but by putting the people in your organization first, you will see a quicker ROI and more sustainable long-term gains.
Helen Peatfield is a writer, editor, and regular contributor to ERP Focus. She has a wealth of experience in ad tech, supply chain management and SaaS. When she is not typing away at her desk, she can be found scuba diving or wakeboarding in the sunny Gulf of Thailand.