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Five Critical Steps to Align Requirements During Your WMS Design Phase

I’m sure I’m not the first person who didn’t quite stick to the instructions for a DIY project. Recently, after looking at all the pieces of a shelving unit I was building, I thought it seemed easy enough to put together.   

However, I found out halfway through assembly that the package of accessories was missing some nuts and bolts. If I’d just used the instructions to do the preliminary parts check, I would have caught it earlier. So I had to leave my shelving unit on the floor until I could get the necessary parts. The delay was frustrating.  

The Importance of Requirements Gathering
Implementing a Warehouse Management System (WMS) or other supply chain software is like my shelving project in some ways. You need to provide clear instructions up front—during the design phase—to ensure all the pieces and parts, or requirements, are included. This is key to building your application efficiently and in a way that aligns with your business processes. You don’t want to find out later you’re missing key elements or spent time and money incorporating unnecessary components.  

Let’s take a look at why requirements gathering is critical and how to do it well to avoid hassles down the road. 

Preparing for the Design Phase
The design phase of your implementation project is critical to the success of your overall initiative. Overlooking or misunderstanding your company’s unique requirements can lead to incorrect or missed configuration that will become costly to rectify later. Doing some legwork up front not only shortens the design phase overall, but it can also lead to a smoother project as you’re able to identify functionality gaps and potential opportunities for process improvements. 

4SiGHT Design Leads assist clients in gathering their requirements to facilitate the process of itemizing and communicating these details to the chosen supply chain solution vendor. We facilitate this with the client so the process of developing the design document is far easier and ready to be translated for the vendor to view.  

The Five Steps
These five steps will help you prepare to provide requirements for your system implementation. 4SiGHT is well-versed in these activities and can partner with you to streamline the effort needed.   

  1. Walk Through Each Area of Your Business
    Most internal implementation team members know how their business runs, but preparing the right information to derive solution design takes a special lens and attention to specifics. Understanding exactly what’s happening throughout the facility will arm you with the most up-to-date information on how processes work to avoid unnecessary research time.
  2. Document the Current Process Flow and What’s Being Captured
    A detailed process flow can be a powerful tool during the design phase. It assists with finding the fine points that may have been missed and zeroing in on true necessities. It can also identify those “one-off” requirements that don’t happen often but are critical to your business and customer relationships.
  3. Define Your Strategies and Why They Work
    This may be the most difficult task. You’ll want to understand the operational basis for all operational areas: receiving, put-away, replenishment, picking, packing, sorting, consolidation/aggregation (inbound and outbound), staging, loading, and shipping. Many of us know how the system works but haven’t delved into the details for a long time. By reviewing the minutiae, you’ll be equipped to discuss current-state process and requirements for the future state while identifying improvements if pain points exist.

  4. Develop a Current-State Architecture Map Along With IntegrationPoints
    Make sure to include all current touchpoints, such as material handling equipment (MHE), order management systems, purchasing systems, parcel manifesting systems, in-line systems (e.g. print & apply, weight scales, cartonization), robotics, etc. and identify what’s needed in your future state. More importantly, if there are pending changes that will affect your project, they should be included as part of your plan.
  5. Get Samples of Labels and Documents 
    Documents, such as labels and reports, are an integral part of supply chain business processes. A requirement should be identified for each label and document. This may require a separate initiative to review all labels and documents, their role, and where data is derived. 

Next Steps
Making sure all these “nuts and bolts” requirements are included in the final design will lead to a successful build and testing of your product in the most efficient way. 

Remember that defining your business requirements is just one step in the process of completing your systems implementation. Contact 4SiGHT to help you work through the five steps needed to help you simplify the design process with your WMS vendor. 

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