How to implement a warehouse ERP
“Tomorrow we kick off the project to implement our warehouse ERP system. Everyone will be here at midnight. We plan to shut down our old systems immediately. We are aiming to have the new ERP running at 8 AM so we don’t miss any shipments. Is everyone on board? Get some sleep and we’ll see you tonight.”
Hopefully everyone recognizes the above situation is unfortunately a complete fantasy. Any ERP will take much longer than eight hours. Still, you do need to continue business and minimize disruptions, so start with a thorough evaluation of what you want to accomplish. Keep in mind that the warehouse ERP is not the goal; it is only a tool you will choose that helps reach your goal.
1. Plan the project
A warehouse ERP can be implemented with either an all-or-nothing approach or a phased approach. The phased approach is usually preferred as it minimizes disruption. Consider combining the implementation with other evolutions. If you plan to add a new warehouse, you could start it with the new ERP at that site only and add other warehouses in later phases. If your goal is to reduce labor costs you might begin with automation of processes and change the ERP planning systems later.
Recommended reading: ensure your warehouse ERP implementation goes as well as possible with our 11 step guide to ERP implementation success.
2. Everyone pitches in
Whatever approach fits your business best, implementing a warehouse ERP must involve the whole enterprise. People in the warehouse will need to manage product moves and some of the ERP setup at the same time. People outside the warehouse will be part of the project team as well. Sales and accounting should be counted on to do their share by moving a few boxes or entering a few warehouse transactions in ERP until the workload returns to normal for the warehouse crew. The warehouse might be the focus of this work but the warehouse is only part of the enterprise.
3. Manage change
There will be conflicts. Some people will resist any change whatsoever. Others will become frustrated or fatigued. Make sure that change management is a part of the implementation plan. Keep the ultimate goal present in sight, sound, touch and all senses so it is present for all. Bring in a psychologist for the project team if that seems to be necessary. Your success depends on users actually using the warehouse ERP so that the goals you set can be met.
4. After the implementation
Kill the old systems right away. Prevent anyone from entering any transactions in the wrong way. Keep the old system as read only if needed. Evaluate the conversion and capture any lessons learned both successes and failures. It might be decades before the next warehouse ERP but there will be other changes where those lessons can be used. Recognize everyone’s help in setting up the ERP. Have a party, give the team T-shirts. Pass out cash bonuses to those who did more than their part and give the team a big public thank you.
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