A wide range of remote WMS launch capabilities
The sale and launch of a warehouse management system required fairly long face-to-face discussions between the Supplier and Customer teams, both at the preliminary stage (including inspection of warehouse sites) and at the implementation stage, especially in the first and last phases of the process.
Gradually, with the development of sales and implementation expertise, as well as the emergence and development of remote communication possibilities in the Customer-Supplier chain, some of the processes began to take place online. Development of the pandemic crisis only increased the need for remote work and became one of the most significant requirements for project implementation. Starting from 2020, the First Line Software team has been offering a wide range of remote WMS launch capabilities at different phases in accordance with the generally accepted implementation methodology, taking into account existing practice and expertise for remote implementation.
Project implementation stages
Step 1. Creating IT specifications (document TO BE)
Development of IT specifications remotely using existing online communication tools (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google meets, Skype).
Advantages of this type of work include:
- No trips – no expenses, no issues with accommodation or other problems with business trips.
- Possible time savings if the cases are simple.
- Lack of strict time frames.
The disadvantages of no face-to-face communication include the following factors:
- Opportunity to visit the warehouse in person, see all business processes on site as an eyewitness, and personally talk to employees who will not Intra-warehouse logistics problems be involved in the solution development process but whose opinions are useful to consider – all this makes it possible to get deeper and faster into a particular warehouse’s processes.
- Remote work may take longer for complex cases that require discussion, understanding of processes, and joint decision-making.
- For an existing warehouse with a set of working processes that need to be changed or implemented, there is a chance that some nuance will be missed when communicating remotely. For example, the Customer considers some process obvious (for example, storing pallets of different widths) that does not require separate discussion, but it needs to be configured separately in the system and there are requirements for the warehouse topology. In other words, when discussing and preparing a specification remotely, more attention is required to collect requirements from the Customer. This is a mutual effort: the Supplier needs to ask as many clarifying questions as possible, and the Customer needs to provide as much material as possible.
- People get more tired when they sit in front of a monitor.
- People have more opportunities to be distracted by other projects, questions, and problems.
Step 2. Developing and configuring the model
The second stage of implementation usually takes place in the Supplier’s laboratory and there are no differences in face-to-face and written communication. A possible exception may be the introduction of box systems, in which settings are made directly on site. However, a significant drawback is the last stage of this phase - demonstrating the model to the Customer directly in the Supplier’s laboratory. At First Line Software, this step is very important in developing software solutions – the Customer’s first face-to-face introduction to the modified solution, meetings, discussions about possible discrepancies between the results and initial requirements, etc. The main task of remote launch at this stage is to convey to the Customer a complete picture and understanding of the system before using it.
The absence or simplified remote version of such a discussion may lead to the Customer not being able to fully understand the system’s operation before using it. We offer the following solution to this problem: introduction of a step-by-step method for studying and testing the system developed at this stage, which will allow the Customer to consistently go through all business processes with maximum possible visualization.
Step 2*. Description of documents for step-by-step remote launch
Two reference documents are prepared for remote warehouse automation launch:
1. With a step-by-step description of each business process:
- Description of the business process
- Instructions for manually configuring and checking the database before starting the process
- Step-by-step execution of the business process with an image of the necessary dialogs
- Instructions for monitoring results
2. For commissioning and testing the warehouse.
- Case description
- Expected result
- List of dialogs for monitoring and checking results
- What to do in case of an error (what information to save, which logs to save)
- Name of the developer to contact in case of an error
Step 3. Training
Staff training is one of the most difficult phases of remote implementation. The process is always divided into theory and practice. In learning to work with WMS system, the main emphasis is on practical exercises: they are applied, simple, functional, and reflect reality, so they are easier to learn.
The following should be considered when organizing practical exercises remotely:
- Usually, the training is conducted in a classroom. Warehouse employees, operators, and dispatchers do not perceive information that is disconnected from reality: a simulation on a computer screen. Therefore, it is necessary to enlist the support of some of the senior staff on site to ensure that the training goes as smoothly and efficiently as possible. And if necessary, the person could personally show something on site.
- Trainees are poorly motivated – as a rule, this is the general condition of trainees.
In this case, it can help to train the most motivated employees in leadership positions, who in turn will be able to train all the others in person. This may mean moving away from the generally accepted training methodology and moving to a practice where training is done at earlier stages of implementation.
Step 4. Launch
Remote launching is the most difficult stage in remote implementation. The main problem here is that the Supplier is not included during this crucial stage in the real situation in the automated warehouse, and understands it only from the Customer’s words.
Difficulties that may arise:
- Increased Supplier response time to the problem.
- The path becomes more complicated and the set of tools for informing about the problem is reduced: an audio call, email, and ticket will not replace in-person communication.
- As a result, the Supplier does not have a complete picture: insufficient, untimely, and contradictory information from the Customer.
- Technical problems: lack of communication, remote sessions on the server, access rights, and so on
Here, the goal for developers is to prepare the Customer’s specialists as thoroughly as possible for the difficulties that arise during commissioning, to bring the Contractor as close to the situation as possible, and to visually use a video surveillance system.
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