The Evolving Partnership Paradigm
How partnerships between solution providers are adding value to supply chain
We will all look back on 2020 with mixed and most probably negative feelings. Lock-downs, massive hits and some even closing. COVID-19 has impacted the lives of everyone on this planet and the supply chain industry wasn’t spared the onslaught and whims that assailed businesses and professionals.
Still, with any dark cloud, there is always a silver lining and we have seen gleams of that in the supply chain industry.
Firstly, when goods stopped flowing, many suddenly realised the crucial role supply chains play in every economy. Linked to this new supply chain priority, many organisations saw the important need for better visibility, connectivity and processing throughput. Good reliable data is crucial for any high-performing supply chain.
Digitalisation efforts have been brought forward or seen their spending increased. Companies without a Warehouse Management Solution (WMS) or with a dated WMS system have reranked their priorities and are now looking at implementing a WMS or upgrading theirs for this new future.
Changing priorities is a start, but the implementation of a better WMS is a critical and often challenging business process. We’ve all heard the horror stories of how companies invested in thousands or millions of dollars in a digitalisation effort, only to have their project deliver lacklustre results or worse, simply fail. How do we avoid becoming a cautionary tale when a better WMS is so critical to supply chain digitalisation now?
Warehouse Management Solution Implementations
Identifying the implementation or upgrade of a WMS as a key area in digitalisation efforts is a first step. Many WMS implementations take nine months or more to complete. Even in 2020, we have seen few implementations in progress able to paused for more than a few weeks at most. With consultants not able to work at the actual site, much of the work has had to be executed using Zoom, Microsoft Teams or other conferencing applications. Despite these new challenges, the change that 2020 has seen in digitalisation projects, according to Richard Ryan, the APAC 3PL leader at Blue Yonder is that many partners are now looking at even shorter ROI periods for their digitalisation investments.
The two main factors influencing the market’s growth and rising desire for faster ROIs are first, the overall growth of the WMS market as more and more companies recognise this as a key area in their digitalisation journey, and secondly the degree to which the leading WMS suppliers are now willing to outsource implementation work to partners.
The role of WMS Systems Integration and Consultants
System integrators and consultants in this highly fragmented market approach the market in very different ways. Leading WMS suppliers also develop different partner strategies that can even differ by country or by region.
Overall however, the key deliverable and objective, regardless of industry or region is still the same—delivering the highest value and functionality in the shortest possible time, a timeline that is growing shorter and shorter.
10 Critical Considerations for a Successful Implementation
Based on research, interviews and first-hand experience over years of WMS implementations, we have identified 10 critical areas companies should adopt or consider when implementing a WMS solution with the support of a Systems Integrator (SI) or consultant
- Generally it is less expensive to have system integrators implement a WMS then to use consultants from WMS suppliers. This is particularly true if the system integrator has a large number of consultants working in lower priced regions and the implementations involve a combination of onsite and offsite personnel.
- For any engagement, a good cultural fit between the SI and client is crucial. For engagements conducted in the onshore/offshore model, this can be exacerbated even more and cultural issues will therefore need to be more carefully managed.
- Despite the desire for a faster ROI, implementations of WMS in complex warehousing environments are not getting faster. This is true even with SaaS and cloud-based solutions. For complex warehousing environments, implementations still generally take 9 months or more.
- The productivity of a warehouse often falls for a period after the implementation as users struggle to get used to the new way of operating. Many SIs overcome this by having their consultants remain on site during the initial implementation to support warehouse personnel as they transition to this new system.
- One practice that can lead to problem implementations is when a SI subcontracts out some of the work to another SI firm. This should be avoided at all costs as it dilutes messaging, capability and visibility from the solution provider to the SI actually carrying out the work.
- One way to identify more capable SIs with a higher number of successful implementations under their belt is that when a company selects them, they know who will work on the project. This means they go into and bid for a project with specific consultants in mind.
- Some boutique consulting firms only implement solutions from one WMS supplier. They argue that this specialization makes them better partners. These firms often employ consultants that used to do product development or implementations for the WMS supplier.
- Several SIs are also software companies. In implementing WMS, they have learned of functional gaps and built solutions that bolt-on to the WMS and improve its capabilities.
- Testing a system thoroughly before an actual go live is crucial. Look for consultants that have developed solid testing tools and methodologies.
- Look for consultants also who have developed integration tools and defined clear methodologies for integration of various platforms or systems to the WMS being implemented.
Unfortunately, there are still many reasons why a technology solution like a WMS fails during implementation. Stakeholder buy-in is key to successful implementations, but there is no absolute formula for success yet discovered. These tips provide some critical factors a company must consider and provide a better understanding why the use of a good channel partner or system integrator is the ‘best’ approach for a company to take.
2021 will bring new challenges that digitalisation will help meet. By choosing a good partner, companies have a better chance for a faster ROI and a successful implementation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Richard Ryan is the Senior Industry Strategy Advisor at Blue Yonder APAC. He has in-depth knowledge about the supply chain and logistic industry. At Blue Yonder he’s responsible for the direction and strategy for the 3PL industry and providing consultative advice on supply chain execution projects. With over 20 years’ experience, Richard has held several positions including sales, management and consultant in various enterprise resource software businesses. He started his career in Latin America, then worked in the US and Asia. Now he’s based in Singapore with his family.