Whether you are implementing your first warehouse management system (WMS) or upgrading to new software, a key part of the selection process is the development of a request for proposal (RFP), which will help you identify which WMS vendors’ products will help you meet all of your WMS needs.
The more clear and concise this document is, the better the response you’ll receive from the software vendors. A WMS RFP will help you gain a better understanding of what your own needs are, which vendors are likely to meet them, and what features/functions may need development or tweaking along the way. The RFP evaluation process helps you get to know potential vendors and their solutions in a way that should ensure you install the best WMS for your facility.
Here are four tips for creating a thorough WMS RFP:
Clearly Identify Project Objectives
You aren’t installing a WMS for the fun of it; you should have very specific goals and objectives when it comes to process and performance improvements that the WMS will enable. Those may include increased inventory turns, a reduction in processing errors, better shipping accuracy, faster picking/packing, or real-time inventory visibility. The WMS RFP can show you which vendors understand those goals, and whether or not they can help you achieve them.
As part of that process, you should develop a business case and return on investment (ROI) model. The business case will help form the basis of the functionality requirements you will outline for the vendors.
Map out all material and information flows and integration points (with transportation systems, ERP systems, automated material handling, etc.), flow diagrams, transaction volumes, system function requirements, service requirements, and other elements you are looking for in the solution.
Focus on your own specific problems and potential solutions; you want the vendors to respond with information pertinent to those needs, not a barrage of data about features and functions that are superfluous to your application.
Involve All Stakeholders
Warehouse operations affect nearly every other division within a company: manufacturing, transportation, sales, service, etc. Improvements enabled by the software should help everyone do their jobs better or faster. Gather input from these other departments, as well as from both supervisors and employees in the warehouse. Find out what processes they would like to see improved, what bottlenecks exist, and what workflows have been developed that might not quite conform to “official” company policies.
If the employees tasked with project delivery are not involved in the product selection and development process, key features or requirements might be miscommunicated. The wider the pool of input you receive, the better your RFP will be.
Develop a Budget and a Timeline
Establishing a budget in advance of the WMS RFP will help you narrow your choices, and help vendors craft solution suggestions that will meet your needs and that budget. You should also set a deadline to make the final selection, but build in enough time to thoroughly evaluate your options and alter the RFP if the initial responses provide feedback that might lead you to change the original project objectives in any way. Vendors may offer solutions to issues you didn’t initially consider solvable via the WMS. They may also shed new light on your objectives: are they too conservative, or too optimistic?
Ask for comprehensive pricing information in the RFP as well. Make sure there are no hidden support or implementation costs that would break your established budget.
Ask Good Questions
Don’t create a list of simple questions in the WMS RFP that the vendors can answer with a “yes,” “no,” or other short response. The questions in the RFP should dig deep and get to the heart of the improvements you want to see once the WMS is in place. Multi-part questions with built-in follow-ups will draw more information from the vendors.
These should not just include questions specific to your business problems or the solution functionality, but also the company’s experience in similar deployments, future product release plans, financial stability, support and service, and partnerships. Find out about user group conferences and support, and ask for live customer references that you can contact and visit.
More thorough answers will, in turn, give you a much better idea of how well the vendor’s solution fits your needs, and just how lengthy and complex the deployment may ultimately be.
By crafting a rich, thorough WMS RFP you can get a better idea of which vendors can potentially meet your requirements. This streamlines the selection process by making it easier to eliminate potential solutions early in the process and zero-in on the two or three solutions that you want to investigate further during the demonstration phase of the selection process.