As any IT project approaches its implementation date, you often hear people ask, “Is the system going to be ready for Go-Live?” But this is a misleading question. Most people believe that “the system” means the application and its functionality. In reality, implementing IT software, such as a warehouse management system, involves not only using the new software program but also restructuring operational processes and changing employees’ responsibilities. For a successful Go-Live, any implementation needs an overarching deployment plan that details every required task. Then the team must battle test that plan through mock Go-Lives to make sure the entire system is truly ready.
The deployment plan should have as many tabs as project teams and detail the different activities each team member is responsible for. The plan should include by when the tasks must be executed, how long each task is expected to take and if each task has dependencies. For example, the WMS team should have a tab indicating the technical steps required to deploy the application while the operations team should have the steps required to identify and count inventory. And remember – store your plan where everyone can see it, such as in an Excel spreadsheet hosted on a SharePoint site.
Although the deployment plan may look perfect on paper, multiple mock Go-Lives are required to validate its efficacy. These tests allow you to confirm or adjust your assumptions. Your team can validate data and processes by using real life scenarios and on the ground practice with end users. A detailed deployment plan gets you far, but testing it through multiple mock Go-Lives is what will significantly increase the probability of a successful implementation.
VALIDATE APPLICATION PERFORMANCE
Since you may reduce operations for a few days prior to go-live, the amount of transactional data generated at go-live may be significantly larger than usual. This could impact system performance during the cutover period. Therefore, load testing is crucial throughout the entire implementation process. Users should test system performance by generating large amounts of data such as purchase orders and sales orders simultaneously. Analyze the system’s limits and understand these limits will impact operations during peak seasonal activities. Comprehensive load testing is one of the primary keys to a successful go-live and to the sustainability of your operation.
VALIDATE HANDHELD PERFORMANCE
You should test every combination of handheld device and operating system before implementation since software can behave differently depending on the hardware model. Even if it’s a model you know well, the new WMS may not behave as your old system did. The operating system and available memory are two factors that may impact the configuration of your handheld devices. Test each process of your warehouse using all the different models of your handheld devices. This will enable you to identify possible display issues since handheld screens can vary in size.
VALIDATE PRINTING HARDWARE
By the same logic, printers also need to be tested before launching a new WMS. Configurations may vary between printer models and label types. Make sure all the printers and their physical requirements such as network cables are properly installed in the warehouse and are functioning as expected.
We often focus on software configurations when implementing a new WMS, but the operations on the floor require physical hardware to execute production. A successful WMS implementation requires complete end-to-end testing with realistic data using all warehouse equipment.