Is Your Supply Chain Getting Fulfillment Technology Updates All Wrong?

Published : May 14, 2015

33788615_sOmni-channel distribution is shaking things up—from consumer expectations to supplier demands on raw materials. As with any great leap forward in business, once the adrenaline of change wears off, the realities of growing pains can be a serious wake up call. Fulfillment technology—once the crown jewel of efficiency—becomes something of a liability as new trails are blazed and new platforms conquered. Feeling a little vertigo from the hop into that sweet spot where sales and multitasking meet? It's time for a much-needed check of your current techology's capabilities.

1. Do You Need To Change?

Can your current ERP setup handle the demands of omni-channel, or is it already beginning to devolve into a series of workarounds and digital band-aids? Even if it's not ideal, if your system is working without undue amounts of coaxing and daily fixes, it may be worth keeping it around. As Forbes' Louis Columbus explains, an upgrade isn't something to be undertaken lightly. You'll need a professional team, a project manager and a "Plan B" if something goes wrong or your site goes dark. It's a lot of pressure, but mitigating that stress starts with making a firm yea or nay decision on changing or revamping your entire ERP approach.

2. How Much Support Can You Count On?

One is indeed the loneliest number—especially if it's the number of voices truly committed to examining and adjusting your company's warehouse management systems.

For those removed from the constant work of "fixes," uprooting an entire comfortable and familiar system in the name of progress can foster a lot of resistance. If you are planning on leveling or building new ERP or WMS connections from scratch, be sure you have the backing of executives and management alike before you make any lasting decisions. Ian Hobkirk of Supply Chain 247 points out that warehouse staff may end up being your biggest obstacle to radical change, so be sure you have a few names in your corner first.

3. Don't Forget Your Hardware

While some new hardware—scanning guns, printers, program installation—is expected in an upgrade, other pieces may not be so obvious. Monitors need to have the size and resolution clarity to be read by passing eyes in a warehouse, existing hard drives may not have the storage necessary for bigger software files. When considering the cost of implementing supply chain technology upgrades, don't sell yourself short. Make sure your list is comprehensive and errs on the liberal side of cost to provide a realistic working result. 

4. Go with the Workflow

Getting the tech in place and functional is only half the battle. If you do choose to upgrade, make sure that reports, records and other legally-important derivatives are still accessible and collectible from your finished product. As an integral part of your workflow, you'll need to make doubly sure that your downstream output won't be affected in a lasting way by the disruption of an upgrade.

The adage about apologies being easier than asking for permission simply doesn't hold true here.

With supply chain / fulfillment technologies, slow and steady wins the race every time. Don't rush to upgrade or permanently alter an existing ERP approach without being very sure that you're doing actual good, not just upgrading for the sake of upgrading. Company-wide comfort with new systems, thorough testing and need are the trinity of factors determining if your proposed tech updates should see the light of day.

There isn't always a back button on an upgrade, so if you decide to move in that direction, be ready with a talented team to mitigate common issues and guide your company into a new era of sales and distribution.

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Topics: Supply Chain Technology

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