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The importance of change management when embarking on Warehouse Management Software projects

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When introducing a warehouse management system (WMS) your number one objective will be to bring positive change to your business – whether it’s increasing throughput, improving transparency or lowering operational costs.

However, it would be naïve to underestimate the impact operational change will have on your people, processes and performance. And often the bigger the WMS project is, the bigger the impact will be.

When managing a WMS project it’s easy to focus on the technical aspects e.g the type of barcode readers or the software capabilities, whilst overlooking important organisation-wide factors that will ensure the success of your overall assignment.

In this blog post, we look at the importance of change management, the obstacles to change and the critical factors that cannot be overlooked to ensure success.


Simply put, change management is the ability to make changes across your organisation in a planned and systemic way. Its objective is to help employees to understand, commit to, accept and embrace changes in their business environment. It’s also about managing the transition of change e.g how you make the changes happen.

If change is not managed well it could lead to inefficiencies, employee resistance and poor decision making – all having a negative effect on your investment. Here’s a number of factors to consider to help prevent this happening and ensure your project is a success.


When outlining the parameters of your warehouse management system, it’s important to start strategically. Re-visit the commercial reasons behind the business case for the project; these will no doubt include a list of your current pain points and your top level objectives. Then keep these in mind whilst you speak to a range of WMS specialists and suppliers. There will be more than one way to meet your strategic goals – refine your list and make your final decision based on business priorities – whether they’re cost, technical capabilities or operational needs.


Don’t make the mistake of simply introducing a WMS to automate your current processes. Often the best solutions come from completely re-designing your operations and going back to the drawing board to find new ways to achieve the goals you’ve set.


Before embarking on your WMS project make sure you can measure and record your current operational state e.g throughputs, error rates, pick rates etc and use these to set realistic targets for change. Once your WMS is installed, measure again to identify improvements and areas for refinement, then keep measuring for optimisation and finally for sustained performance.


It’s critical to involve key stakeholders from across the business when defining the project scope and software specification. Put together a project taskforce that includes representatives from every functional area and at all levels of seniority – from the operations director to the pickers. Each will have differing opinions and ideas to help outline how the system should work. By involving those involved in the day-to-day running of the warehouse, you’ll uncover important details about your current operations and understand how changes to one process could affect another. Whilst this could be a painful process it will help make implementation easier down the line.


Decide whether your entire WMS project should be implemented at once, or whether it requires a module-by-module approach. Put together a roadmap with a clear programme of works with timescales, responsibilities and deadlines. Make sure you set realistic milestones and manage expectations – remember, often there will be a period of transition whilst systems are tested, bugs are found and adjustments are made.


One of the biggest obstacles to change is people. The best WMS in the world will, on its own, not bring about successful changes to your business. The secret to successful change is rooted in facilitating change across your workforce – starting with the individual.

The Prosci ADKAR change management model[1] is a useful tool to show how you can lead your organisation through the implementation of your WMS and what to do to get their buy in.

For example:

Awareness: Ensure the introduction of the new WMS is communicated across the business by a senior leader. Do so as early into the project as possible and make sure you outline the business reasons for change, so employees understand the project’s goals.

Desire: Involve and engage your workforce in the WMS project and ask for their input and feedback. With employees feeling informed about the new system and having some say over its implementation, there should be less resistance to change.

Knowledge: It’s critical to invest in training. This should go beyond basic software functionality and be specific to the employee’s role. If processes are changing then employees need to be shown how to use the system to perform their new roles and how other departments may be dependent on their actions.

Ability: In the same way that systems will take time to perform effectively, so will people. Ensure all employees get adequate coaching and have time to learn their new roles, build their confidence and perform to their optimum ability.

Reinforcement: The human brain is wired for habit, and physiologically we are programed to revert to old habits. Monitor whether change is being sustained –positively reinforce situations where it is, and in areas where it isn’t, check whether more training is required.

[1] https://www.prosci.com/adkar/adkar-model


In summary, the introduction of your new WMS will bring about significant change across your organisation. Ensure you think strategically about what you want those changes to be, then make sure your new WMS addresses these operational goals. Finally never underestimate the importance of engaging with your workforce – not only to gain their buy-in and acceptance of the new system, but also to help define it and ensure its specification and implementation is a success.

If you’re planning to introduce a WMS system to your business, call us today to discuss your options and best implementation strategy.

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