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8 Experts Share the Biggest Mistakes Made When Implementing Warehouse Automation Systems

Inventory Management

Warehouse automation can be a game changer for organizations. Automation has loads of business benefits like lower building costs, lower labor costs, better productivity, more efficient material flow, safer operations, reductions in inventory, increased reliability, reduced running costs and better ROI.
But implementing a warehouse automaton system can be tricky. Making a major mistake with implementation can result in a host of costly consequences for your organization.
Since getting automation right is such high stakes, we reached out to a panel of warehouse automation experts and asked them this question:
“What’s the biggest mistake made when implementing a warehouse automation system?”
We collected and compiled their advice into this guide to help you avoid making the same mistakes when implementing an automated warehouse system.
See what our experts said below:

Meet Our Panel of Warehouse Automation Experts:

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 9.29.59 PMChris Castaldi

Director of Business Development at W&H Systems, a material handling systems integrator.
The biggest mistake while implementing a warehouse automation system is…
People need to think in a spatial relationship (or 3D) when designing their distribution center, allowing them to visualize the overhead conveyors, line conveyors, sortation units, mezzanines, etc. all interacting with each other over time to avoid any potential design/fit problems. Or you can use a 3D simulation system that allows you to walk through or flyby with animation of all or part of a material handling system. Some benefits of simulation are:
– Reduce design and development time
– Reduce risk of operation bottlenecks
– Model simple or complex systems
– Highest degree of modeling accuracy
– Enhance confidence in process design
– Reduce risk of costly design mistakes
– Supports capital equipment investment analysis
– Increase worker productivity

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 9.18.19 PMLee Schwartz

Lee Schwatz is the Principal at the Schwartz Profitability Group: Uncorking the Operational Bottlenecks of Manufacturers and Distributors.
The biggest mistake a company can make with a warehouse automation system is…
Not associated with the implementation. It happens beforehand. Many companies do a very poor job of evaluating their needs and ensuring that the software has the functionality to satisfy their goals and objectives, both in the short and long terms. It’s imperative that companies, either through their internal resources or by use of outside consultants, spend time in advance of any decisions to evaluate current conditions, considerer improvements and determine if their ideal state can be supported by the software under consideration. If this hasn’t happened beforehand it’s safe bet that implementation will go awry.

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 9.35.23 PMDimitris Verdelis

Dimitris Verdelis is Support and Testing Engineer at Megaventory (@megaventory), a company offering a SaaS Inventory Management, Invoicing, Ordering and Manufacturing. Megaventory has clients in over 40 countries all over the world.
The biggest mistake made when implementing a warehouse automation system is…
Inventory Management: When managing their warehouse many companies neglect the importance to link every change made in their warehouse stock levels with an actual invoice. Using an inventory management system will give a business more insight on how products move, what are the needs of each client, what is the service from each supplier and will ease everyday tasks such as restocking. Business owners should demand more from their inventory management that just giving them their availability levels.

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 10.13.45 PMJeff Sierra

Jeff Sierra is the founder and President of Mind Fuel, a provider of marketing strategy and business planning solutions. As a 25-year veteran of the marketing services industry, his experience crosses all facets of marketing, product development and operations management. Areas of expertise include multichannel direct marketing, ecommerce fulfillment, marketing technology and automation, customer experience management, process optimization and innovation. Jeff has managed end-to-end marketing fulfillment programs for many of the best known brands in the automotive, pharmaceutical, consumer packaged goods and financial services industries.
The biggest mistake I see organizations make when implementing a warehouse automation system is…
That they become too wrapped up in the technology and lose their focus on the need for underlying process. There is often a misconception that the technology will do all the work and all the thinking. The reality is that even the best designed automated system needs to be surrounded by well-defined processes in order to maximize ROI. There are always exceptions and changes to business rules and team members need to understand what steps to take and what procedures to follow to adapt and deal with these conditions when they occur. There are also important transactions like inventory adjustments and returns processing that may be automated to some level, but typically require a team member to initiate through a specific action or set of actions. Not having a defined process to manage such situations inevitably leads to inconsistency, errors and missed customer expectations.

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 10.12.29 PMChristopher Breen

Christopher Breen is a cost analysis and logistics expert specializing in warehouse management for home solutions business. He has worked for several years in cost analysis and business development for a US-based bathroom fixture distributor increasing vendor diversification and trimming the fat across all departments.
The #1 mistake made when implementing a warehouse automation system is…
When running a warehouse, managing inventory errors are every manager’s worst nightmare. But one thing can be done to maximize prevention of these errors across the board and produce more growth at the same time – implementing the correct diagnostic software. A strictly run warehouse should be backed by a program that deals with order entry, pick and pack, and inventory locations.
In addition to reporting the highest selling items, diagnostic software alerts managers to the optimal floor organizational methods, choosing which items to store closest to the packing area and so forth. Choose software that generates detailed inventory reports and useful data that will provide key insights for your next marketing campaign and sales angles. With the correct team supporting it, the software will do the leg work in preventing inventory errors while also raising your bottom line.

David McGuireDavid McGuire

David McGuire is the Owner at MPServices, based in the Tennessee Area.
The biggest problem when implementing a warehouse automation system is…

Short term, but impactful on the backside. The failure to rely too heavily on the WMS for validations of services and inventory levels was, initially, problematic. We moved too quickly into a perpetual inventory review which resulted in variances of product levels impacting our reorder timeframes and quantities. Refocusing on formal inventory variance resolutions on a monthly basis with daily audits quickly brought the team’s attention to detail back to the forefront.

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 10.20.13 PMEric Allais

As president and CEO at PathGuide Technologies, Eric drives strategic objectives that provide sustainable long-term growth and ensure profitability. With over 30 years of experience in marketing, product management and sector analysis in the automated data collection industry, Eric’s expertise in supply chain and business management lay a solid foundation for the success of PathGuide and its clients.
One of the biggest mistakes in a WMS implementation project…
Is the lack of a champion, a person responsible for successful buy-in and execution of the software tools and process change needed to drive success. The warehouse champion not only needs the earned respect of workers to drive change, but the political clout among the management team to promote the positive financial and customer service impact that a WMS can and is achieving.
In driving a WMS rollout, it is quite tempting to be overly optimistic about the training workers have received on the new software, and the process changes that have been put into place. The most effective learning occurs when tools (i.e. RF terminals, menu prompts, web screens, etc.) can be exercised and transactions practiced. Without a champion’s guidance to supervise this training and properly phase a WMS into a warehouse operation, the likelihood of success is doubtful.

chrisCharles Barouch

Mr. Barouch has over thirty years in business and technology, specializing in the inventory and order cycles. He a former executive of the Salant Corporation and presently consults through HDWP, Inc. and writes speculative fiction.
The biggest mistake made implementing a warehouse automation system is…
Computerization of inventory is the last step in a chain which starts with good warehouse layout, along with good understanding of your products, raw materials, and their relationships. Storing ties in one area and shirts in another is brilliant — unless you mostly sell combo-packs which contain both. No amount of automation is going to replace good physical design. Once you have the basics right, the technology is immensely important, but first things must come first. The biggest mistake is expecting the automation to solve all the problems.
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