Guest column: Miscalculating WMS time investment

Alba Logistics MD Patrick Daly on the pitfalls of WMS execution.
Alba Logistics managing director Patrick Daly.
Alba Logistics managing director Patrick Daly.


Patrick Daly, managing director of supply chain consultancy Alba Logistics, advises readers to ensure the planning stages are complete before implementing their WMS.

In an independent survey conducted by T&D, Noll Research, and, Miscalculation of Time Investment was ranked fourth among the most common sources of unforeseen difficulties in WMS implementation - in fact, it was cited by 25% of all participants.

It is true that most organisations that embark on WMS implementations and the systems vendors who service them are clever and competent people in possession of all of the technical and non-technical skills required for such an undertaking. So, if miscalculation of time investment is not a question of skills and competence, the question must be asked?

What is the reason for this?

Evidence would suggest that it is human nature to consistently underestimate the time required to undertake almost any set of tasks with more than a handful of steps associated with it.

Do you remember the last time you moved house? Or the last time you had friends over for dinner?

Chances are, it took whole lot of extra time and effort to complete all the tasks than you originally anticipated, right?

If we combine this inherent human tendency with the in-built bias for action over thinking in operationally focused activities such as manufacturing and warehousing then we have the potential for real trouble.

The very real danger in this type of environment is that the project scoping and planning phases do not receive the requisite time and effort as a result of the understandable desire to see results. In addition, there is often an implicit pressure on the implementation team to be seen to be making progress. Soon this train gathers so much momentum that it carries everyone along with it.

Before you know it, you can find yourself in a situation in which you do realise that things need to be scoped out and planned properly but you cannot stop or interrupt the project because of the irresistible push to deliver.

Rob Thomsett author of Radical Project Management* sums it up in his article "Project Pathology: Causes, Patterns and Symptoms of Project Failure" when he says that people can end up saying: "we can't stop the project for planning, we have a deadline to meet".

If this is happening on your project - then you know that you are in trouble.

So, what can you do to make sure that you avoid this pitfall in your WMS implementation?

Well assuming, as absolute pre-requisites, that the project is effectively sponsored and that the business case is solid in the first place, the fundamental thing is to take on board the conviction that scoping and planning are value-added phases of the project and not just paper or intellectual exercises.

Thereafter, here are a few pointers that will be helpful:

•    Resist the pressure to act until the scoping and planning phases have been thought through and completed properly - if there are still grey areas in the scope or the plan, then you are not yet finished with this phase.
•    Identify all the stakeholders and articulate their interest in the project and how this will impact scope and time.
•    Plan all the required tasks in detail and add more time than you think you will need. If you have done the task before and know how long it takes - add 25% extra. If you have not done the task before add 100% extra - seriously!
•    Put in place a robust system and procedure to deal with legitimate changes to scope that may occur during the implementation phases of the project and re-plan as required.

These simple yet effective measures will reduce the probability of your project falling into this all-too-common pit and increase the likelihood of a successful WMS implementation.

* Thomsett, Rob, Radical Project Management/Robb Thomsett. ISBN 0-13-009486-2

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