Table of contents
- Plan your project
- Warehouse organization
- Connect Ongoing WMS to your data
- Connect Ongoing WMS to your transporters
- Create your warehouse processes
- Onboard your users
- Create an invoicing setup (3PL only)
This article contains a high-level overview of how to implement Ongoing WMS in a warehouse. It includes information on the overall project level as well as about both the physical aspects of your warehouse (such as labeling), and which kinds of work processes are available in Ongoing WMS. Please get in touch with your sales representative or customer responsible engineer at Ongoing if you want to discuss further.
Plan your project
If you have a small and uncomplicated business, you might want to skip this part and easily get started with just a few steps on your own. If you however have a larger business, more workers and other more complicated IT landscape we recommend that you plan for your project.
In the special case of you being a 3PL you might also have the benefit to start very simple with only one of your smaller customers, try it in production and improve and expand from there.
Analyze, improve and iterate
In software development the term Minimum viable product (MVP) is used to refer to an implementation or product that has enough features to satisfy the first users of the product or implementation. This has the benefit of reducing wasted resources in the development of new product (by not spending time on not needed features), increasing the speed of realizing return on investments and enabling early feedback to analyze and improve upon. The term can be efficiently utilized in other domains such as the implementation of a WMS in a warehouse.
A WMS implementation can be performed in an iterative manner where each iteration constitutes the analyze and improve steps (see figure below). In the first phase of the implementation, you analyze the current warehouse setup and focus on implementing something that is just a little bit better than the current solution.
Once you have this setup in production you once again analyze the setup and realize improvements continuously. If you work by this approach, you will not only reduce risk, time of implementation and increase your return on investment. You will also create a robust process within your organization to continuously work with your software supplier to target the changing needs for your business.
Using this way of driving the project makes your WMS implementation project more easily overviewed and performed. Do not make it complicated if it does not have to be complicated.
The project steps
Before you start with your project it helps to think about the different steps you will have to go through to succeed. It also helps to get an overview of which steps depends on each other and what steps are expected to take the most calendar time. Most WMS implementation projects looks differently but they also have lots of similarities.
To illustrate the different main tasks a WMS implementation project consists of we have create a Gantt chart which might help you in creating your own project plan. Here you can see the tasks. What can be started directly and what is dependent on what.
The Gantt chart examples covers the following tasks.
- Investigate Internet and Wi-Fi coverage
- Define and specify overall processes
- Connect Ongoing WMS to the data
- Connect the carriers
- Implement and test warehouse processes 1 by 1
- Structure the warehouse
- Hardware procurement
- Hardware installation
- Hardware testing
- End-to-end test of data and carrier information
- Label the warehouse
- Start production phase 1
The implementation team
Before your start your implementation project it helps to know the roles and responsibilities in the project. If you are a small company this might be excessive and can be skipped.
Ongoing will supply you with a customer responsible engineer. Our engineer will work with your company throughout implementation, operation and continuous improvements serving as a single point of contact. The engineer is part of a team of other engineers which he can share work with when there is a lot to do with your account. Ongoing also has a senior engineering team and a senior integrations team which supports the customer responsible engineers with larger development tasks. The customer responsible engineer works closely with your super user.
Your super user is an employee in your organization who will be responsible for the warehouse management system. It is preferable that this employee also has knowledge of your other IT services as well as knowledge for the warehouse processes. In larger organizations this might be a combination of persons with IT and Logistics expertise. It might also be a warehouse manager in each warehouse. In smaller organizations this person might also work as a project manager for the implementation project.
In larger organizations an Ongoing WMS implementation might need a dedicated project manager which makes sure all steps run smoothly and the right persons are getting involved. This person might also sync between the warehouses or between IT, Logistics and your suppliers. Ongoing does not supply a project manager or take the role as a project manager. We can however refer to other companies with this competency and experience from earlier Ongoing WMS implementations.
If you need to extend the coverage of your network connection, you might need to involve an IT infrastructure supplier.
Responsibilities and team allocation
|Investigate Internet and Wi-Fi coverage||IT and IT infrastructure supplier|
|Define and specify overall processes||Logistics/Warehouse manager and customer responsible software engineer|
|Connect Ongoing WMS to the data||Logistics/warehouse manager, customer responsible software engineer, (other software supplier and integrator).|
|Connect the carriers||Logistics/warehouse manager, customer responsible software engineer (and shipping platform provider)|
|Implement and test warehouse processes 1 by 1||Logistics/warehouse manager and customer responsible software engineer|
|Structure the warehouse||Logistics/warehouse manager and customer responsible software engineer|
|Hardware procurement||Logistics/warehouse manager, IT (and IT Infrastructure supplier)|
|Hardware installation||IT (and IT Infrastructure supplier)|
|Hardware testing||Logistics/warehouse manager|
|End-to-end test of data and carrier information||Logistics/warehouse manager|
|Label the warehouse||Logistics/warehouse manager|
|Start production phase 1||Logistics/warehouse manager (and customer responsible software engineer)|
Since the delivery time sometimes can be long for hardware, we urge you to investigate this before starting your project. You will need printers, mobile devices, PC and Wi-Fi. Think about the station you would like to have for the different steps in your process. If you do eCommerce, each section below digs deeper into each type of hardware.
- Read the whole document to get an overview.
- Decide your general process for inbound, outbound and returns.
- Decide what stations you need and what hardware would be needed for each station. Examples include inbound station, packing station, and return station.
- Make sure to have printers, scanning equipment, and devices to support your process at each station.
- Are you picking after a paper, digital pick list or full-featured scanning process?
- Are you using a picking cart or any other type of vehicle to pick up the items?
- Make sure you have an Internet connection to all workstations and wirelessly to throughout the warehouse.
- Order the devices for each process and what you lack in Internet access.
There need to be printers to print shipping labels and eventually other labeling. If you also want to print other documents such as delivery notes you will also need A4/letter printers. We recommend one set of printers per packing station. Ongoing WMS works with any printer that works on Windows.
Because of cost and environmental impact, we urge you to consider not printing any more documents than shipping labels. Digital solutions for delivering delivery notes and return labels exists.
Please follow our online documentation about how to select a printer for printing the shipping labels: How to select printers for your warehouse.
For a completely digital warehouse, you will need handheld devices that can run Ongoing WMS. Handheld devices come in many forms and Ongoing WMS can run on any device with a web browser and Internet connection. Please follow this guide to choose your units: Hardware for using the Ongoing WMS scanning module.
If you are going to use handheld devices, you will need Wi-Fi coverage over the whole warehouse. An alternative is to use 4G/5G-enabled handheld devices. Sometimes there can be problems with coverage in a warehouse. Please check the coverage before investing in any devices.
Since Internet is crucial to your warehouse operation, we urge you to consider investing in a fiber connection as well as a standby 4G/5G connection to have a redundant connection.
Ongoing WMS Admin UI can be used on any type of device which has a web browser. However, if you plan to use automatic printouts via the Ongoing Printer Service, you are required to have at least one PC running Microsoft Windows. A PC is also an optimal device to have at a packing station in combination with a barcode scanner.
Please follow this guide to install the Ongoing Printer Service on a Windows PC: Automatic printing via the Ongoing Printer Service.
Picking carts or other picking containers
In eCommerce it is essential to spend as little time as possible on each order. Many customers therefore use picking carts to pick multiple orders at a time. Depending on the size of the warehouse and the typical size of goods there can be many alternatives to picking carts. We would recommend getting in contact with a specialized supplier which can help you with your needs. One popular supplier is Helge Nyberg. You would need at least as many picking carts as you have pickers and packers to prevent them from waiting at an empty picking cart.
In Ongoing WMS, you may print barcode labels for both the pick cart to uniquely identify it and for each bin. These are very useful in the different processes that you will go through.
More and more warehouses automate their processes. There are however probably many other processes to improve with a higher return on investments to start with. Once you are up and running with Ongoing WMS you have the technical infrastructure to start investigating automation equipment. Conveyor belts, vertical storage lifts, robotic storage automation or pick-by-light are some examples. You can read more about these here: Automation hardware.
To use Ongoing WMS, you need to structure your warehouse into zones, aisles, and locations. If you already have a structure, create an overview of it on a piece of paper. If you do not have a naming structure, we advise you to go directly into Ongoing WMS and create the aisles one by one. Ongoing WMS will help you with the naming.
Please follow this guide to add the warehouse structure to Ongoing WMS: Aisles and locations.
Label the warehouse
To help the pickers navigate through the warehouse it helps to have labels on all the aisles and locations. In many processes in Ongoing WMS, it is beneficial to have barcodes on each location. You may print labels for aisles and locations from Ongoing WMS following this link shows you how to proceed: Aisles and locations.
Please note that we recommend that you test scan the label with your equipment before printing and placing out labels everywhere.
Connect Ongoing WMS to your data
Create a goods owner. Please follow these instructions: Goods owners. Create one additional goods owner for performing tests with. Make sure it is marked as test and that it has the word "test" in its name.
Most warehouses would like to integrate the order, article, and purchase order information with another software service.
There are a few different ways of integrating Ongoing WMS with another service. You can use one of the pre-built integrations in Ongoing WMS, or you can use a partner integration, or you might choose to run your own integration projects towards our APIs. If you run your own project, you may need your own development resources or external consultants. Since these are busy resources make sure they are available. These resources are in many projects the bottleneck. This guide provides an overview about how to proceed: Integration with web shops or ERP systems.
If you do not want to use integrations, you can input the information manually into Ongoing WMS, or import it from Excel. To learn more about manually creating orders and other data, follow this guide: Manual for the customers of logistics providers. To learn more about importing data from Excel, follow this guide: Importing data from Excel.
Article data and item labelling
Once you have set up the integration Ongoing WMS will be populated with article data from your sales and purchasing channels. Sales, purchasing, and logistics may in many cases have different data requirements. This means that you might lack information important for your warehouse and transportations.
Think through and make a list of what you need for your logistics. Information that might be lacking includes:
- Barcode data. There might be multiple barcodes linked to multiple sizes of packaging.
- Length / width / height.
- Customs data (TARIC number and country of origin).
- Dangerous goods information (ADR).
It is recommended that the sales system is designated as the master system for all article information, and that all article data is entered into this system. If you want to complement the data in Ongoing WMS please follow the instructions at Creating and editing articles for entering it using the UI or at Importing data from Excel if you want to do an Excel import.
Connect Ongoing WMS to your transporters
Integrate your delivery management software
Ongoing WMS can be integrated with most delivery management services on the market. If you already work with one the chances are great that we have an integration. Check our integration library to see if we have an integration with your delivery management service. To get started with setting up an integration, head to Integration with shipping platforms
Use your transporters
After adding the integration, the next step is to add your transporters. You can do this by following this guide: Setting up transporters for use with an integration.
To make sure all the orders are assigned to the right transporters, you can use our transport assignment guide here: Transporter assignment.
Create your warehouse processes
Inbound can be made in two main variants. It can be with or without and advised in form of a purchase order. Further, the inbound can be performed at a computer or at a handheld device. You may also choose whether you divide the inbound into two steps (reception and put-away) or perform it in only one step.
You can read more about the reception and put-away process in Ongoing WMS administration UI here: How to receive and move goods.
The same processes can be performed using a handheld device. You can read more about using a handheld device here: Inbound scanning.
Inbound without labels
Are your goods marked with labels which you can scan at the reception? If they are, we would advise using a handheld device and scanning the items one by one at the reception. If they are not, we would instead advise using a PC or Mac with a connected printer.
Inbound with a purchase order
You have the option of doing each inbound transaction using a purchase order. A purchase order tells you how many items are expected to arrive. When you are done with all transactions, you can easily compare the actual quantities with the expected quantities. The guide Creating purchase orders in Ongoing WMS shows you how to create purchase orders.
If you want to perform the inbound in a two-step process: continue reading.
Using the barcode that is now on each item you can scan them and move forward. This can be done either ad-hoc with suggestions or using structured move orders. This step also confirms that the labels are working.
For more info about how to move with a scanning see here: Move scanning.
If you put away smaller quantities of each item into the warehouse it can be beneficial to use a picking-cart which you fill during the reception phase and take with you during the put-away phase. This will significantly reduce the time needed. You may read more about the process here: Move with picking cart scanning.
You can refill your picking locations from your buffer locations. Ongoing WMS can calculate which quantities should be moved and from where they should be moved. Read more about it in this guide: Working with refill orders.
These are the key points to consider when planning your outbound process:
How will the orders be created?
- Orders can be created by an integration or from Excel, or created manually
Make sure that you have required information on each order, such as:
- Customs data (if you are shipping to countries which require it)
- Which transporter to use
- Order type (for instance if you need to handle B2B and B2C orders differently)
- Any information which must be printed on a delivery note
- The first step when handling an order is to allocate it. The allocation method determines which locations you are going to pick from. Popular choices include FIFO and FEFO. Talk to your contact person at Ongoing WMS about which options are available.
Will you be using scanning for orders? Many different scanning processes can be set up. Your contact person at Ongoing WMS can change the scanning settings. Some important questions to consider:
- Will you pick one order at a time., or will you multiple orders at the same time.?
- Do you want to scan each individual article, or should it be possible to scan a single item and input the picked quantity?
- Do you want to scan batch numbers or serial numbers?
- Do you want to have a two-step process where orders are first picked and then packed, or is it enough to have a one-step process (just picking)?
- If you are not going to scan the orders, then you will need to print pick lists.
Once the order has been picked and packed, it is time to finish it, which usually consists of these steps:
- Print a delivery note.
- Send the order to a shipping platform to generate transport labels.
- If the order was sent to Ongoing WMS by an integration, make sure that the order is properly finished in the external system too.
Onboard your users
Each person should have their own user account. There are different classes of user accounts, for instance, "warehouse worker" and "customer". When you create a user, you can have the system mail the username and password directly to the user.
Read more about it in our guide: User administration.
Create an invoicing setup (3PL only)
If you are a third-party logistics company, you can use Ongoing WMS to automatically create invoices for your warehouse customers. Read more about it in our guide: 3PL invoicing.