Logistics Line


Good Requirements = Sound Sleepers

If you have begun the task of a warehouse management system design software search you are probably discovering the numerous and somewhat overwhelming list of warehouse logistics software suppliers and packages available today. I am also sure you have read or heard conflicting statements about the quality and/or performance of any one package or supplier. This is at least confusing and probably worrisome as you begin the process of selecting a warehouse logistics software supplier, especially when you hear horror stories about software that took two times as long to develop as planned, three times the estimated cost, and provided something less than the performance expected.

The stories you hear on the negative side often begin with the warehouse management system purchaser not having clearly stated his requirements to the prospective software supplier. On the positive side you will regularly find warehouse management system purchasers who documented a set of functional requirements and performance criteria that define the basis for selection, construction, integration, testing and performance of the warehouse design software. Here are some ideas about structuring requirements and qualifying a warehouse management system design supplier which can increase your chances for a successful software project. Be ready for some hard (not impossible) work. Remember that you are the business requirements expert for your company. Don’t expect or allow the warehouse management system supplier to create your requirements for you.

Start by Writing a Solid Set of Functional Requirements for your warehouse management system design. Functional requirements for a warehouse management system describe the work and activities to be performed from an operating perspective. Good ones focus on and describe what is to be done, not how. Make sure the requirements document is comprehensive, painting a picture of all the things you would like the warehouse management system to do when all systems work is “complete”.

Shorten the list of prospective warehouse logistics software suppliers Early-on. You should get down to three or four at most. It is to this short list that you will submit a request for proposal. Consider that the cost, time, and frustration of evaluating ten or fifteen comprehensive proposals will be high. This approach almost always yields confusion instead of clarity. You can shorten the list and avoid holding “just a beauty contest” by organizing the functional requirements in a way that it permits warehouse logistics software suppliers (internal and external) to easily respond with their capabilities with respect to each warehouse management system design requirement. You will want to know if a supplier’s warehouse management system will:

Meet a requirement
Can be modified to meet a requirement
Require “new” warehouse logistics software software to meet a requirement
Not meet a requirement

Create a Request for Proposal document that enables internal or external warehouse management system suppliers to provide a tenable proposal describing specific deliverables and firm price. A good one will include the following elements:

Functional Requirements – As outlined above, a description of the all functions that the systems must support from an operating (end user) perspective. This is what the warehouse management system design must do.

Operational and Technical Requirements – This describes how each function is to be executed. In addition logical warehouse management system requirement will describe:

Data sourcing and handling
Interfaces to people, equipment, data systems
Inputs and outputs – formats, keystrokes, etc.
Exception conditions and remedies
System structure – platform, devices, architecture

Performance and Reliability Requirements – This describes the warehouse management system throughput requirements and the expected overall warehouse designs performance (hardware and software) under normal and peak loads. All human and machine interface points are considered. The requirement details average and minimum response times for batch and on-line processing, system availability windows, back-up and recovery time, security, data integrity, etc.

Testing and Acceptance Criteria – This describes the test environment and the test conditions you will want executed to prove that the warehouse design does what has been specified above. There are two parts to defining this requirement. The first is to simply ask the supplier what are processes and testing regimen for the warehouse logistics software development and modifications being proposed. Second, (because you need more than a bench test) is a description to the supplier of the operating environment testing regimen that you will require and use as the basis for validation and acceptance of his product.

Support and Service Requirements – this describes your requirements for documentation, start-up/support, ongoing support, warrantee, and maintenance.

After all of this you must be of course on the lookout for the reliable warehouse designer. Perform in depth interviews of the references supplied. Make sure you talk to the people who live and work with the warehouse logistics software every day. Push hard to find any negative, as you know most folks are reluctant to talk about the “difficult” issues with warehouse logistics software. Get a list of all customers and call a couple that are not on the reference list.