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Getting started with warehouse management system (WMS) training

To be effective, WMS training must cover WMS users' interaction with mobile devices and software, as well as new ways of moving goods safely and efficiently through the warehouse.

By its very nature, a warehouse management system (WMS) is designed to improve business processes. So to be effective, your WMS training effort must address not just the hardware and software, but the many ways WMS users handle goods in the warehouse.

The time and effort needed for WMS training increases as you move up the scale from bare-bones inventory management and WMS modules to dedicated, high-end WMS software. "In these complex, best-of-breed WMS, there's a lot of functionality," said Steve Banker, service director for supply chain management at ARC Advisory Group. "Productivity actually falls for a while as people learn to use the system."

Banker said ARC clients often regret underestimating the resources needed for effective WMS training. "You can't do enough training," he said. "Don't do training a month ahead of turning on the system." Schedule plenty of time, and emphasize hands-on training in the final weeks, Banker advised.

Greg Aimi, supply chain director at AMR Research, said many companies have long used a productivity-management technique called "preferred methods to train warehouse staff on the most efficient, safe practices for such common tasks as picking and putaway. If the WMS has an optional labor-management module, you can use it to create a database of your company's preferred methods that can also serve as a training tool.

Training on WMS software is typically provided by the vendor or a third-party consultant. "Most of the vendors will offer classroom-type sessions where they'll teach you about the interface to the system," Aimi said, and some best-of-breed WMS vendors offer online seminars. A "train the trainer" approach is common, especially in companies that designate a "super user" to lead training at multiple warehouses.

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In contrast, said Aimi, "if it's one warehouse, then they just do it and it's done." Supervisors also go on the floor to train workers on the new warehouse practices and the software, typically using the same green-screen or Windows-based radio-frequency (RF) terminal they will use for daily interaction with the WMS.

What do successful WMS training programs have in common? "The diligence to make sure you cover all of the tasks," Aimi said. "A WMS ends up being fairly customized when it goes out. Customizing and training tend to go hand in hand."

About the author:
Freelancer David Essex has covered information technology for BYTE, Computerworld, PC World, and numerous other publications and web sites.

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