Technology is a tool that you can no longer do without. Having a distribution center that is not driven by technology simply doesn’t make good business sense. If you are in e-commerce, it is a definite business risk. Customers expect their orders to be on time and correct, and it is technology that both drives and satisfies these needs. In today’s world, not having good technology is equivalent to having one of the very first flip phones. It won’t interface to new equipment, and you can’t do anything but make a call. It’s costly, time-consuming, and burdensome. Plus, it eliminates a very valuable market in the labor pool, since young people today likely do not want to work in a facility that doesn’t have the proper tools their generation uses.
If you have no WMS, TMS, LMS, or dashboards, it is time to either clean your system up and install the newer versions, or select/budget for a new system. If you are still using green screens (yes, there are some very prominent companies still using green screens), it’s time to upgrade to a new state-of-the-art system.
If you have not stayed abreast of current technology or available offerings, it would pay big dividends to hire a consultant to assist you. Think of this person or persons as an adjunct to your team. Technology system companies have changed dramatically over the last five years with new players, cloud offerings, apps, and new technology.
Many companies are still operating on an old version of software that the software company they bought it from no longer supports. A question you may be asking is, “Should I upgrade to the latest version or do a selection?” The answer (which isn’t popular with the software companies) is you should review what is out there because going to the newest version is like a new install anyway, and you will have to pay for the back years of support and updates.
Think about your company and where you have people still printing reports and manually doing calculations instead of simply pushing a button. For instance, if you are a 3PL and you have a team in accounting calculating billing every month, you are antiquated! The installation of a 3PL billing system that will track every movement and every labor second by customer should be installed ASAP.
If you still have a call center doing returns, you are a dinosaur. Sorry to be harsh, but those 30-plus people in customer service can be replaced by a web portal.
Companies should follow the direction of the key players when it comes to IT departments. The folks in this department should be walking the distribution network looking at ways technology can help operations run the business better. If you are an executive or senior manager and your company is IT-driven versus operations-driven, it is time for a change. Technology departments should have the attitude and desire to be the customer service center for the company. Operations is their customer, plain and simple. In companies where the IT department believes it is the king of the mountain, the operations department struggles to be efficient.
Some questions to ask a prospective vendor:
· How are you using the new AI technology today?
· What are your plans for the future?
· Who in your vertical industry is using the system?
· What functionality have you built specifically for my industry?
· What is their up time?
· How hard is it to upgrade (ask to see proof, and perhaps talk to a company that has upgraded)?
· Besides having the functionality you need, what are the tools their software provides to make your facility more efficient and effective?
· If your turnover is high, what are their training tools? They should have online training support. If they hand you a manual, the software company is antiquated! It’s practically a guarantee that three months after the go-live, the manual has disappeared and no one knows how to use all the great features of the system.
· Address all your problems. If the software can’t meet these needs, find software that can!
Make sure if you are looking at an international company with support offices here in the US. If you have major issues, you cannot wait for the time zone to change. Think about the 100 or more people sitting idle. Every minute of downtime is costing you thousands of dollars. A little hint: some companies may say something like, “We have four offices across the US.” Dig deeper! You may find out that those four offices are full of salespeople, not support people. It is human nature to want to believe everything you are told, but when purchasing software technology, it is better to question and validate everything.
This article is a little blunter than I normally write because the bitter reality is, companies are throwing millions of dollars away yearly by either not installing technology, selecting the wrong software vendor, trusting the wrong people, letting IT drive their organization instead of supporting it, or not following the old adage, “You don’t know what you don’t know!”
Susan Rider, President, Rider & Associates, and Executive Life Coach, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared in the May/June, 2023 issue of PARCEL.