Guide to retrofitting warehouse software
18th November 2021
In intralogistics, the term “retrofit” refers to the modernisation of machines, equipment, and software systems, writes Karoline Poderschnig*, IT Project Manager at SSI Schaefer. It is a cost-effective alternative to buying new, ensures sustainable operation, and goes hand in hand with increased system efficiency. But what exactly does it mean when a software system in a warehouse is modernised? What impacts on ongoing operation can be expected?
In the best-case scenario, none. The approach should always be determined in close cooperation with the customer and their individual requirements. Usually, this not only involves modernising the existing system, but also upgrading the processes and/or software systems used. This means that in addition to the existing general conditions, new challenges also arise that must be considered in the analysis, planning, and implementation.
Two approaches can be followed here: transition in several process steps where partial adaptations are carried out during the transition and downtimes can be more easily compensated for, and the big bang transition. A big bang adoption is the immediate transition to a new software generation, during which all old systems are changed over to the new, fully functional system on a specific date.
The focus of the release upgrade is always on smooth running without impacting ongoing operation. All necessary measures need to be taken during the transition so that orders can still be processed in the usual timeframe without delay: in other words, goods delivered at the right location, at the right time, in the right quantity, and in the right quality.
This requires a software solution is that is integrated seamlessly and is future-oriented to meet the challenges of the warehouse. WAMAS is a modular, standardised intralogistics software solution that schedules, controls, optimises, and monitors all logistics processes and functions of a manual, semi-automated, or fully automated warehouse. It can be customised and integrated seamlessly into the IT landscape thanks to its open interface architecture, and the high degree of innovation and scalability provide the highest possible investment protection for sustainable goods management.
Gradual transition to the new software version
Implementing a modern software solution like WAMAS into the ongoing operations of a logistics company poses an enormous challenge and requires, first and foremost, a meticulous analysis of the actual situation and an accurate picture of the target situation. The solution must be thoroughly integrated into the IT landscape. The modular structure and open interface architecture of WAMAS allows for extremely easy connection to ERP, transport systems, or components from third-party suppliers.
The functional specification is an important tool in the extensive project planning and simulation, in which the necessary migration steps are defined in addition to the specifications. A transition in defined steps enables each subtask completed as well as the partial adaptations to the new system to be evaluated. This approach even offers the security of being able to roll one step back if necessary. Potential downtimes can be countered with clearly defined emergency scenarios. These include pre-picking, partial retrieval, and manual storage, for example. Personnel can also be introduced to new processes or dialogs and the documentation regarding software realisation is updated step by step up until implementation is successful.
From one day to the next: the big bang
A big bang adaptation is the immediate transition to a new intralogistics software solution on a specific day. This type of migration is considered to be the most challenging retrofit decision and requires the entire project team to have complete faith in the migration and in the stability of the software solution. Ultimately, the new system must be able to handle the entire volume of orders and data right from the start. Time for out of hours bug fixing is extremely limited and the execution of the ramp-up phase requires maximum focus.
The advantages of a big bang are the fast go-live and the avoidance of several warehouse management systems being in use in parallel for ERP. This approach requires significantly more resources and coordination in advance, as all processes must be converted at the same time. Intensive preparation and collaboration with the customer is just as essential as highly professional project management.
For SSI Schaefer experts, thorough communication with the customer that is built on trust and the provision of a competent team that undertakes project management with unrestricted transparency is the top priority. Experience shows that regular and open communication between SSI Schaefer and the customer as well as a joint understanding of the objective and advantages of the retrofit lead to the greatest possible acceptance, and subsequently to the desired successful outcome.
The success of a project depends heavily upon successful collaboration with the customer.
Quick, reliable, uninterrupted: the big bang at LANDI
For around two decades now, LANDI Schweiz AG has been putting its faith in the expertise of SSI Schaefer. The national purchasing, logistics, and marketing organisation for the 270 LANDI outlets stores, picks, and ships the comprehensive assortment of agricultural and food products from the central warehouse in Dotzingen using almost all intralogistics methods – from manual to fully automated systems.
In 2003, SSI Schaefer installed its WAMAS version 3 warehouse management system at LANDI. Seventeen years later, a completely new software generation, WAMAS version 5, replaced the tried-and-tested and highly valued, but now outdated system in order to optimise logistics tasks in the warehouse and gain a sustainable footing.
Total confidence in the standardised and individually adapted customer processes in WAMAS, professional project management, and the accompanying quality assurance measures facilitated the successful big bang release update – a successful migration that skipped two software generations. Immediate transition to the new version was quick, smooth, and did not significantly affect ongoing operation. This not only ensured supply reliability for the LANDI stores, but also fulfilled all quality requirements at the same time – and for the future.
CLICK HERE to read more information about the project with LANDI.
- * Karoline Poderschnig holds a degree in Industrial Management from the FH Joanneum University of Applied Sciences in Kapfenberg and can already look back on more than 10 years of professional experience in project management and program management in the infrastructure, automotive, semiconductor, and software technology fields. The expert with IPMA Level C and Financial Business Management (University of Graz) certification has been with SSI Schaefer since 2018.