by Lewis Marston
SAP EWM Implementation Partner Selection – Getting It Right First Time
Selecting the right partner for the implementation of SAP Extended Warehouse Management (EWM) is crucial to ensuring the effectiveness of your warehouse operation, but choosing that partner isn’t so straightforward. Below we help you understand why.
The common challenge is that classic SAP partner selection and project implementation is very data and process-centric, with little operational considerations. Where warehouses and SAP EWM is concerned, the interaction with the operational environment is a major factor, as is the broad capability of the EWM platform. Addressing this requires in depth operational and logistical awareness combined with in-depth EWM knowledge and expertise in operational technology, such as mobility and automation systems. Successful SAP EWM project team profiles include a wide range of expertise and specialist roles that can be brought to bear on the project as and when required.
Your ideal SAP EWM implementation partner is therefore likely to be very different from your general SAP partner used to classic SAP ERP projects. The following blog helps to illustrate the key skill sets and capabilities that we believe are essential to your successful EWM implementation.
Supply chain and operational thought leadership
Most organisations can benefit from combining their SAP EWM implementation with an opportunity to reengineer and optimise their operational practices and layout to drive business benefits. Equally, many EWM projects see the introduction of new warehouse and operational technology. Because of this, a large amount of the value add that a partner needs to bring is within the thought leadership and innovation in and around best and emerging practices, in conjunction with the capability of SAP EWM and established operational technology, such as mobile, automation and Internet of Things (IoT), as well as emerging technology such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Many improvements in the warehouse come from interaction up and down the supply chain, so broader supply chain understanding is key. Finding a partner with the right blend of experts from an operational, systems and technology background will enable resourcing models that bring the right people, to the right project, at the right time to deliver project success.
A large challenge of SAP EWM projects is that they deal with operationally intensive environments, often with a very large number of processes, variations and exceptions to manage.
Finding a partner with a methodology tailored to these types of projects is essential, so it’s important to not only look at the software, but also place a strong emphasis on operational and people change, as well as technology integration.
Failing to acknowledge the importance of all these aspects will lead to project failure at worst, but certainly lead to lower adoption and substantially reduced benefits to the business.
Read our previous blog: How Could You Benefit From SAP Extended Warehouse Management (EWM)?
It is very common for SAP EWM projects to have a large integration component to other systems, including:
- ERP integration;
- operational systems such as material flow systems;
- technology such as RFID/mobile; and
- external business partners such as suppliers and customer systems.
A clear ethos and consistent approach to this is essential to creating robust, scalable installations. Achieving a real-time integration that takes advantage of the many integration and native technology capabilities of SAP EWM requires not only strong and diverse technical capability, but also a proven structured approach to integration that considers the time critical aspects of warehouse operation. A badly designed architecture can result in serious performance issues, operational delays and high support overheads.
SAP EWM is an incredibly capable and flexible product, however it is inevitable that enhancements and developments will be required during an implementation. A deep understanding of the product configuration options and native capability from your partner, combined with a gap cost-benefit validation approach will help you ensure you avoid unnecessary development and prioritise areas of genuine value add.
Ask your partner how they will minimise development costs. For example, a large amount of enhancements can be avoided with packaged add-ons for commonly occurring requirements, such as pre-defined carrier labels which will be the same from project to project for each carrier, so selecting a partner with a strong add-on library can accelerate your timeline, reduce total cost and risk. On-shore developers specialising in the object-oriented development approach used in SAP EWM experience and warehouse process knowledge can vastly accelerate development times and quality at a lower total cost than a lower cost off-shore resource.
IT and OT alignment.
Nearly every SAP EWM implementation involves the integration of operational technology such as warehouse automation, mobile, voice and RFID, printing and yard systems. Partners unfamiliar with these types of operational environments and technology are unlikely to be aware of the importance of aligning people, systems, processes and operational technology, or indeed have an approach or the know-how to achieve that.
Ensuring the full benefit and return on investment from the often-high capital expenditure on operational technology is essential, and starts with a holistic architecture and process design, underpinned by deep operational and technical expertise of the native capabilities of EWM. The right partner will be able to demonstrate how they have been successful in creating a holistic operational design that results in an efficient, unified way of working. Failing to do this can result in underutilised operational technology and operational bottlenecks, sacrificing labour costs and throughput capacity.
Broader perspective & cultural fit
From WMS evaluation phases through to implementation, bringing success across the full SAP EWM project lifecycle requires close and open collaboration with your partner and internal project team. Understanding how your partner works versus what you want from your partner is essential. Do you want an SAP implementer that relies on you defining how you want to work with SAP EWM, with them configuring and implementing a solution you design, or would you like a partner that brings warehouse process expertise with a culture of thought leadership, innovation and discovering better ways of working with the capability SAP EWM can provide?
When working with a partner it is not only important they can adapt and understand the core processes, attitudes and behaviours that make up your business, but also that they have built enough rapport to challenge you confidently with trust to create optimum outcomes. Time will be required to communicate and explain detailed processes, so finding a partner who can speak your industry sector and organisational language will result in reduced delays and confusion.
Many warehouse processes and optimisations rely on events up or down the supply chain, so having a partner that understands the wider supply chain, the systems involved and how to design and optimise end-to-end processes is extremely beneficial. For example, a partner who specialises across supply chain planning (such as SAP Integrated Business Planning (SAP IBP)), execution (such as SAP EWM, Transportation Management, Track & Trace), and trade (such as duty management and supply chain contract management and billing solutions (Global Trade Services (SAP GTS) and SAP Transportation Management) can help you create greater warehouse optimisation, as well as wider supply chain integration and benefits.
If your project will introduce technology such as mobile scanning, voice and RFID, then why not benefit from a single turn-key provider that can advise on and supply these technologies based on best practices developed for SAP EWM. Of course, SAP EWM requires specialised support, tailored for your operational service levels and often fast response times, something that generalist SAP implementers are typically not geared up to provide.
Full Partner Life Cycle
Migrating from WM to EWM, or moving to SAP EWM, offers multiple opportunities to extrapolate value through improved operational processes. Furthermore, working with a partner early on to produce an evaluation that clearly defines strategic requirements against platform capabilities in the business case will help drive operational efficiencies and increase incremental ROI.
Structuring a business case for a new warehouse management system is difficult, but a partner with a strong operational understanding will help to support alignment and engagement between IT, supply chain and finance leaders in this critical step.
Hopefully by now there’s no doubt that SAP EWM requires a specialist partner, but specialisation shouldn’t come at the cost of the wider supply chain perspective and service capability required to deliver a turn-key solution for your business. Getting the most from your supply chain and SAP Extended Warehouse Management platform takes a unique understanding of the extensive nature of modern supply chains and the diversity of technologies that support them.
With Rocket, you get a SAP EWM recommended partner that’s handled a variety of complex supply chain visibility challenges, delivering greater operational visibility and control at every point. Many of our clients are looking for help to embrace the digital economy and opportunities of the new hyper-connected world. With our teams dedicated to emerging technologies such as mobile, IoT and social – as well as our Rocket Labs – we can help you bring previously unavailable real-time data sources into your organisation, driving process and providing new insights across your supply chain, assets and customers.