WMS Systems Integration Projects
WMS systems integration projects can be where a WMS Implementation experiences delays. As there is at least one integration with every WMS Implementation, it’s important to plan carefully and make sure you’ve got team members with integration experience. Here are the final four key areas to identify and consider:
- Remaining necessary data elements
- The best communication method(s)
- Reconciliation and Handshake transactions
- Temporary storage of sent/receive transaction information
- Identify the remaining necessary data elements to maintain the highest performance capabilities and reduce confusion. Not all data needs to be passed or stored and often integrations can be made simpler, more robust, and take up less bandwidth if certain unnecessary elements are not passed or at least ignored. We often see transactions that come into the WMS with a lot of data that may be important to the ERP but may never be used in the WMS. Of course, there’s a caveat to this step – sometimes you may need some of this “extra” information for future enhancements. Storing extra data in the WMS can cause customizations (i.e., new data fields or tables) or confusion (stuffing the data into a field that means something else); essential to navigating this successfully is observation and maintaining a balance between storing what you might need but still identifying and eliminating what you think you won’t need.
- Identify the best communication method(s) for your integration network. Selecting the wrong communication method can make or break integration. Look at each communication method individually to make sure you are considering the best way to transmit data. We have implemented systems using Flat File, XML File, HTTP Post, socket to socket, database table to table, and others with numerous different data layouts and specialized protocols. Successfully implementing an Integration Network may require the usage of more than one communication method.
- Consider using Reconciliation Transactions and Handshake (ACK/NACK) transactions. Reconciliation transactions are very smart to have between your WMS and ERP to keep data in sync and to catch failed or missed transactions. Click here to read about why Reconciliations are important in WMS Systems Integration projects. Reconciliation transactions are critical if you don’t have a built-in “handshake” where each transaction is acknowledged by the receiving system to the sending system (something highly recommended for critical transactions). In our experience, the companies who invest a little more upfront with handshake transactions always spend less on interface support in the long run. So while it may increase implementation costs, we believe handshake transactions reduce the total cost of ownership, frustration and avoid upset customers.
- Consider temporary storage of sent/received transaction information. The benefits of temporarily storing this information are to provide diagnostic information for investigating issues and for recovering “lost” information. The first step of any integration investigation is always checking whatever transaction logs are available. When you have a good transaction log, this may be the only step needed. Being able to resend (or re-receive) a transaction can save a tremendous amount of effort and is required more often than many people expect.