The time has come — your enterprise is in dire need of a new warehouse management system. Maybe you are just beginning your journey into the world of WMS, or perhaps your enterprise has grown to the point where your old software solutions no longer work. In any case, a pivotal step in the process is to create a strong warehouse management system RFP.
Either way, this should come as no surprise as a recent study has shown that the number of US warehouses has increased by 6.8 percent in the last five years. It’s not very shocking to see warehousing expand as supply chains continue to grow in response to increasing markets.
Now your quest begins, you must hunt down the perfect WMS for your enterprise. Unsure of where to start? Don’t worry adventurer, our RFP template and guide will help keep you on the path to victory.
What is a Warehouse RFP?
I know you’re excited to get out there and track down a legendary WMS, but some preparations need to be made before we begin. In order to better understand an RFP, we need to think about its comrades in arms — the RFI and RFQ.
Each of these represents a gathering of information at different levels of the search for a software solution. These three processes begin in a broad sense with the RFI and move down through the funnel through an RFP and finally an RFQ.
Request for Information
The request for information is your scouting party. This is when you survey the vast hordes of WMS that are available and make some general observations.
At this point, you aren’t ready to focus in on a specific vendor or product. This is where you would begin your search if you are new to warehouse management or are still lacking in the experience department. Outside of spending some time searching on your own, sending an RFI should be your first step.
This can be a valuable portion of your quest for a WMS solution. While you gather the information, you get a bird’s eye view of a wide assortment of vendors and how their products cater to different operations. An RFI is useful when you know you need a new system but aren’t sure where to begin looking for a solution.
Request for Proposal
Deeper into the funnel we have the RFP, our main topic of discussion. If an RFI is a broad expedition unto unknown territory, an RFP takes the knowledge from that and narrows the focus. Now you begin separating the wheat from the chaff and formulating a vendor shortlist.
We will take a more in-depth look at this further in.
Request for Quote
The final and most narrow of the requests, the RFQ would only be sent to the few vendors that make it through all portions of the funnel. It is at this point that you should begin inquiring about pricing (hence the quote), how integration works and how the deployment of the solution works.
This is when you require the most specific information about your target.
How to Create Your Warehouse Management RFP
Finally, time to set out on our quest to complete a strong RFP.
At a basic level, your RFP should inform those reviewing it of your software needs as well as work to persuade upper management to begin implementing a solution to meet those needs.
Follow these next steps to conjure up a strong WMS RFP.
Defining Your WMS Requirements
This is a critical step in crafting your RFP and is the foundation of what vendors are going to receive.
Deciding on your must-have list of requirements can be tricky. Now is a good time to seek input from stakeholders and those that will be using this new software. Make sure you cover all of your bases and don’t leave out functionality you’ll regret skipping.
Look for gaps in your armor and other places you know need work. If you already have a warehouse management system in place, now is the time to do away with irritating or dated functionalities.
For a WMS-specific RFP, you’ll want to consider some common features like inventory management, billing automation, labor management and outbound operations. While these may not be pain points for your operation, they are usually found in most software suites.
Discuss critical needs before moving on to wants. Do not skimp on this step, make sure every department gets their say and that their needs are in consideration. No one wants to finish selecting and implementing a brand new warehouse management software suite only to realize an entire department is missing critical functions.
If you need more guidance on what to include on your requirements list, see our requirements checklist for more helpful information.
Building your WMS RFP
Now that you’ve built a list of requirements, it’s time to incorporate them into your WMS RFP. The addition of these requirements will allow vendors to show how their product meets your warehouse management needs.
At this point, you should focus on sharpening up your RFP. If you want vendors to take you seriously, organize your thoughts and maintain a professional looking document. Help vendors get you the information that you need — a messy RFP can be confusing to respond to.
Following up on this idea, provide vendors with as many details about your operation as you can. Vendors should understand how your warehousing operations work from multiple angles. This way they can effectively respond to your requirements and provide information on how their product solves your issues. Talk about the services you offer to clients, your budget and any important technical specifications.
If you don’t have a team or with the know-how to supply this data, it is a good idea to find someone who can or outsource this step of the journey.
Identify Your Vendor Shortlist and Submit Your WMS RFP
Here is where the information that your RFI scouting party brought in comes into play. Your RFI should’ve taught you about the warehouse management market and uncovered at least five vendors you have some interest in contacting. If this isn’t the case, it may be time to send out the scouting party again and survey the battlefield until you have some more information.
Moving forward without enough information will only do more damage in the end. Restart your RFI process, regroup, and gather as much knowledge as you can. You’re looking for the perfect fit, not a system you are going to toss out after a week.
When this step is complete, you may want to run your RFP through a program that specializes in the RFP process. This type of software makes it easy for vendors to send you their proposals and for you and your team to handle communications with them. It can take some time before you hear back from your target vendors, but if your RFP is easy to read and well-organized you can rest easy knowing they’ll get back to you with valuable information as soon as they can.
Review Responses to Your Warehouse Management System RFP
Don’t worry if a few weeks pass and you still have not heard from your shortlist of vendors, that may actually be a good thing. The more complete your RFP submission, the more information they can send back in response.
If you sent your RFP off to some smaller vendors, don’t be discouraged if you don’t hear back at all. Communicating through proposals may not be easy for them. If their product interests you and your team you may just need to approach them via a different method.
In the meantime, other vendors on your shortlist will deliver responses to your RFP. This is another step to take slow, you’ve got your hands on some valuable information that will eventually guide you to your final WMS choice. Look over each document that gets sent your way, unless you have a team doing that for you of course.
Compare your options and see how each vendor tackles your needs. Some will even go the extra mile and pass on information about functionality they think you could benefit from. Keep an eye out for generic template responses, though. You want a personalized answer that fights for you as a client.
Finally, there’s one last step until you are ready to finish the fight and choose your top warehouse management solution.
The Follow Up
You’re just about ready to start focusing in on the perfect warehouse management system. By now, you probably have a few vendors you are no longer considering — they made it this far, now let them know (courteously of course) that they are out of the running.
For the rest, you can push on to the final stages of your struggle. Now it’s time for them to show you what they can do.
Schedule a demo. Let the creators of the software walk you through how it works in real time. Have them present a proof of concept and let them show you how their software can solve a specific problem you are facing. Gather some references on your final vendors. Make sure you are only judging references that come from enterprises similar to yours. If your warehousing operation is large, you probably won’t get much valuable information out of a reference from a small enterprise.
If possible, schedule a live demo that provides your team with access to the software. You can get a lot out of this type of exercise as different departments can try out the software as they would normally. Any hiccups will soon come to light, if not you may have a winner on your hands.
If you have any lingering questions, now is the time to get answers. Listen to your team’s opinions and value their input.
At this point, you can congratulate yourself. The only thing left to do after choosing your strongest option is to consider how the rollout is going to proceed. Luckily, there shouldn’t be any surprises as to how integration works after you spent so much time studying your options.
Consider a few final points regarding the rollout of your new warehouse management software. You may need to spend some time training your employees to interact with the new software, and ask your vendor if they provide any support for the integration process.
Final Wrap Up
There you have it, all the steps you need to consider when creating a winning WMS RFP. Your goal should be to narrow down the perfect system on the first go, so don’t be afraid to invest time into the effort.
If you are just beginning your warehouse RFP journey, our comparison report gives an informative look at some of the top competitors on the market and how they measure up to each other.
Those that are further along on the path to a perfect WMS integration can check out our pricing guide for details on cost structures.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face when creating your WMS RFP? Let us know below!