WMS requirements: tips and RFP template

It’s essential to write a set of WMS requirements before investing in a warehouse management software. The requirements document you will use as part of your Request for Proposal (RFP) details your goals and expectations, describes your logistics processes, specifies the other software the WMS will need to interface with (such as your ERP system and TMS) and, ultimately, allows you to gather proposals from potential vendors. In this article, we provide a list of the key things you should include in your WMS RFP in order to lay the foundations for successful collaboration with the winning bidder.


What is a WMS RFP?

A warehouse management system RFP (WMS RFP) is a detailed document produced by a company looking to invest in a WMS or change its existing warehouse management software. The document sets out the company’s objectives, target logistics processes, functional requirements, technical and time constraints, and more. It serves as the basis for communication and negotiation between the company and potential software vendors during a tender process.


Why is an RFP essential in a WMS project?

The RFP serves as a framework that guides the entire WMS selection process, allowing the company to:

  • Ensure that its requirements are addressed
  • Gain a clearer understanding of different WMS software
  • Minimize the risk of misunderstanding or misinterpretation in its dealings with potential vendors
  • Objectively assess bids from potential vendors
  • More easily select the application that best meets its specific requirements
  • Lay the foundations for successful, long-term collaboration

What should a WMS RFP template contain?

1. Purpose and framework of the tender

The introduction to the RFP should detail the purpose and framework of the tender, starting with the reasons why your company is looking to deploy a WMS or change its existing system, and whether the project is part of a broader supply-chain improvement program.

The document should also indicate:

  • The background to the tender process, such as new challenges in your sector or industry, the specific issues facing your company, or the opportunities your organization wants to grasp
  • The general objectives you are pursuing by investing in a WMS or changing your existing system
  • The scope of the tender: number of warehouses and countries, business operations covered
  • The provisional timetable, with key dates in the tender and selection process, and the planned period and timings for roll-out of the WMS
  • A list of appendices such as the audit report and recommendations produced by a supply-chain consulting firm, plans and drawings of your warehouse(s), and the technical specifications of the other systems the WMS will need to interface with
  • Contact details of the people potential vendors can reach out to for clarification if necessary


2. Overview of your company and logistics site(s)

The WMS RFP will naturally include a description of your company’s business operations, and its sales and distribution channels, as well as information about the organization’s specific logistics processes and requirements:

  • Location and size of the warehouse(s) or store(s) where the WMS will be deployed
  • Details of users (number and profile)
  • Types of upstream and downstream flows with your suppliers and customers (BtoB, BtoC, etc.)
  • Types of products stored at your site(s)
  • Volume information (number of order lines, number of items, etc.)
  • Seasonal and other flow variations
  • Detailed description of the target logistics organization, in the short and medium terms


3. Your objectives

In the document, you’ll need to specify the objectives of your WMS project, such as:

  • Boosting productivity and operational efficiency
  • Reducing stock or order-picking errors
  • Improving particular processes
  • Automating or mechanizing particular processes
  • Controlling logistics and transportation costs
  • Etc.


4. Working environment, equipment, and ergonomics

In your WMS RFP, it’s essential to give a detailed overview of your IT hardware and existing equipment (conveyors, picking robots, automated packing systems, stacker cranes, etc.), as well as the software that the WMS will need to interface with (such as your ERP system, TMS, OMS, and e-commerce platform).

It’s also important to set out any ergonomics constraints for the warehouse management system.


5. Current problems  

In this section of the RFP, you should give potential vendors a clear picture of the problems you’re currently facing and what improvements are needed, so they can propose appropriate solutions. In other words, you’ll need to describe:

  • The problems posed by your existing WMS or working methods, such as inaccurate stock information, order-picking delays, or returns management issues
  • Recurring incidents that affect productivity, profitability, customer satisfaction, etc.
  • Your expectations in those areas where you’re hoping to see gains and improvements


6. Detailed functional requirements

A WMS RFP should of course include a detailed description of your requirements and the WMS features you expect to see for each logistics flow:

  • Incoming goods, inspection, and stocking: receipt of incoming goods, quantity and product inspections, returns management, stocking or re-stocking, etc.
  • Stock management: management of locations, real-time stock monitoring, replenishment rules and alert thresholds, inventory management, etc.
  • Order picking: requirements in terms of manual or automated picking, packing or copacking, labeling, etc.
  • Shipping and transportation management: management of transportation cut-offs and labels, optimization of truck fill rates, etc.
  • Collaboration with your ecosystem of suppliers and carriers
  • Real-time dashboards and reporting: dashboards and monitoring indicators (real-time or historical KPIs), as well as the types of reports required
  • Specific features: management of batches, expiration dates, or hazardous goods, traceability of logistics operations and products, etc.


7. Technical specifications and integration constraints

The document should also detail the technical specifications of the WMS:

  • Existing IT infrastructure
  • On-premise or SaaS
  • Compatibility with other existing systems
  • Requirements in terms of encryption, authentication, and data backup, as well as update frequencies and arrangements
  • Expected availability and performance levels (SLA), as well as data security requirements


8. Vendor and/or integrator support

Your WMS RFP will also need to indicate the application deployment, change management, and staff training services you expect the vendor to provide, as well as your expectations in terms of technical support, and WMS maintenance and updates.


9. Critères de sélection du WMS

Last but not least, the RFP should indicate the criteria you’ll use as a priority to select the WMS. Also consider asking potential vendors for a copy of their product roadmap, which will give you an idea of the application’s scalability. You can also request references from other customers with similar requirements and challenges to yours (or even ask for a tour of a logistics site).


Who should draft the WMS RFP? 

All in-house staff and departments involved in deploying the WMS should contribute to the drafting of the RFP. This includes:

  • The logistics or supply chain department, which has a big-picture understanding of the company’s objectives and how its warehouses fit into the overall supply chain
  • Key users, who have a practical understanding of day-to-day operations and the challenges they face
  • The IT department, which will need to establish the technical specifications the WMS will need to meet, and ensure that it is compatible with other systems
  • Senior management, which will need to approve the project’s strategic objectives and sign off the final decision.

If your company has complex logistics operations, intends to deploy the WMS across multiple sites or countries, operates an automated warehouse, or has other, specific requirements, it might be a good idea to bring in an external consulting firm specializing in logistics information systems. Their experts can suggest ways to improve your logistics organization and processes, help you formalize your requirements, and even assist with selecting a WMS.


When should the RFP be drafted?

Before drafting your RFP, it’s important to analyze your strategic, logistics, and IT requirements—both current and future—and establish your medium-and long-term objectives. As with any IT project, you can only start drafting your RFP once you have a clear picture of your general objectives, and once these have been approved by senior management.

In any event, the RFP should be drafted before you open talks with potential suppliers, since they’ll use the document to put together their proposal, ensuring you receive context-appropriate bids that you can compare against the same set of criteria.


WMS requirements: key mistakes to avoid 

Before we end this article, here’s a list of the key mistakes you should avoid:

  • Being imprecise about your requirements and the expected features of the WMS, which can cause deployment delays or even lead you to opt for the wrong solution.
  • Neglecting to involve end users, which could result in your RFP failing to reflect their real needs.
  • Overlooking your future requirements: it’s essential to check whether the WMS is scalable and capable of adapting to your future needs
  • Underestimating how much change-management support and training you’ll need, which could cause delays in the adoption and uptake of the new application
  • Neglecting the technical aspects and potential problems related to integration with other systems
  • Failing to properly define and weight your WMS selection criteria
  • Failing to plan a real-life testing and validation phase before the system goes live, as well as a subsequent period during which the vendor will fix any issues identified during this phase