On an average workday, I receive five to 10 emails advertising a new technology.  Each of these “revolutionary advances” promises to:

  • Lower operating costs
  • Increase sales
  • Improve profitability

How do you decide which of these opportunities is a worthwhile investment?  It is obvious that the benefits you receive from a new technology must exceed the total cost of investment.  To ensure that your decisions are wise ones, consider the following:

Similar technology may have very different features and benefits – For example, not all warehouse management systems (WMS) or forecasting/replenishment software has the same capabilities.  Every organization, even those in the same industry, has a unique set of challenges and needs.  Before you look at new technology, perform a detailed review of your current operations.  Understand how a particular technical solution will address your unique situation.  Does it have the capabilities to satisfy your operational needs?

Do not rely on verbal promises made by a salesperson – Most sales contracts specifically state that all material and services to be delivered are included in the written and signed agreement.  The vendor has no obligation to fulfill any other promise or commitment.

Make sure that the solution provider demonstrates their product in your environment and WITH YOUR DATA.  It is not surprising that a vendor’s demonstration data provides impressive results.  But, will it produce as impressive results with your information?  Provide the vendor with a large sample of your data to load into their product; 750 to 1,000 inventory items would be a good number.  Then select 10 – 15 items and create a script having them show you how their system processes every type of material handling transaction processed by your organization.  Have your employees participate in demonstrations.  Are they comfortable using this new tool?

Visit a site utilizing the technology.  Don’t rely on phone calls or professionally produced referrals.  See the product being utilized in an environment similar to your organization.  Be sure to allow ample time just to observe operations during the site visit; preferably at a busy time of the day.  Ask questions, without a salesperson present, about the challenges faced during the implementation and afterward.

Consider the total cost of implementing the new technology.  Not only will this include hardware and software but also training, support and costs associated with the probable disruption of your normal operations.

Remember that all that glitters is not gold, but with coordinated thought and effort you can find those technological diamonds that will maximize your organization’s productivity and profitability.