Should You Use Consultants For Your Warehouse Project?

Companies starting warehousing & distribution sites have an important decision to make. It’s about resourcing. Who will implement the site?

Despite drawbacks, there’s a strong case for engaging external consultants to help your distribution and warehousing projects succeed. Here’s why:

Pallets are loaded for shipment in a warehouse
Getting that first order out the door right!

Startup Resource Planning

Many factors go into planning startup team resourcing.

First is the total resource plan required for starting a site, or implementing automation. This includes a minimum of

  • an Operations lead,
  • project manager,
  • industrial engineer,
  • facilities lead (engineer / project manager) and
  • IT business analyst.

Larger or smaller projects will require more resources or different titles, but these are core roles to fill in each of them (plus shared supporting functions like Safety, Finance, Purchasing, and others)

Companies that regularly start sites may have groups that they can draw resources from. Operations may have an Assistant GM, for example, who can split his attention.

But operating companies that start sites only periodically may not have those resources available.

Using Company Resources

What then happens is this: The company pulls resources from existing sites to work on the startup and then returns them to their homes when the project is complete.

This presents several issues:

  • Total workload: Are the team members overloaded with their ‘old’ jobs and the ad-hoc work of starting a site? Who’s doing their jobs while they’re gone or occupied?
  • Continuity to the new site. New sites may become dependent on the “startup teams” to operate, and transitioning them out can be like ripping off the band-aid… or tourniquet.
  • Expertise: The new project team members may not have the expertise to do what they’re being asked to do for the implementation at the level that’s needed for success. Whether your PM experienced at scheduling or has worked through software projects can make a difference between an on-time project and surprise delays.

All of these things raise execution risk for the project in planning, design, and delivery. Missed requirements or planning can end up costing companies an awful lot of money.

Internal resources are cheaper and faster than bringing on external consultants, but there are definite risks to manage.

The Cost of Mistakes

A botched implementation can be expensive. A project go-live date is a promise to the business. So think about these things over a 3-month delay: (in no order)

  1. Lease payments
  2. Wages for employees
  3. Employee turnover
  4. Continued displacement of company startup resources
  5. Lost sales for the company
  6. Supply chain effects on the company
  7. Overflow space that hadn’t been planned earlier
  8. Licensing costs
  9. Impacts on customer relationships
  10. Costs of reworking a solution
  11. and on and on!

The amount of risk in a bad implementation can really damage a company. With all these possible costs, a good alternative is to bring in a qualified external resource for key roles. This includes project managers, business analysts, engineers, and others.

Using External Consultants

Expert consulting allows you to bring in the right expertise at the right time to reduce your implementation risk.

Further, these external resources can train and transfer knowledge to the company for future projects. This includes subjects like getting projects started, conducting planning, being confident in your design, controlling the projects from start to finish, and so on.

So the benefits are clear: the risks of implementation go waaaaay down with the right partner.

The downsides of bringing on consultants include:

  • Onboarding: External resources need to be informed about what they’re doing to be effective. This takes time and effort.
  • Access: External resources need to know who to go to for what, and have access to those resources, to be effective.
  • Alignment: A key risk of external resources is that they’re not aligned to the organization. Put simply, that they don’t do a good job.
  • Cost: The project cost of external resources is typically higher than internal resources. Sometimes, by a lot, if you consider the project time against salaried time. But viewing the cost in isolation is a mistake. It should be viewed as part of the total successful project package and insurance against failure.

These reasons lead to a lot of hesitancy in bringing on external resourcing, especially if the company is already geared to executing projects or on an inflexible budget.


Expert external consultants can mitigate the likelihood or magnitude of expensive startup events. This is a huge benefit. But they’re not for every company. Companies with regular implementation teams and established process probably don’t need external resources unless they’re working on something new.

If you don’t have the right resources already in your company, you can mitigate onboarding, alignment, and access risks with early engagement of the right partner.

And the cost can start to look like a bargain when you consider the impacts of startup “mistakes” on cash flow and customer relationships.

To learn more reduce warehouse/DC/FC project implementation risk, reach out to PL Programs through the contact form here. We look forward to hearing from you!

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