Performance Testing-Peak Season

5 Reasons You Need Automated Performance Testing (and Not Just for Peak Season!)

Share with your network...

Imagine a warehouse operator waiting several minutes for his company’s warehouse management system (WMS) to confirm accurate picking for an order. Now multiply that loss of time by every single order the operator is tasked with filling for the day, the week, the year. Efficiency is an essential component to the operations and profitability of any effectively run warehouse. Warehouse efficiency is dependent on accuracy, which must be monitored and verified on an ongoing basis. Enter: Performance testing.

Performance testing is an integral and non-negotiable part of rolling out enterprise WMSs. 

Oftentimes, enterprise applications receive and generate high volumes of operational and transactional data which, if not properly vetted, can lead to operational bottlenecks. Performance testing helps shake out issues often found in enterprise system architecture related to databases, application servers, and networking. 

Most importantly, performance testing is the only way to ensure a positive end-user experience and prove that the new system is robust, reliable, and sized appropriately to meet service level and response time expectations. Ultimately, performance testing is about ensuring productivity — a lynchpin of any enterprise warehouse.

Some subscribe to an outdated notion that performance testing is reserved for a company’s peak season, when logistics activity hits its apex for the year. 

Typically during peak season, the systems receive and generate a much larger volume of data, as well as, more concurrent users. Think about a warehouse adding more personnel to combat seasonal surges during the holidays. 

There must be appropriate validations to ensure that the system can handle the increased volume and concurrency. 

The logistics industry has come a long way from the days of bringing in 100 temporary workers who do their best to simulate peak volume over a single weekend each year. Today, automated performance testing suites allow organizations to test, improve, and retest their systems regularly with minimal cost and overhead.

But performance testing shouldn’t be limited to seasonal changes; its benefits are plentiful, even year round.

READ MORE  7 Ways to Reduce Deployment Risk During WMS Implementation

5 Benefits of Performance Testing after Going Live, in Peak Season, and Beyond

Here are some of the benefits of performance testing after going live. 

1. Run Simulations to Test Changing Conditions 

In the past, organizations might test their system only upon Go Live or in the run-up to peak season. Historically, performance testing took place long before a company’s busy season to ensure that a system could handle the increased load before a company hired and trained hundreds of additional operators. Testing was a costly manual exercise, which meant that companies could only assess warehouse needs periodically. 

Today, test automation suites enable organizations to performance test their systems on a regular basis (no temps required!). The benefits of frequent performance testing extend beyond just making sure that the WMS can accommodate increased volume. As supply chain technology grows increasingly complex, regular testing enables companies to identify and eliminate potential problems throughout their entire system. 

2. Test the Entire System, Not Just Its Parts

Today’s increasingly automated warehouses are made up of digitally enabled equipment: automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS), automated guided vehicles (AGVs), autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), conveyors, and more. The WMS must communicate seamlessly and in real time with each component of the system. 

Each connection between the WMS and an external component represents an opportunity for failure. For example, while unit testing can identify issues within a component, only performance testing flags errors that might result from software updates to a single component. 

Relying on unit testing to gauge the overall health of a complex system is like using a pulse oximeter on a runner who sprains their ankle: their heart might beat just fine, but they still can’t complete the race. 

digitally enabled conveyor

3. Test Real-World Conditions

In an ideal scenario, an organization performance tests its system right after Go Live. Nothing changes between testing and peak season, and nothing looks different than it did in the simulation, so nothing goes wrong as activity ramps up. 

READ MORE  Go Lives Are No Replacement for Proper Regression Testing

But in the real world, systems change. Bits of code in each component within the warehouse are rewritten and new functionality is introduced. Real data also tends to cause problems: for example, as data on orders and inventory accumulates, a system that was tested with no data may slow down unexpectedly. 

Only testing a system before it’s used is like testing a bridge before the first person ever crosses and not retesting until after thousands of people have already crossed. By retesting the system periodically, an organization can get ahead of issues that weren’t considered — or even relevant — when setting up the initial test. 

Multi-tenancy is another increasingly common source of problems that only arises under real-world conditions. WMS providers typically host multiple client systems within the same environment. Testing just one of those systems in isolation misses performance issues that might arise when all of them are running at peak capacity at the same time. 

4. Identify Bottlenecks and Problem Areas

Performance testing reveals potential bottlenecks that unit testing can’t detect. For example, an organization may discover that while they have enough packing stations to accommodate volume, they need more staging lanes if they want to keep product flowing through the warehouse. Unit testing would only see that a product could flow smoothly from packing to staging, missing the bottleneck that results when thousands of products are moving simultaneously. 

Companies can also afford to performance test every site within their system. In the past, companies might skip testing smaller sites due to the cost and effort of manual testing. 

One Cycle customer was able to test a small, remote site that they would have bypassed if they didn’t have test automation. They discovered that because of the site’s distance from the server, it took 3-4 minutes for each print job to run — and they needed to run thousands of print jobs each day. They were able to fix the issue before it caused a backup. 

READ MORE  Tips for Writing Good Automated Tests

staging lanes

5. Update Technology without Breaking the System

Vendors regularly release software updates, bug fixes, and security patches to make technology safe and effective. But even small changes within one component of the warehouse can cause big issues for the WMS. 

Companies may upgrade their infrastructure around enterprise systems by installing newer versions of databases, operating systems, application servers, or updating physical and virtual resources. All of these changes can impact the functionality and performance of warehouse systems. 

With test automation, every time a company makes a change in its infrastructure, rapid retesting ensures that performance remains within the acceptable range. Companies can also retest their system after implementing a fix to confirm that the issue is properly resolved. 

Here’s a real world example of how performance testing can mitigate potential issues before they snowball:

A Cycle customer changed its communication protocol to a new managed file transfer protocol, which is known to transmit files more slowly. This change had the potential to break every integration between each component of the warehouse and the WMS. But by performance testing the system, the company was able to fix the issues that arose before it affected the warehouse. 

Stay Efficient in Peak Season — and Every Season

Performance testing is important for peak season, but the benefits of testing extend far beyond the busiest time of the year. With test automation, organizations can run efficient, up-to-date warehouses with minimal downtime and make changes to the system with confidence. 

Are you interested in learning more about implementing test automation in your warehouse system implementation? Read our customer success stories, check out additional blog posts, or learn more about the Cycle platform.

Share with your network...