Once I make up my mind, I’m full of indecision”-Oscar Levant
A user of WMS/WCS in any warehouse goes through the initial phase of indecision about the implementation of the system. Every warehouse automation solution is supported by the backbone Called, the software. The invisible but the predominant part in Jigsaw. But the fact that it is masked over by the complexity of the hardware, makes it even more elusive.
WMS (Warehouse Management System), WCS (Warehouse Control system) and WES (Warehouse Executive System) are all three distinct but at times overlapping in the functionality. Exploring the specific functionalities of each solution in-depth and pinpointing where the systems intersect will allow businesses to determine which functions best meet their needs, and in turn, which system or combination of systems will be best-fit.
Warehouse Management System
A WMS is a specifically designed business application that controls the flow of inventory into, within and out of a company’s distribution center (DC). The span of control is from the management of the flow of inventory, labor tasks and orders from receipt to shipping. It has come a long way from just providing information on a storage location. It is now build-up with an arsenal of functionality capable of catering to various applications.
There is a different type of WMS available in the market. Some of them are standalone and can be deployed on native hardware. While there are cloud-based WMS also, which provides better flexibility and security to the businesses.
Warehouse Control System
A WCS is a real-time, integrated control solution that manages the flow of items, cartons and pallets as it travels on many types of automated equipment, such as conveyors, sorters, ASRS, pick to light, carrousels, print and apply, merges and de-casing lines. The WCS provides a single point of control to efficiently direct and manage these automated solutions. Once inside the warehouse, the WCS checks on the velocity of the movement of goods and their location at any point of time.
Warehouse Execution system
WES can be termed as a hybrid of WCS and WMS, in terms of functionality. Commonly WES comprises nearly all functions of WCS and some functions of WMS. The idea with WES is to optimize based on what is happening with order priorities as well as synchronize all the different materials handling systems.
Tasks in the warehouses can be broadly classified in WMS, WCS or WES. Some of these tasks overlap with each other as depicted below.
What is right for you? The answer to this question is that “It depends the answer to this question is subjective but can be made objective by asking relevant questions. Understanding the way inventory moves throughout a facility is key in determining which solution is the best fit. 1. What is the level of automation in the facility?
2. What is the movement pattern of inventory inside the warehouse?
3. Is this a 3PL with multiple customers with a single sign-on requirement?
4. How many end-users are served by the facility?
5. How important is inventory management in your operation?
6. What is the pace of inventory movement in the warehouse?
When evaluating the best fit, it is essential to properly forecast future expansion requirements. As the solutions can be expensive to implement and maintain, the correct understanding and complete thought through requirements would help you in getting the most appropriate solution at the fair price.