Inventory control at the warehouse level is simple, right? Follow WMS processes, set some minimum SKU levels, be diligent about scan verifications to track consumption, and you’ve nailed it. While that worked 20 years ago, in today’s more complicated world with automated storage and fulfillment systems that hold inventory, you may need WES capabilities.
by Roberto Michel
Today, fulfillment centers might have multiple zones of automation with subsystems like automated storage and retrieval (AS/RS) solutions or robotic goods-to-person (GTP) systems that may have software that manages some aspects of inventory, along with storage and bin location functions.
Getting these subsystems to interoperate smoothly with WMS when it comes to real-time inventory allocation as part of order release, as well as timely replenishment of SKUs needing by multiple picking systems, is changing the functional needs in the WMS market. Metering the flow of goods around order release is also part of the value proposition for warehouse execution system (WES) software, a category of software that sits between the automation and WMS, and is offered by a mix of vendors, including some WMS providers.
“In today’s distribution, it’s all about product flow,” says Dan Gilmore, chief marketing officer with Softeon, a WMS and WES software provider. “And certainly, there is a segment of the market where DCs are growing larger and more complex. In these environments, that means there’s more and more processes and systems that need to be synchronized. And, if you can’t do that well, you wind up with bottlenecks.”
The core inventory management features in WMS remain relevant, however. WMS solutions still use bar code data capture to verify inventory consumption or moves, and functions like cycle counting and tracking minimum SKU levels as part of managing replenishment of forward pick locations, remain WMS table stakes. But when it comes to metering the flow of inventory to automation as part of a nimbler approach to order release, things are changing.
Source: Robotics 24/7