In this week’s Logistics Insights podcast, we sort out the WMS, WCS and WES flavors of warehouse software.
The warehouse software market certainly isn’t short of solutions – or three-letter acronyms.
Since about 1975, we’ve had Warehouse Management Systems or W.M.S. A WMS manages the activity and inventory in a distribution center, including the core processes of receiving, putaway, cycle counting, order planning and release, replenishment, packing, truck planning and loading, and more.
What differentiates a WMS from an inventory management system is the use of mobile terminals and bar code scanning to capture and validate each transaction and deliver task assignments to distribution center associates.
A Warehouse Control System, or W.C.S., is software that manages execution on material handling systems. That includes moving and tracking cartons or totes across the full system, managing flow into and out of pick modules; induction and merge processes, sortation systems diverts; and more.
Softeon believes the WMS should contain all the logic and decision-making responsibility – the WCS should simply be the executor of those decisions. If logic goes into the WCS too, it often means a later change has to be made in both the WMS and WCS, instead of the WMS alone, adding to costs and complexity.
But for a variety of reasons, including in some cases the existing WMS lacking needed capabilities, some smarts find their way into the WCS. This is simply an area that companies need to stay involved with, and well understand what will be controlled by the WMS and what by the WCS – and why.
Which takes us to the newer Warehouse Execution System, or W.E.S. WES resulted from a small number of companies that argued Warehouse Management Systems did not do enough to optimize material handling system usage, leading to under-utilization and large peaks and valleys.
And they frankly had a point. While for many years Softeon’s WMS has provided this type of material handling system visibility and the ability to optimize the flow of work to those systems, many do not do this well.
Now broken out as a separate product, the Softeon WES is available with the Softeon WMS, or standalone and integrated with any WMS, whether that is from the ERP, a legacy system, or low functionality best of breed WMS.
What does WES do? In addition to the level loading of work on the automation described above, in Softeon’s case at least, the WES provides:
Granular real-time visibility to throughput and bottlenecks across the DC
Advanced labor planning and dynamic assignment of associates through use of simulation
Direct management and optimizations of a variety of picking subsystems, from pick-to-light to mobile robots to smart carts and more
And finally, automated release of work to the floor based on priority, inventory and resource availability, optimization opportunities; carrier cut off times and more.
A few closing thoughts:
First, the dynamic, automated release of work to the floor is delivering the promise of what Gartner calls the “autonomous warehouse.” Next, in Softeon’s case at least, the WES delivers value not only for heavily automated DCS, but for more manual facilities or those with mid-levels of automation as well. We will also note that there are lots of WES solutions out there, with widely different levels of capabilities. Make sure you do your homework. We realize that was a lot to digest. Feel free to contact us to learn more.