WCS:

The WCS is the lowest level of machine control that handles the communications between the different equipment in the system and the PLC. WCS is all about communication, speed, and execution; getting things done on the floor. The WCS does not execute extensive “intelligent” algorithms since most of its work is assigned by the WMS that sends that work over to the WCS.

The primary responsibilities of a WCS are to provide a bridge between the WMS and automation hardware such as conveyors, sorters, inline print and apply, inline scales, scanners, Pick To Light, Pick To Voice, Automated Storage and Retrieval (AS/RS), and other goods-to-person technologies.

WES:

The WES sits in between the WMS and WCS and generally performs some functions of both a WMS and WCS. It’s a hybrid of the two, and the need for WES is increasing as systems become more integrated and complicated. You generally use a WES when a system becomes more complex, and the WMS needs to hand off some of the load.

It is possible to implement a WES to replace a WMS and talk directly to the ERP. This is generally done with a simpler automated system when the company has a sophisticated ERP system such as SAP or Oracle.

WMS:

Warehouse Management System (WMS) is software and processes that facilitate companies to control and manage warehouse operations from receipt of goods or materials entering the warehouse until they ship.

The WMS can provide visibility into a Company’s inventory at any time, whether they are in static locations or work in process (WIP) items. It can also manage shipping from the warehouse to a retailer or distribution center.

Types of warehouse management systems:

Warehouse management systems come in different varieties and are typically selected depending on the size and nature of the company. They can be an individual system or modules integrated into a larger enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.
Smaller organizations generally use a simple series of paper copy documents or spreadsheets with larger organizations using more integrated and complex WMS software. Programmers design WMS setups for the size of the organization, and many companies offer versions of WMS products that scale to different organizational sizes. Some organizations build their own WMS from scratch, but it’s common to implement a WMS from a vendor who specializes in WMS.

A WMS can be designed for the organization’s specific requirements and needs.  An e-com vendor might utilize a WMS that has different functions and requirements than a typical retailer. Designers may configure a WMS specifically for the types of goods the organization sells; electronics retailer would have different needs than an apparel supplier.

Warehouse management system benefits:

WMS can be complex and expensive to implement and run, but it provides many benefits that justify the complexity and costs associated with it’s implementation.
A WMS will help an organization reduce labor costs, improve inventory accuracy, flexibility, and responsiveness, decrease errors in picking/shipping of goods, and improve customer service which positively improves the bottom line. Warehouse management systems operate using real-time data, allowing the organization to utilize the most current information for activities like orders, shipments, receipts and any movement of goods.

Many features common to WMS:

  • Warehouse design which enables organizations to customize workflow and picking logic. Bin slotting maximizes storage space and can account for variances in seasonal inventory
  • Inventory tracking allows the use of advanced tracking systems with RFID and barcode scanners making sure that the system can easily track goods and direct the goods when they need to move.
  • Receiving and storage allows inventory put-away and retrieval, often with pick-to-light or pick-to-voice technology allowing workers to locate goods
  • Picking and packing goods, including zone picking, wave picking, and batch picking
  • Shipping enables the WMS to send bills-of-lading before shipment, generate packing lists and invoices for the shipment and send advance shipment notifications to recipients
  • Labor management helps warehouse managers monitor workers’ performance by using key performance indicators (KPIs) that indicate workers who perform above or below standards
  • Truck management which assists truck drivers in finding the right loading docks with more complex implementations allowing cross-docking
  • Reporting helps managers analyze the performance of warehouse operations, find areas to improve overall operation and  develop custom reports.

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