WMS vs. WCS or… WOS®

For the past decade there is some confusion when to apply a WMS (warehouse management system) software solution, versus a WCS (warehouse control system) which directs real-time data management and interface responsibilities of the material handling system, as well as provides common user interface screens for monitoring, control, and diagnostics.

There is a place for both WMS and WCS. Often a WCS executes instructions provided by an upper-level host system, such as an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system or a WMS system. Tier-one WCS software provides advanced management capabilities including inventory control, resource scheduling, and order management. The best-of-breed WCS systems are modular in nature, easily configurable, and platform independent, with a scalable architecture to satisfy the needs of any size warehouse.

The focal point for managing the operational aspects of the material handling system, WCS provides the critical link between the batch-time data host and the real-time programmable logic controller (PLC) material-handling system. The PLC coordinates the various real-time control devices to accomplish the daily workload. At each decision point in the distribution process, the WCS “determines” the most efficient routing of the product and transmits directives to the equipment controllers to achieve the desired result. The decision-making process is often controlled by two separate utilities, the sort manager and the route director.

Several Direct Selling Association (DSA) companies distribute products utilizing minimal technology in a “pick and pass” operation. This means that every tote might be manually processed through the system and pass through every pick zone. Two pick lanes might be operated which often employs a roller conveyor passing through the pick lane and pick-to-light picking technology. Pick-to-light is utilized in high speed/high volume environments. Light bars are situated at every pick location; they inform the warehouse personnel as to the carton identifier as well as the items to be picked, and the quantity. Interfacing with the WMS may cause concern for these high moving items, due to the fact that the orders are downloaded directly to the pick-to-light system and no management statistics such as order progress and pick rates are provided.

Often the conversation of WCS versus WMS arises when other inefficiencies are located in the packaging operation, such as orders picked into a tote, not into shipping cartons. This presents a challenge because when the tote is sent to the packing area, the packing operator must select the correct box for the contents, pack it, seal it, and forward it to shipping. Most companies require a system that allows for multiple carriers, where the server passes information only once per day.

Companies experiencing exponential growth are re-engineering distribution operations. Companies are implementing a third fully automated picking line which enables the output to double. A warehouse control system communicates in real-time with the host WMS as well as the material handling hardware. It manages the entire conveyor routing process and the operational aspect of the picking and shipping (order fulfillment) functions within the distribution center. Integrated Order Management System modules ensure that each carton is not overpacked based on product dimensions and weight. When the orders are downloaded to the WCS, the volume and weight of the items are calculated, with a “dunnage” factor for packing materials, and suggests the proper size carton for the order. Also, if it is determined that the order is comprised of more than one carton, the system allocates SKU’s to minimize the route. Cartons must travel and avoid multiple cartons being diverted into the same pick zones.

Enter WOS®; Picking to an iPad with Apps

WarehouseOS® (WOS®), has proven that picking to an iPad is faster; tests show up to 100 percent faster. The highly visual screen, with product pictures, colors and touch screen technology allow operators to quickly move through processes to get the job done faster and accurate. One ecommerce firm shared that before WOS, 265 products were picked per hour with 151 lines per hour. Using WOS, 562 products were picked per hour with 324 lines per hour.

WOS is an innovative and modern technology platform delivering an app driven warehouse operating system that can be deployed globally with either a Cloud-based SaaS model or resident LAN server.

Warehouse management systems have been around for a long time with too many companies still using the RF gun to conduct inventory management, scan in new items, and pick orders. The RF gun solutions typically cost double what modern solutions offer. WarehouseOS and associated apps have been developed to make everything about the warehouse easier and better. Apps allow small or large companies to receive products, manage inventory, perform cycle counting, conduct single picks or do batch picking, verify items picked, and pack them into boxes.

A team of experts in material handling equipment and solutions developed WOS to maximize the throughput of warehousing and distributing facilities. From small ecommerce operations, to high volume SKU facilities, from omni-channel companies to FMCG (fast moving consumer goods), WOS is equipped to handle everything at a fraction of the cost of WMS or WCS solutions.