What You Should Expect From a Warehouse Control System

Written By: Eric Cameron

Making the move to automate warehouse processes and operations is no small decision. Not to mention that choosing the type of automation, and how much of it you plan to install, can significantly affect the success of the project. There are many factors to consider and plenty of details to iron out before moving forward with implementing a system that might include pick to light, mobile robotics and miles of conveyor. The benefits, however, often prove worth the effort of making the shift to an automated warehouse.

With that decision, you may have already discovered you will need a way to integrate and effectively control the technology you’ve added to your operation. That’s where a warehouse control system (WCS) comes in. For warehouse managers, controlling and monitoring material handling equipment on the floor is key to running an efficient operation.

The WCS was developed to be a single solution to fill the information gap that existed between a warehouse management system (WMS) or ERP and the material handling equipment. As companies turn to automation solutions to increase efficiency and reduce operating costs, the WCS has grown to become a crucial component in any automated warehouse environment.

Closer to the Action

Leading WCS solutions can integrate with a variety of automation technology, offering users the ability to customize their solutions – as there is no such thing as a one size fits all.  A WCS offers operation personnel real-time visibility to their system so they can evaluate performance and make changes to increase efficiency.

Although a WMS might offer holistic information on your distribution processes, it is often incapable of providing the details required to truly benefit from automation.  In short, the WCS is closer to the action on the floor and is therefore better able to retrieve and report data on the material handling system. Additionally, it makes sense from an efficiency perspective that the WCS would handle these functions rather than sending information back to a WMS.

More and more, the WCS is the go-to technology for handling and directing order fulfillment operations, acting as the control tower in an automated warehouse. Where it was initially a tool for more basic equipment control, the WCS has evolved into a solution that can handle more advanced order fulfillment functionality.  The most advanced WCS solutions are beginning to provide functionality typically found within a WMS.  Should this trend continue, direct integrations between an advanced WCS and a host ERP could become a very cost-effective solution for companies leveraging material handling and automation solutions within their supply chain.

The 5 Pillars of a WCS – What You Should Expect

In November, Bastian Solutions held a webinar showcasing the capabilities of a WCS, and the five pillars that any modern WCS should have. These pillars represent the essential components a WCS should have to provide the best value and benefits for your investment. Roll over a pillar for a quick glance at what it means, and then head on over to view the webinar for even more information.

  • Interface
    • Benefit from real time interface tools allowing communication with leading WMS and ERP packages.
  • Planning
    • Efficiently manage the flow of work with functions such as order wave planning and shipping box size selection.
  • Order Fulfillment
    • Gain efficiencies with order processing through the use of mobile computers, voice technology, and light-directed solutions.
  • Automation Control
    • Control and manage automation technology such as conveyance, sortation, and goods to person technologies.
  • Planning
    • Easily manage operations with monitoring and reporting tools, as well as alerts.

Eric joined Bastian Solutions after graduating from the University of Louisville. In 2005, he transitioned to the role of Sales Manager and in 2009, to VP of Sales. In this role, he directs sales activities as well as takes an active role in project execution and company finances. During his time at Bastian, Eric has been involved in the sales, design and implementation of more than 50 systems in a variety of industries.

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