Warehouse software is not a one-size-fits-all solution. The most effective suites allow you to combine the WMS and WCS functionalities that fit your business needs.
In 2009, in an attempt to appeal to a younger audience, Pizza Hut began to market itself as “The Hut.” Now, Pizza Hut themselves would admit that nothing about the company, their pizza, their restaurants or policies had changed. This was simply a way to get into the conversation of the “texting generation.” Consumers saw right through the marketing campaign, and “The Hut” became more of a punch line than an attention grabber.
In a similar fashion, condiment companies are mixing ketchup and mayonnaise together and labeling it “Fry Sauce.” Now sure, it does taste delicious with fries, but is it really anything new? This rebranding or renaming practice is performed in every type business, and it is currently taking place in the material handling industry.
Distribution centers, order-fulfillment centers, and warehouses have traditionally implemented some combination of three different types of software systems: Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP); Warehouse Management Systems (WMS); and Warehouse Control Systems (WCS) to manage the facility.
From a high-level view, lines of responsibility typically fall as follows:
- ERP: Sales; Procurement; Production; Distribution; Accounting; Human Resource; Customer Services; etc.
- WMS: Transportation; Inbound Processing; Inventory Storage & Management; Order Management & Fulfillment; Shipping; etc.
- WCS: Automation Control; Order Routing; Quality Control; Statistics Tracking and Monitoring; etc.
Warehouse Management Systems and Warehouse Control Systems have overlapping components that can be combined to create a customized solution. This practice is also the premise of today’s Warehouse Execution Systems.
As can be seen, there is certainly some cross-over from one system to another, and depending on a company’s fulfillment needs, visibility needs, existing systems, existing hardware, business practices and many other factors, one or more of these software systems may be needed.
The new term being used by material handling software providers, integrators, and pretty much anyone associated with the warehousing industry is Warehouse Execution System (WES). According to a March article in DC Velocity, Warehouse Execution Systems “can replace both the WMS and WCS…” by “…maintaining warehouse inventory records and driving the mechanization.” It certainly seems like a very tasty fry sauce!
What’s important to remember when exploring options for a Warehouse Execution System is that the functionality is the same functionality that has always been offered! The key to finding the best system for your facility is not a flashy new name that offers a combination or “best of both worlds” mix of solutions, but rather a modularized solution that allows you to define the functionality required.
Warehouse Management Systems and Warehouse Controls Systems are not a one-size-fits-all product. WMS and WCS providers should work with users to determine what aspects of the systems are needed for each situation. A Warehouse Control System that controls inventory within a facility is a wonderful concept that a lot of businesses use today. A Warehouse Management System that helps control automation can certainly be called a “Warehouse Execution System,” but really it is a customized integration that was uniquely designed to fit a particular user’s needs.
When determining what type of software system is needed for your business, a focus on your individual needs will produce a much more efficient, cost-effective solution than you would otherwise receive by selecting an off the shelf product. After all, there’s a reason why you walk down the condiment aisle at the local grocery store and don’t see a lot of fry sauce options.