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WMS WCS and WES what is the difference warehouse software

What's the Difference Between WMS, WES and WCS?

Mohammad Shaban | 24 March 2020

If you are part of a warehouse, distribution center (DC), or fulfillment center (FC) chances are you’ve heard of these acronyms getting thrown around, but what do they really mean? How do you know what piece of the puzzle is responsible for a specific process you’re targeting for improvement, or where do you start looking if you want to solve a problem with automation and/or software in the facility?

Consider the following a cheat sheet for your next project:

Warehouse Management System (WMS)

Inventory management and tracking is the name of the game. It’s the brains behind where things are in the DC down to the location in your racking and shelving and can keep track of things like serial numbers, lot numbers, etc.

  • Typically, the WMS can facilitate these processes with little to no automation; e.g. operators with carts or forklifts.
  • Responsible for:
    • Receiving
    • Returns
    • Quality Control
    • Put away
    • Order release
    • Waving
    • Picking
    • Cycle Counts
    • Value Added Services (VAS)
    • Pack
    • Staging
    • Shipping (Manifest, Trailer load)

Warehouse Execution System (WES)

Thinking about the newest goods-to-person technology, pick to voice, pick to light, or just getting rid of that slow paper-based picking method you have? WES is the answer.

  • WES is responsible for automation control, order fulfillment, and workflow balancing. Simply put, getting orders out the doors in the most efficient manner.
  • WES leans on its big brother WMS to keep certain functions in the warehouse off its back. Receiving, put away, and replenishments continue to run under the WMS umbrella.
  • WES manages automation / order release to balance labor year-round including big peaks and valleys (black Friday, cyber Monday, that big order jump towards the end of the month when everyone is restocking on their favorite items).
  • WES is focused on streamlining outbound operations across the warehouse to keep your clients/consumers happy where they are not waiting for the coveted “Good news – your order is on its way” email.
  • Provides business intelligence that helps keep you up to speed on orders are in the pipeline, where work is on the floor, productivity tracking with pacing screens across zones, and a whole suite of configurable metrics to better track operational performance.

WCS: Warehouse Control System

  • Responsible for Automation Control
    • Order routing on conveyor
    • Sortation
    • Print and apply
    • Scales
  • Completely reliant on its big brother WMS for all inventory functions.
  • Provides Human Machine Interface (HMI) for order fulfillment automation.

Learn More

The lines between the different management and control systems (WMS, WES, WCS) continue to get blurred only to make your search that much more tedious. What system talks to the automation, who should keep track of inventory, where do you aggregate labor metrics, and many more questions that must be answered to design an optimized DC or warehouse that gets your orders out quick while maintaining sane employees can be quite the challenge

Bastian Solutions has been fortunate enough to partner with great companies, small and large, to implement software and automated solutions that help increase productivity, streamline operations, and create a happier workplace in the order fulfillment world. If you have questions or want to know more in detail what our software suite can do for you, visit our website and check out our brochures.


This is an updated version of our previous article from 2018: A Supply Chain Software Comparison: WMS vs. WCS vs. WES


Author: Mohammad Shaban

Mohammad is a logistics consultant with Bastian Solutions software division, based in Dallas, TX. He has worked for the company since 2011 and has a master’s degree in engineering management and a BS in Industrial Engineering from J.B. Speed School of Engineering (UofL).  Mohammad focuses on helping clients design and implement supply chain software solutions and maintains on-going customer relationships. 


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