Combining Warehouse Management & Warehouse Control
There has been a lot of debate lately about the merits of warehouse management systems (WMS) and warehouse control systems (WCS). As Multichannel Merchant noted, WMS has been the predominant solution over the past few decades and incorporates a vast amount of data, ranging from customer orders to inventory levels. Meanwhile, WCS is a much newer solution that often serves as a centerpiece between distribution center floor operations and the logic powering the WMS.
Although the lines between the two have blurred over the years as solution providers have improved their offerings, both WMS and WCS serve specific needs for merchants. This has created some confusion in the market, and many merchants may not be sure whether they need a WMS, WCS or a combination of both. The hybridization of the two may lead to a future where they isn’t a pressing issue.
Leave the logic to the WMS
While what defines an “optimal solution” may change with each merchant, the best case scenario may be an intelligent use of both in the system stack. Kevin Thompson, a distribution systems manager for outdoor gear retailer Cabela’s, says the company uses a mixure of both WMS and WCS.
“You could have your WCS do all of the pick/pack/ship logic, sending items to be sorted and packaged,” Thompson said, as quoted by Multi Channel Merchant. “When packaging is completed, the information on each item is sent to shipping to determine where it goes. In that scenario, all the information goes from the WMS to the WCS, and you don’t hear anything more about it until it goes out the door.”
Thompson noted that Cabela’s prefers to let the WMS handle most of the logic because if he left it up to the WCS, he wouldn’t have as much control of packages before they exit facilities. Specifically, he noted that the capabilities of a WMS do not end at the distribution center, which is what many merchants think.
Although WMS plays a pivotal role in returning control to the distribution center supervisor and crafting regular forecasts based on weekly activity, the WCS is still crucial for other activities. This includes the ability to use high-tech pick-to-light and pick-to-voice technology to improve order verification and order fulfillment, according to MFR Tech.
“Suddenly, there was a ‘better, faster, cheaper’ mentality prevalent in the warehouse,” QC Software’s Jerry List told the news source. “And the old-school WMS mentality was being challenged. As warehouse management systems began to take on more responsibilities, a void was created which warehouse control systems nicely filled, especially as systems became faster and real time demands were established.”
WCS may be optimal if retailers are having trouble handling the influx of new orders during growth periods, are creating back orders despite having product in stock, ship products to the wrong location frequently, deal with regular traffic jams on conveyor systems or have issues keeping their WMS in line with their needs.
WMS may be optimal when retailers start hitting certain paint points. “This usually happened when they saw the costs of delivery rising, labor costs on the increase and a need to control inventory and keep track of what their people were doing,” explains Kevin Tedford of KT Consulting.
Leverage the right tools for the retail job
There are numerous new warehouse management solutions that combine the technologies of a warehouse control systems so retailers can use one system to improve warehouse operations. With many merchants investing heavily in new technology as a means to improve efficiency and productivity, it is pivotal that retailers take a look at their specific needs today and in the future to identify the best solution for their business.