Warehouse Automation, Detail Explanation of WES and WCS in Warehouse Automation

Warehousing refers to the activities involving the large-scale storage of goods in a systematic and orderly manner, and making them available for delivery whenever needed. A warehouse and a Distribution Centre (DC) are in essence the same physical system, with the main difference being that the warehouse focuses on storage processes, while the DC focuses on efficient and cost-effective order fulfilment processes. A DC can be defined as a facility that is used for the receipt, temporary storage, and redistribution of goods according to customer orders as they are received.

In this content we are going to cover end to end automation in warehouse logistic operations, except order picking as this is the part of the process that include most labour intensive which can nearly account up to 65% of total warehouse man hour. With time increase demand of warehouse automation has been observed in the market. This is the reason why many warehouse automation service providers have emerged. Despite to the dynamic demands, still only 20% of warehouse is fully automated rest 80% are still manually operated with no supporting automation. Therefore, mainly here we are going to discuss two main systems of warehouse automation analogy that is warehouse execution software and warehouse control systems that make up the entire Autonomous Warehousing Solutions Online process.

Warehouse Control System (WCS)

A WCS is a real-time, integrated control solution that manages the flow of items, cartons and pallets as it travels on many types of automated equipment, such as conveyors, sorters, ASRS, pick to light, carrousels, print and apply, merges and de-casing lines. A WCS is able to exchange real-time communication, command processing, discrete equipment signals and the optimization of material. Most WCS solutions lack advanced WMS functionality. However, the gap is closing as WCS vendors are adding more and more functionalities available in the WMS space. Traditionally, WCS solutions are well-suited for highly-automated facilities, but there are few WCS vendors that have the necessary functionality to manage and control all Autonomous Mobile Robots Online processes. Most WCS include:

  • Pack sort management
  • Ship sort management
  • Automated pick management
  • Pick-to-light and put-to-light management
  • Automated conveyor zone skipping
  • Mobile scanner integration
  • Fixed scanner integration
  • Machine control integration
  • In line print and apply

Functions that WCS does not encompass include:

  • The ability to interface with an ERP system (in most cases, however, there are exceptions)
  • Hard allocating inventory in reserve or forward pick locations
  • Supporting wave management strategies
  • Supporting extensive cycle counting and physical inventory processes
  • Supporting labour management and allocation
  • Supporting transportation planning and shipping execution

Warehouse Execution System (WES)

A WES is a newer breed of solution, compared to a WMS or WCS. A number of systems integrators, WCS control software companies and material handling equipment manufacturers are moving up stream in terms of adding basic WMS functionality into their existing WCS or creating a WES from scratch. Many WES encompass nearly all functions that are also included in a WCS and some functions of a WMS. As a result, a WES is considered a more all-inclusive solution. Think of a WES as a light version of a WMS with controls functionality. WES is encroaching on the WMS territory when it comes to tasks related to wave management, light task management, inventory management (single channel), picking and shipping. For some businesses, a WES may be all that is needed. Small and mid-sized retailers can often benefit from a WES because it helps to manage fulfillment both to consumers and to stores, but if the retail chain is large, it will likely need the more advanced inventory management component available only in a WMS. Most WES includes:

1. Basic receiving

2. Shipping management

3. Replenishment management

4. Small-parcel manifesting

5. Non-automated pick management

6. Voice data capture

7. Inventory management

8. Mobile scanner integration

9. Pack sort management

10. Ship sort management

11. Automated pick management

12. Pick-to-light management

13. Automated zone skipping

14. Mobile scanner integration

Functions that WES does not encompass include:

  • Supply chain integration
  • ERP integration (depends)
  • Management reporting
  • Transportation management
  • Reverse put away
  • Order management
  • Wave management
  • Multi-variable standard labour management