Automating the future with warehouse software controls
By: Morgan Williams, Account Coordinator
Growing warehouse trends suggest that those companies looking to upgrade their warehouse management system (WMS) to avoid reaching legacy status, should also consider implementing a warehouse control system (WCS) to coordinate the automated aspects of the warehouse operations. Or rather, you can go one step further and take the integrated approach by introducing a warehouse execution system (WES). A WES is able to replace separate WMS and WCS applications, while still allowing the user to have the flexibility to utilize the specific functionality needed to address their warehouse needs.
If a company has not yet introduced automation warranting a WCS, it would be best to choose the WES option. This would allow the organization to utilize the needed WMS capabilities immediately, then, should they choose to automate their warehouse, they can “turn on” the WCS functionality when appropriate. Taking this approach shortens system start-up duration, allows operators to familiarize themselves with the application and reduces training time.
A warehouse containing automation requires the use of a WCS that is designed with that automation in mind. It is also imperative that the WMS and the WCS are tightly coupled in an automated solution; if not, product traceability could be compromised because of gaps between the separate solutions. When utilizing a WES, the WCS functionality allows a customer to easily run and manage multiple, often complex, automation activities simultaneously from within the same application that houses the WMS functionality.
According to Dave Williams, director of software and solution delivery, Westfalia, “A good WCS is flexible, allows you to optimize your current software investment, and is able to easily adapt to the needs of additional automation and material handling equipment.” For those companies considering adding automation to their warehouses, Williams outlines key factors to consider before implementing an integrated WMS/WCS, such as Westfalia’s Savanna.NET® Warehouse Execution System:
- Do Your Homework. Finding and selecting the right software partner for your business takes time and effort. Bigger isn’t always better. Rather, you need to work with a company that you can trust and who will be willing to take the time to understand your individual business needs
- Don’t underestimate the importance of training. The ability to identify key operators and system users early in the process is crucial to their success. The more familiar operators are with the system, the more comfortable they will be with how it operates. Proper training is invaluable.
- Keep management and other key personnel within the organization informed and involved from the beginning. These people will make or break the success of the system.
As SKU proliferation continues to increase, the ability to easily manage inventory for production planning and order fulfillment is a must. A flexible warehouse software system that can manage the tasks of several areas simultaneously, while supporting seamless addition/removal of equipment is a must in today’s fast-paced manufacturing and warehouse environments. Warehouse execution systems continue to play an ever-increasing role in controlling material movement and efficient order fulfillment from within the warehouse.