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Understanding Warehouse Control Systems (WCS) vs. Warehouse Management Systems (WMS)

You have heard of the term WMS countless times; you understand that a warehouse management system (WMS) is a key part of the supply chain in the business world and primarily aims to control the movement and storage of materials within a warehouse and process the accompanying transactions, including shipping, receiving, put-away and picking. You get that, and that it’s essential to a well-run company.

However, you have been in the business for a while and want to better understand what that other acronym means. “WCS”- what is all that about? Short for Warehouse Control System, WCS is also vital to keeping operations running smoothly in your business. Read on to fully understand the key differences and similarities between the two acronyms.

*A Warehouse Control System (WCS) is a software application for orchestrating activity flow within a warehouses or distribution center.

The WCS coordinates material handling sub-systems such as conveyor belts, carousels, scales and sorters. When needed, WCS determines the most efficient product flow and transmits directives to the equipment controllers to accomplish the desired result.

Warehouse Control Systems emerged over two decades ago to bridge the gap between higher level information systems, such as Warehouse Management Systems, and the warehouse floor by assigning, balancing, managing, and monitoring tasks executed by contrasting, automated material-handling equipment and other programs in real time. Compared to the 90s, it’s pretty amazing how far we have come in the corporate world.

Facilities with automated material-handling hardware often have a warehouse control system that integrates with a warehouse management system to provide management with a comprehensive view of the warehouse. So, as you can see, the differences are subtle but evident. (We knew you could figure it out!)

*WMS has been around for quite a while now and focuses on the maintenance of managing essential information, such as focusing inventory data, purchase orders, customer orders, and historical data.

The WMS processes a copious amount of of data on a day-to-day basis, managing information across multiple facilities. WMS employs highly standardized software products that provide well-defined services.

Using business rules and real time data, a WCS synchronizes the activities of multiple automated equipment subsystems, human resources, and material flow, and drives control decisions and exceptions. A WCS provides a uniform interface for a variety of equipment to the upper level management systems such as WMS. In addition, a WCS optimizes asset utilization and is quite modular in nature.

As you have probably noticed by now, the line between the two systems has become blurred over time and functions sometimes overlap. That’s okay.

*The important thing is to determine whether your current WMS can provide the complete functionality needed to support your specific company requirements.

Really sit down and figure out what you want to take away from all this new information. Assess your business issues today to determine how much you would benefit from a WMS. And if WCS sneaks its way in, you have that area covered.