They may have similar names, but “warehouse management systems” and “warehouse control systems” are actually two distinctly different things. A warehouse management system is the highest level of organization, and oversees stocking logistics. A warehouse control system is actually a type of software system, subsidiary to the warehouse management system, which is used to orchestrate the movement of products and actions of employees in warehouses and distribution centers. A smooth, efficient, interface between the warehouse management system and the warehouse control system is integral to minimising costs, as well as maximising shipping speed and efficiency.
Warehouse Management Systems
A warehouse management system is concerned with the movement and storage of materials in warehouses. It also encompasses aspects of shipping, receiving, and other related logistical undertakings. The flow of products into and out of the warehouse is generally monitored with technologies such as bar code scanners and RFID tags.
An effective warehouse management system keeps both shipping times and costs at a minimum. Some objectives of warehouse management systems include:
- A standardized receiving process for incoming products
- Efficient management of warehouse stock, including returned items. Stock should be sufficient to avoid running out of popular products, which would lead to lost sales; however, too much stock can waste money and warehouse space
- Optimizing the physical arrangement of products in warehouse facilities
- Maintaining a smooth flow between order processing and logistics management
- Tracking products
A well-run warehouse management system can help maximize efficiency, productivity, and the accuracy of shipping orders.
Warehouse Control Systems
A warehouse control system is actually a software application, which is used to orchestrate warehouse and distribution center activities in real time. Warehouse control system software keeps all warehousing-related subsystems running as smoothly as possible, including some aspects of employee assignments within the facilities. WCS functions often include:
- Interfacing into the warehouse management system
- Dividing workloads between various subsystems
- Providing direction in real time to warehouse operators and equipment controllers
- Using sortation algorithms to arrange the movement and distribution of materials
- Collecting data on operational efficiency
So if all of this seems somewhat confusing, just remember that a warehouse management system is an entire logistics and fulfillment practice. It’s how items get picked, packed, organized, stored, shipped, etc. Meanwhile, a warehouse control system is simply the software that automates and simplifies processes within the WMS. The key takeaway when studying both a WMS and a WCS is to understand how they affect your organisation’s efficiency. Having a well-organised and well thought out warehousing infrastructure affects virtually every aspect of your business – from sales, to inventory management, to customer satisfaction and retention.
You May Also Want to Consider Working with a 3PL…
It’s also worth noting that for both physical and online retailers, the cost and time-commitment involved in operating an efficient warehousing system proves to be exorbitant. When that happens, it may be wise to consider outsourcing your warehouse, and other logistical needs, to a third party logistics provider (also referred to as a 3PL). A good 3PL will be an expert in warehousing and fulfilment, and therefore can relieve your company of a significant workload while also reducing your overall costs.