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WMS vs. WES vs. WCS: Taking the Confusion out of Warehouse Systems

Do the terms WMS, WES, and WCS leave you scratching your head? Don’t worry; you’re not alone. Many different warehouse systems can be used in your fulfillment operations, and there are more acronyms than we know what to do with.

We explored the difference between a WMS and a WES in an earlier blog, but let’s dive a bit deeper to learn where a WCS fits in and how the three systems complement each other for operational success.

In this guide, we’ll explore:

  1. Defining the differences between WMS, WES, and WCS
  2. How to combine the functionality of the three systems for business success
  3. How to invest wisely to find the system that meets your operational needs

Defining Differences in Warehouse Systems

Warehousing is evolving, and so are the management systems we use. Market changes and technological advancements mean the way we work is changing, and logistics systems are improving. The three most common systems used today include warehouse management systems (WMS), warehouse execution systems (WES), and warehouse control systems (WCS).

What is a WMS?

A warehouse management system will manage your inventory flow throughout your warehouse and your inbound and outbound processes. A WMS can assign labor tasks to optimize employee efficiency and help you plan your warehouse’s layout to ensure effective use of your space. Standard WMS software has some reporting capability and can connect to third-party platforms such as ecommerce and marketplaces, shipping services, and customer service tools.

If your warehouse uses automated tools, equipment, and machines, such as put-to-light systems, sorters, or conveyors, a WMS can’t manage those systems.

Benefits of using a WMS include:

    • Ability to integrate with transportation management and order management systems, as well as ERPs
    • Advanced receiving capabilities
    • Management reporting
    • Reverse putaway and slotting capabilities

What is a WES?

Warehouse execution systems can complement your WMS and replace your WCS. Once inventory is inside your warehouse, a WES can take over, working in real-time to organize, sequence, and synchronize your warehouse resources, from people to equipment used to get your inventory back out the door.

Additionally, a WES can maximize your warehouse productivity and labor efficiency using workforce planning. This can benefit worker safety through hands-free and eyes-free applications, such as robotics and artificial intelligence, to increase accuracy with picking, transfer, and packing validations.

Warehouse Management Software Screens
Transform your warehouse to a DTC fulfillment center

What is a WCS?

Warehouse control systems manage the flow of goods within your warehouse. A WCS sends directives to conveyor belts, automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS), pick-to-voice subsystems, sorters, and other material handling systems in automated facilities. A WCS will ensure that highly-automated facilities run smoothly and that orders are properly tracked by providing information on where items, cartons, and pallets are as they move among automated systems within the four walls of a distribution center or warehouse.

Warehouse control systems include:

    • Integrations with fixed and mobile scanners
    • Ability to print and apply labels
    • Ability to measure package weight while in motion

Combining Functionality in Warehousing Systems 

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably wondering, “which is the best system for my business needs?” And the answer to that question could be, “all of them!”

Combining WMS software with warehouse execution and control systems creates a more holistic approach to fulfillment. Your WMS can manage the general flow and transactions in the warehouse, while a WES/WCS can add machine control and labor management.

While the three systems may seem unique and distinct, there are overlaps between them.

WMS and WES systems can overlap in the following functions:

    • Shipping, inventory, and replenishment management
    • Small-parcel manifesting
    • Non-automated pick management
    • Voice data capture

WES and WCS systems can overlap through:

    • Pack sorter management
    • Shipping sorter management
    • Automated pick management
    • Pick-to-light management

Getting the Most ROI out of Your Warehousing System

Maybe you’re already using a warehouse execution system and looking to add a WMS to your software stack. Or perhaps you’re well-versed in warehouse management best practices and are starting to add automation and warehouse robotics to your processes.

No matter where you are in your systems and software journey, evaluating your business needs is essential before adding something new. As warehouse systems continue to merge and evolve, it’s becoming increasingly important to identify your business needs first and find the system or systems that are best suited to meet those needs.

Logiwa is the solution that will incorporate the functionality of all of these systems. Integrate with non-warehouse operations systems that you need, such as integrations with ecommerce, billing, shipping, enterprise resource planning, and customer relations systems.

Three QuickTake-Aways

  1. Each legacy platform has its strengths and weaknesses depending on the user’s needs.
  2. DTC leaders are moving toward a holistic fulfillment approach, focusing on platforms that provide end-to-end visibility and control.
  3. Put the “business needs horse” in front of the “technology” cart. Start with your operational needs, then look for management platforms that fit.

If you’d like to learn more about WMS, WES, and WCS software and how they can help your warehouse or fulfillment operations, reach out to a member of our team to discuss your business needs, check out our recent webinar about the topic, or request a free demo of Logiwa’s products.

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