WES – Warehouse Execution System Software
The term WES (Warehouse Execution System Software) is relatively new to the material handling world. But did you know that a handful of smaller companies have been publishing WES for more than a decade?
It’s not that WES isn’t a very innovative concept, because it is. And it’s no surprise that this class of software applications is really starting to catch on in a market segment that has been defined as either WMS, WCS, or a combination of the two. Its time has clearly come. What’s surprising is how few people have been aware of the development of WES. So what’s the story with WES, and how can it help your operation?
WMS – The Back Story
Since the beginning, WMS (Warehouse Management Systems) has had little to do with automated material handling. Sure, it provided some less-than-real-time interfaces to WCS applications software for isolated islands of automation (such as pick-to-light, automated carousels, or even voice-serviced inventory zones). But WMS wasn’t integrally connected with a facility’s overall automation.
As the number of WMS users increased, larger suppliers began to realize how much support their client bases required. And automated devices came in so many varieties that it just didn’t make sense for WMS suppliers to develop the subsystems needed to make each device perform to its potential within the warehouse. So they passed on developing the machine control segment of software applications (e.g. conveyor systems management, carousel systems, AS/RS subsystems, automated palletizers, etc.).
That’s when many small companies in the WCS space happily stepped up to the plate. They made a great living supplying WCS-only software applications that also incorporated rather simple interfaces for the large WMS systems. The larger WMS companies, for their part, made substantial service revenue by customizing systems for Tier-1 customers willing to pay for the development of WMS interfaces for their automated devices.
WCS – Islands Of Automation
The WCS (Warehouse Control System) market segment is now filled with companies that have historically specialized in equipment controllers. These controllers make automated equipment move, but rarely do they give what a well-automated warehouse really needs: real-time knowledge of the conditions and states of the overall automated material handling system.
So there was plenty of opportunity for WCS companies to supply their particular kind of island of automation to both large integrated systems and smaller systems centered on particular types of automation – conveyor controllers and management systems being the most prevalent.
WCS Applications – Layers Of Code
WCS applications that run just above the material handling equipment controller level have almost always been delivered as a customized conglomeration of code. They use ‘hard-coding’ to make equipment fit the system layout design and operational expectations for a particular facility.
What WCS software companies often do, when they must quickly deliver software for a very specific project, is to hard-code a system by customizing base code. But here is the problem with these custom spin-off systems: they satisfy the needs of a single project, but become extremely difficult to maintain and support for subsequent projects based on the same code.
As you can imagine, it takes a lot of time, effort, and true R&D to develop a warehouse execution system that uses a product approach to directly orchestrate a variety of equipment, using controller interfaces. That is why it is very rare to find a scalable and feature-rich WES.
WES – Warehouse Execution System Software– The Elegant Solution
Thank goodness for Warehouse Execution System Software. WES software bypasses the shortcomings of both WMS and WCS, especially if its solutions are ‘productized’.
Instead of making the customer adapt their business rules to a set of limited operational options, here are the benefits of a properly executed WES:
- Minimized risk that customers will be given a largely customized delivery
- Shortened system roll-out time
- A wealth of features that allow the product to wrap around the customer’s needs
The automated material handling market is starting to both recognize and adjust to this newly marketed type of system called WES. There are a handful of providers that deliver systems true to this art form, while many more are starting to take advantage of the industry buzz and offer “imposter” systems. Take your time to evaluate if this kind of system is right for you, and be careful with your selection of your next business partner in such a venture. You want to ensure that you don’t go back to the future with your critical warehouse software choices.
SI Systems has been providing world class automated software and material handling systems to order fulfillment, distribution center, warehouse, manufacturing and assembly operations for over 50 years. Systems include WMS (Warehouse Management Systems), WCS (Warehouse Control Systems), and WES (Warehouse Execution System Software), order fulfillment dispensing A-Frames, towline in-floor conveyor, slotting and integration services. Visit www.sihs.com for more information and white papers on this subject or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.