What is the Difference between WES and WMS?
For supply chains to work properly at the warehousing level, WES and WMS systems should be leveraged. However, understanding the functionality of these systems, as well as the differences between them, is a crucial factor in maintaining and evaluating their effectiveness.
So, what is the difference between WES and WMS platforms, and how are they best utilized?
Warehouse Management Systems (WMS)
Typically, this type of platform focuses on items that are common to the day-to-day tasks of the facility. Generally, when a supply chain refers to WMS they are talking about the receiving, returns, putting away of, packing, staging, shipping manifests, order releases, waving, and picking of inventory within the warehouse. These are tasks that can be performed using personnel, carts, and forklifts.
A WMS focuses on inventory tasks that cannot be completed by automation, or on tasks that would have a high risk of failure or corruption of data if automated.
Warehouse Execution Systems (WES)
Where the WMS focuses on tasks that can be delegated to your personnel, a Warehouse Execution System (WES) is focused on tasks that would be difficult for your staff to execute in a timely and cost-effective way. Most of these tasks revolve around the paper trail of the inventory within the supply chain.
These tasks may include Wave and Order Management, Bin Level Inventory, Manifesting, Business Intelligence, RF Scanner Integrations, Paper, Pick-to-light management, voice integration, slips, forward pick replenishment, scales, sortation, and order routing on conveyor control. WES can also play a huge role in inventory tracking and distribution within the supply chain.
WES and WCS (Warehouse Control System) are the two systems that typically work closely together. Some would argue that the WES replaces the WCS as tasks performed by the WCS can be handled better by the WES.
Yet, the WCS lifts the burden of overwhelming WES and minimizes the margin of errors in inventory efforts when strategically used.
Control and Execution automation encapsulates most of the computer-based functions within a supply chain. Where WES controls the inventory stocking and uses algorithms to compensate for peaks and valley times in inventory, manage speed and productivity tracking, and balances the workflow, WCS functions mainly as a means in which to bind WES and WMS.
Having WMS and WES work together
Warehouse Management and Warehouse Execution are two separate factors to properly maintaining the inventory in your supply chain. Both are needed.
WMS keeps tasks that require manual labor or input. This can also include the tasks which older automation software does not consider. Where a supply chain could upgrade software, in cases where one step or task is added to better regulate the inventory, WMS may be the better solution to handling that task.
For example, a part that needs assembly in-house must be pulled from the inventory, the inventory must then be assembled, and in the end, the part needs to be painted, re-packaged, stocked for shipping, and then loaded for delivery. WMS would oversee taking the physical inventory from stock via forklift while the WES platform would update the status of the inventory as being delivered for assembly. WMS would assemble the pulled part with WMS ensuring that proper assembly is conducted and meets the level of quality the business adheres to.
WES would sort, via conveyor, the parts needed to properly perform the assembly and then update the progress to painting. Once the part is ready to ship, WES could print the label. WMS would verify that the information on the label is correct and the process continues forward in this fashion until the order is fulfilled and shipped out of the warehouse inventory.
WMS verifies the information provided by the WES. WES is the automation portion of the warehouse inventory management system. WES provides the data and the software automation of tasks that would not be efficient for most teams to take on. However, this does not mean that certain aspects of the WES should not be checked periodically.
When orders are not being fulfilled in a timely fashion, when lead generation levels are too low, or when inventory stock fluctuates greatly, the IT department should check the algorithms within the WES and adjust them as needed. WMS performs the physical tasks necessary to maintain inventory reliance, product production and stock, and other supply chain functions which require manual input.
Both systems are reliant upon the other and both should be continuously checked for efficiency to maintain a healthy supply chain.