International Food Safety Quality Network Distinguishes

by : Thomas Cutler

WMS systems are designed to manage information; they are planning systems versus execution systems, yet it is fair to say that the WCS is the MES for the warehouse because it directs the tasks.
The solutions provided by QC Software enables companies to streamline their warehouse operations with the lowest total cost of ownership in the industry ensuring increased corporate profitability.
Manufacturing journalist Thomas R. Cutler contributed to the current issue of the International Food and Safety Quality Network (IFSQN); the feature titled, "WCS Expands to Food & Beverage" details the decision-making process often conducted by food and beverage distributors and manufacturers.

According to Cutler, "There is a significant shift between (Warehouse Management Systems) WMS and WCS (Warehouse Control Systems) in the area of merging local data warehouses into an enterprise data warehouse. There are suites of software products that provide the tools necessary to efficiently and economically operate a warehouse or distribution center."

According to Jerry List, vice-president of QC Software (, "First we have to understand the core competency of the Warehouse Control System (WCS). The WCS evolved from the Warehouse Management System (WMS) due to the fact that the WMS was just trying to do too much and technology just could not keep up. Routing, sorting and processing cartons through a conveyor system are very different than tracking inventory and orders. In the food and beverage arena it is imperative (a central to quality control) for goods to be picked, packed and shipped in an expeditious fashion due to the spoilage factor. A WCS must be able to process cartons efficiently avoiding any recirculation in the process of processing thousands of cartons an hour."

Traditionally, a Warehouse Control System (WCS) executes instructions provided by an upper level host system, such as an ERP (enterprise resource planning) system or a WMS system. True Tier 1 WCS software provides advanced management capabilities including inventory control, resource scheduling and order management. The best-of-breed WCS systems are modular in nature, easily configurable, platform independent, with a scalable architecture to satisfy the needs of any size warehouse.

Unlike a typical WMS software solution, WCS directs real-time data management and interface responsibilities of the material handling system as well as provides common user interface screens for monitoring, control, and diagnostics.

The focal point for managing the operational aspects of the material handling system, WCS provides the critical link between the batch-time data host and the real-time Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) material handling system.

The PLC coordinates the various real-time control devices to accomplish the daily workload. At each decision point in the distribution process, the WCS "determines" the most efficient routing of the product and transmits directives to the Equipment Controllers to achieve the desired result. The decision-making process is often controlled by two separate utilities, the Sort Manager and the Route Director.