Holiday Shipping Approaches: Increasing Demand for Rules Based Warehouse Control Systems

  • September 06, 2016
  • Feature

By Thomas Cutler, CEO, TR Cutler, Inc.

Investment in technology is one of topmost priorities for warehouse executives, with Internet of Things (IoT) topping the charts with 72 percent, followed by barcode scanning at 70 percent and tablet computers at 69 percent. Big data and analytics (67 percent), Warehouse/truck loading automation (64 percent), advanced imagers (61 percent), and mobile thermal printers (60 percent) are other technologies that shape warehousing industry, according to a new study by Zebra Technologies Corp.

The study, Warehouse 2020 Apac Vision Study, noted the warehousing industry has evolved significantly as it gradually moves to best-of-breed warehouse management systems. The survey revealed massive warehouse expansion plans with about 73 percent of respondents expecting an increase in the number of warehouses by 2020, compared with 55 percent who indicated the same in 2015. Also, 64 percent of respondents plan to relocate warehouse or distribution centers in 2020, in contrast to 58 percent during the survey for 2015.

In 2016, total retail sales across the globe will reach $22.049 trillion, up 6.0% from the previous year. eMarketer estimates sales will top $27 trillion in 2020, even as annual growth rates slow over the next few years, as explored in a new eMarketer report, Worldwide Retail Ecommerce Sales.

Nowhere is retail growth as great as the eCommerce sector. Nowhere is the old warehouse paradigm anachronistic. The old warehouse is no more as the RF gun, constant verifications, small keypads, and hard to read screens are quickly becoming yesterday’s technology. Tablets are replacing the RF gun. New tablet-based warehouse operations systems bring warehouses into the future today. Warehouse management systems have been around for a long time with too many companies still using the RF gun to conduct inventory management, scan in new items, and pick orders. The RF gun solutions typically cost double what modern solutions, such as WarehouseOS, offer. Apps allow small or large companies to receive products, manage inventory, perform cycle counting, conduct single picks or do batch picking, verify items picked, and pack them into boxes. Even smaller eCommerce operations must scale rapidly during the upcoming holiday rush.

Warehouse Control System Solutions Required as Holidays Approach

A warehouse control systems (WCS) is a software layer that allows for greater efficiency and integration.

A primary function of a WCS is its ability to allow dissimilar technologies to communicate with one another. The more complex a system is, the more the different pieces of software need to communicate. A WCS acts as a real-time “command center” to ensure that the right information is available at the right time to allow the equipment to run at the speeds required in today’s operations.

During the holiday season, and year-around, the WMS communicates the production schedule in batches every hour, and a conveyor control system (CCS) communicates in milliseconds; a WCS allows business systems to send order information on its regular schedule, and coordinate the rapid routing decisions required by material handling system needed instantly.

Automation via WCS is critical because it adapts to changing business requirements. Whether a quick change in business rules or significant growth in order fulfillment, software must integrate with existing ERP (enterprise resource planning) or WMS (warehouse management systems).

WCS automation integrates business rules allowing tasked to be performed as needed and is adaptability of seasonality and future growth.  

Bill Maple, Director of Software Solutions at Hytrol Conveyor Company, shared, “Customers demand product at quicker and quicker speeds, and a WCS helps to deliver those products at the pace needed by creating a more flexible operation that will allow greater speed and efficiency. A WCS provides operational visibility by reporting where products are located as well as the efficiency of processes.”

In a situation where a truck is being loaded from a shipping sorter, a WCS communicates the number of cartons shipped to each route and the number of times products were recirculated due to the downstream conveyor being full. A WCS provides item-by-item tracking as product flow through the warehouse facility is measured, reported, and managed.

Support lean supply chain initiatives part of the WCS Automation Paradigm

WCS is a no-brainer for lean supply chain initiatives because of business-rule-driven designs. When business rules dictate how the software is configured, it is much easier to create those rules that reduce waste in a process and refocus on customers. A warehouse control system is an automation tool for the material handling industry to create and monitor faster and more efficient processes. Happy Holidays only happen when every order is filled accurately and meets the customer expectation.

About the Author

Thomas R. Cutler is the President & CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based, TR Cutler, Inc., ( Cutler is the founder of the Manufacturing Media Consortium including more than 6000 journalists, editors, and economists writing about trends in manufacturing, industry, material handling, and process improvement. Cutler authors more than 500 feature articles annually regarding the manufacturing sector and is the most published freelance industrial journalist worldwide. Cutler can be contacted at [email protected]and can be followed on Twitter @ThomasRCutler.


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