Unlock the Benefits of Warehouse Software | FORTNA


Unlock the Benefits of Warehouse Software -

In today’s rapidly evolving warehousing and logistics landscape, the efficiency and effectiveness of operations hinge significantly on the choice of software solutions. Understanding the distinctions between these solutions is paramount for businesses aiming to streamline their processes and stay ahead in the competitive market.

In today’s rapidly evolving warehousing and logistics landscape, the efficiency and effectiveness of operations hinge significantly on the choice of software solutions. And these software solutions are key to addressing major challenges facing the industry like labour shortages, SKU proliferation, capacity and demand. Three key systems–Warehouse Management System (WMS), Warehouse Control System (WCS), and Warehouse Execution System (WES)–play pivotal roles in optimising warehouse operations. Understanding the distinctions between these solutions is paramount for businesses aiming to streamline their processes and stay ahead in the competitive market.

Stack of paper reports representing manual warehouse with paper-based reporting prior to warehouse software

Pre-software era

We haven’t always had these software options to automate operations. In the pre-software era, warehouse management relied heavily on manual labour and paper-based systems. Warehouses operated with rudimentary methods for inventory tracking, order fulfillment and resource allocation. Key activities such as inventory counting, order picking and routing decisions were managed manually. Several less complex facilities are still managed this way. However, while facilities and inventory management become more complex, manual processes can easily lead to inefficiencies, errors and delays.

Unveiling the Trio: WMS, WCS, WES

Warehouse Management System (WMS)

The concept of a Warehouse Management System (WMS) emerged in the late 20th century as a response to the growing complexities of warehouse operations and the need for more efficient inventory management solutions.

Consider WMS as the historical decision-maker of the warehouse, managing and optimising the information flow and decision-making processes. This is because WMS has historically focused on managing and optimising manual processes. WMS primarily focuses on inventory management, order processing and warehouse resource tracking, leveraging data-driven insights to enhance operational efficiency. An additional consideration for implementing a WMS can be the current ERP system you plan to connect it to. Choosing a WMS that fits with your current systems is essential for a successful implementation.

Key features of WMS:

  • Inventory management: WMS tracks inventory levels in real-time, optimises storage locations and ensures accurate stock replenishment, minimising stockouts.
  • Order processing and fulfillment: WMS streamlines order processing workflows, from order capture to shipment, optimising picking routes and allocating resources efficiently, especially for manual processes.
  • Reporting and analytics: WMS generates insightful reports and analytics on warehouse performance, enabling data-driven decision-making and continuous process improvement.

Key features of WMS:
  • Tracks inventory management
  • Streamlines order processing and fulfillment
  • Generates reporting and analytics

Warehouse Control System (WCS)

As warehouses increasingly embraced automation technologies such as conveyor systems, the need for specialised control and execution systems became evident. The Warehouse Control System (WCS) concept emerged to fill this gap, focusing on directing the physical movements of goods within the warehouse.

Think of WCS as the traffic cop of warehouse conveyance, overseeing and controlling the movements of materials and resources within the facility. WCS primarily focuses on managing and directing the physical aspects of inventory conveyance within warehouse operations, utilising traditional automation such as conveyors.

Key features of WCS:

  • Equipment control: WCS controls and coordinates the operation of various warehouse equipment, ensuring smooth material flow and efficient use of resources.
  • Real-time monitoring and optimisation: WCS provides real-time visibility into warehouse operations related to conveyance, allowing for proactive monitoring, troubleshooting and optimisation of workflows.
  • Integration with WMS and WES: WCS serves as the action arm of a WMS and WES, translating higher-level directives from WMS into actionable tasks for automated equipment orchestrated by WES.

Key features of WCS:
  • Coordinated equipment control
  • Real-time monitoring and optimisation
  • Integration with WMS and WES

Warehouse Execution System (WES)

Warehouse Execution System (WES) solutions evolved to address the complexities of modern warehouse operations as these operations have seen the progression of manual and automated processes, integrating with WCS and other automation technologies to dynamically allocate tasks, optimise workflows and orchestrate the flow of goods within the warehouse.
Imagine the WES as the conductor of an orchestra, coordinating the intricate flow of various elements within the warehouse to ensure a harmonious performance. A WES integrates and orchestrates multiple automation technologies, such as conveyors, sorters and robotics, to optimise the flow of goods through the facility.

Key features of WES:

  • Dynamic task allocation: WES dynamically assigns tasks to different resources based on real-time data and operational priorities, ensuring optimal resource utilisation.
  • Order fulfillment optimisation: WES prioritises and sequences orders efficiently, minimising processing times and meeting customer demands and SLA adherence promptly.
  • Adaptive workflow management: WES adapts to changing conditions and demand fluctuations, optimising workflows to maximise throughput and minimise bottlenecks.
Key features of WES:
  • Dynamic task allocation
  • Order fulfillment optimisation
  • Adaptive workflow management

Choosing the best fit software solution

In recent years, the lines between WMS, WCS and WES have blurred as supply chain partners seek to provide more comprehensive and integrated solutions to meet the evolving needs of the warehousing industry.

Without clear-cut definitions, choosing the appropriate software solution for your business can become a process in and of itself. When deciding which software solution is best for your business, consider the complexity of your facility. Selecting a different mix of solutions depending on the complexity of the facilities in your network may offer the best fit for your business.

An example could include opting for a WMS solution for lower complexity sites or including a WMS and WCS for more manual operations that also require conveyance. For more complex sites that are built to allow more flexibility to add higher-level automation over time, selecting the appropriate combination of a WMS, a WCS and a WES may offer the best fit.

Bridging the gap: integrating WMS, WCS and WES

Modern warehouse management platforms offer ease of integration of WMS, WCS and WES functionalities, providing end-to-end visibility, control and optimisation of warehouse operations.

While WMS, WCS and WES serve distinct functions within the warehouse ecosystem, their synergy is critical for achieving seamless operations and maximising efficiency. Integrating these systems allows for synchronised communication and coordinated actions across the warehouse, enabling:

  • End-to-end visibility: integration provides comprehensive visibility into all aspects of warehouse operations, from inventory levels and order status to equipment utilisation and throughput metrics.
  • Optimised resource utilisation: by aligning tasks and workflows across WES, WCS and WMS, integration enables optimal resource utilization, minimizing idle time and maximizing throughput.
  • Agile response to change: integrated systems facilitate agile responses to changing market demands, operational requirements and unforeseen disruptions, ensuring adaptability and resilience.
  • Continuous improvement: leveraging data from integrated systems enables continuous process improvement initiatives, driving efficiency gains and cost savings over time.


In the dynamic landscape of warehousing and logistics, selecting the right software solution is crucial for driving operational excellence and maintaining a competitive edge. While a Warehouse Management System (WMS), a Warehouse Control System (WCS), and a Warehouse Execution System (WES) each serve distinct functions, their integration is paramount for achieving synchronised, efficient and responsive warehouse operations. By understanding the differences and synergies between these systems, businesses can navigate the complexities of the warehousing technology landscape and unlock the full potential of their operations.

Published/Updated 5/7/24