Why Choosing a Modular Warehouse Execution Software (WES) is the Right Choice for Your Operation
Your warehouse execution software (WES) is one of the most important software components in your operation, literally empowering your hardware systems, labor and processes to work efficiently in a synchronized and modern order fulfillment. With this in mind, it’s crucial that when you choose a WES for your operation, you are choosing the right one for your needs.
In choosing a WES, there are certain key qualities that you should look for. The system should be configurable, so that you know it can be tailored to your unique needs. It needs to be ready-to-run, so that going live doesn’t require an undo amount of downtime. It also needs to be modular, so that it can grow and change as your business grows and changes.
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This last point can be a tricky one, for a simple reason: Every WES provider claims that their software is modular, but virtually none truly are. And that’s important, because modularity brings a number of powerful benefits to your operation.
Below is a look at the benefits of leveraging a modular WES, the downsides to going with a non-modular software, and a look at some potential example modules that you might want to ask about when evaluating systems.
Benefits of a Modular WES
A truly modular WES will be built in such a way that there is a central “core” module which is always present. This module controls the basic functionality that will always be required. Optional modules are then designed so that they can simply be “plugged into” the core module as required to build the custom WES that an operation requires.
The primary benefit of leveraging a modular WES is that you can design a system that only includes the modules and functionality that you actually need. This leads to a faster, leaner, more streamlined system without the bloat that is characteristic of non-modular systems.
As your business changes and you add new systems or processes to your operation, you can then simply purchase additional modules as needed. Because a truly modular system will not impact the existing modules you are already utilizing. There is simply much less risk due to the “plug and play” manner in which the system is built.
This is especially true when compared against solutions built around custom code (instead of modules). Simply put, any time you are dealing with custom code, you increase the risk of something potentially going wrong upon deployment. A modular approach removes this risk by creating a base of tested code from which the vendor can pull as needed.
Examples of Potential WES Modules
When you are evaluating various WES solutions, be sure to ask the software provider for a list of potential modules that can be included in your package. Not only will this allow you to get a better sense of whether or not the software is truly modular, but it will also allow you to understand whether or not the solution will provide all of the functionality your operation will need.
For example, the Horizon™ WES can include any of the following commonly-required modules depending on the needs of the operation:
- Human-Machine Interface (HMI): A graphical animation of equipment status.
- Container tracking: The core module of Horizon controls and reports on all conveyor decision points, sorters, merges, etc.
- AMR Management: Controls and reports on all autonomous mobile robot movements, queues, buffers, etc.
- Wave Builder: Manages the preparation of orders for picking.
- Order Controller: Manages orders throughout the system, ensuring they get to shipping as a group.
- Pick Processing: Controls picking, either by pick-to-light (PTL), radio frequency (RF), voice, vision, etc.
- Replenish Inventory: Monitors pick module or AMR inventory, requests replenishment at re-order point (ROP).
- Container Printing: Print & Apply, ensuring the right label goes on the right carton, in the right location.
- Put Wall System: Manages put walls, via lights or PC screen telling the operators what SKUs go to what orders.
- Packing Station: Controls packing of orders, including VAS instruction from the host.
- Quality Assurance: Controls QA processes, which can be both blind and open. Blind being where the WES does not tell the QA operator what is expected, but verifies what they enter.
- Audit Process: Controls audit of pick module/AMR inventory.
- Pallet Building: Ensures accurate pallet building to manifest what cartons are on what pallets
- Shipment Manifesting: Accurate accounting of shipments out the door, what pallets and cartons are on what trailer, etc.
It is important to note, again, that a truly modular solution will only provide you with a software that includes the modules your operation needs in order to function. Though Horizon offers all of the modules listed above, for example, the final package that an operation receives will only include those modules that it requires. This reduces software cost, bloat, and allows the software as a whole to perform better than if all of the available modules were simply crammed in.
Understanding Your Options
As you can see, the benefits of leveraging a modular WES in your order fulfillment operation are plentiful. A WES that has been designed with modularity in mind will be less bloated, faster, and easier to service than non-modular options. Additionally, adding additional modules as your business changes and grows is much easier, requiring no custom coding and reducing the risk of downtime or errors.
When evaluating your WES options, it’s important to understand exactly how modular the system is so that you know what you’re getting into. It’s also important to understand the potential modules available to you so that you know what is possible for your business.
A trusted systems integrator can help you understand your options and guide you to the solution that makes the most sense for your business. Contact us today to speak with a member of the Conveyco Team.