Essential Components of a Warehouse Control System (WCS)
Learn about warehouse control systems and some of the industrial equipment used to control the distribution of goods through the warehouse or facility.
Warehouse Control Systems
A warehouse control system (WCS) is a software solution for controlling and coordinating material handling equipment in a warehouse. The WCS is responsible for the product’s precise movement and delivery across the different locations in a warehouse.
The WCS works with the warehouse management system (WMS) to track the products from when they get to the warehouse until it dispatches.
The WCS communicates directly with the material handling equipment in a real-time manner. It triggers equipment’s movement and controls its direction. A WCS uses industrial equipment to execute material flow in warehouses such as conveyors, carousels, scales, and sorters.
Let’s look at some details of this equipment and its role in a warehouse ecosystem.
Conveyor systems are mechanical structures used to transport material from one location to another without human involvement. The conveyors are controlled and operated automatically through different automation techniques such as SCADA.
An image showing goods in a warehouse being transported to their next destination on a conveyor belt.
Conveyor belts also ensure the safety of these heavy materials, as less human involvement means fewer risks associated with human errors.
The conveyor system consists of a belt-driven by different mechanical means, such as a pulley. Additional mechanical components can include chains, rollers, and wheels. The selection of these components varies and depends on the conveyor design.
The motor is commonly used as a drive mechanism, which is connected to the pulley. The belt is stretched across the pulley, and the drive mechanism rotates the pulley.
As the drive mechanism rotates, the belt advances in motion across its length. The drive also controls the direction of belt movement, in both forward and reverse directions. Conveyors can also serve multiple levels, enabling them to move materials up and down.
Carousels present the product to humans at a single stationary location, compared to humans themselves going to the storage place to look out for the desired material. This reduces the human’s function in sorting products and transferring them to their final stage. It significantly reduces the error of selecting the wrong product, greatly increasing the efficiency and reducing time for product delivery.
Carousels are also called goods, which locates the desired product from a pool of miscellaneous items. The located product is then sent to the stationary locations, where respective human operators collect the product and proceed further.
There are two types of carousels system in a warehouse, including horizontal and vertical.
Horizontal carousels consist of a series of bins attached to a track lying horizontally on a floor. The product is placed in bins. The bins move horizontally across different human operator locations. The size and shape of the bin easily adjust to fit the product inside.
An automated storage system in a warehouse, and a vertical carousel storage unit shown here.
Vertical carousels move in a clockwise and anti-clockwise direction vertically. The bin containing the desired product comes in front of the window, where the human operator stands by and picks up the product. The storage bin comes at a human operator’s ergonometric height, allowing the operator to pick up the product without causing any stress to the body.
Scales measure the product’s weight in a warehouse. The warehouse control system keeps track of the product’s weight for different purposes. For example, shipping companies require the shipper to provide accurate material weight used to calculate charges. Over or under standard weight penalizes the shipper. Another example includes calculating space for product storage in a warehouse. The WCS allocates product space as per their dimensions, including weight.
The product’s weight is measured before entering the warehouse, and finally, when they leave the warehouse.
There are many types of scale for a WMS, and their selection depends on the products in a warehouse. Common types of scales are floor scales, vehicle scales, and conveyor scales.
Floor scales are used to measure items as they enter the warehouse. They also measure weight when the product leaves the warehouse. Heavy loads and Boxes are easily weighed with these types.
Goods in a warehouse being pulled up by pulleys and scales.
It consists of an electronic component and circuit for calculating weight in a readable format. A metallic platform covers the circuit and electronic component, and the load is placed on the same platform. The electronic circuit reads the load and displays the result.
Vehicle scales are used to measure the weight of vehicles carrying freight as they leave the warehouse for their destination. These scales measure the vehicle’s load before entering the warehouse, and every time the vehicle leaves the warehouse.
These weighing measurements can ensure the safety of the product and provide tracking to prevent product loss or theft in addition to product security. The vehicle weight measurements also prevent the vehicle from the overweight condition.
Conveyor systems measure the weight when the item is on the conveyor belt during transfer. They measure the weight as the item is in motion condition without stopping the conveyor.
The conveyor cannot be stopped to calculate the weight. If the operator stops the conveyor to calculate the weight, it will block the whole chain of the conveyor system.
Sorters are used to identify and sort a particular group of items from miscellaneous items. The items move on a conveyor belt. A mechanical system, with the help of software, diverts the item to a collection location.
A rack sorter, shown here working in a warehouse to sort devices and goods.
In a warehouse, the sorting devices sort items based on user-created requirements such as item classification and storage location. Sorters are used at different levels, especially when receiving items and before dispatching them to their final destination.
Benefits of a WCS
Let’s look at some of the potential benefits of investing in a warehouse control system.
They can easily integrate with the existing warehouse management system without replacing or updating them.
The WCS is used to increase warehouse efficiency by utilizing industrial equipment for routine transfer operations. The WCS can help to plan equipment activities and schedule their work with minimum human intervention.
A WCS adds real-time monitoring of equipment and product for a WMS, allowing for tracking stock and inventory levels in a real-time manner.
WCS adds safety to the product, and personnel in a warehouse, making it possible to transfer products with less human intervention, reducing human error such as incorrect product dispatching, and collecting incorrect data. It also helps to reduce stress on the human body while transferring heavy objects.