Technical Article

What’s the Difference Between a Warehouse Management System and a Warehouse Control System?

May 28, 2021 by Muhammad Asim Niazi

Learn about warehouse management systems and warehouse control systems and the different features of each one.

What is a Warehouse Management System (WMS)?

A warehouse management system (WMS) is a software application specifically designed for executing and supporting warehouse operations. It manages routine processes and collaborates with other parties, internal, and external to deliver their orders.


An example of an industrial warehouse where an engineer might use a WMS and a WCS.


The working of WMS is divided into modules. Each module is designed to perform a specific function. The company can decide to add or remove a module, depending on requirements and scale of operation. The standard modules necessary for the WMS are the following:

  • Inventory Management Module
  • Goods Receipt Module
  • Order Fulfillment Module
  • Shipping Module


The WMS facilitates the majority of processes within an organization. It is also possible to integrate WMS with existing software models such as computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS). The WMS automatically schedules goods availability when CMMS initiates an order to WMS.


What is a Warehouse Control System (WCS)?

A WCS is a software application operating under the umbrella of WMS. WCS is responsible for managing, controlling, and operating material flow across a warehouse. Equipment controls the material flow used to transfer goods between different sections of a warehouse.

A WCS manages and controls all the material handling equipment simultaneously, rather than a single piece of equipment at a time.

If it fails to coordinate all equipment simultaneously, it can severely hinder warehouse operations. Within the WCS, the material and equipment must be correct and are successfully delivered to their proper destination.


The WCS operates in real-time with the changing data and minimum possible delay time.


Otherwise, all information and data are useless. It interfaces with the equipment in real-time to collect its information and initiate equipment movement commands. It also monitors the material flow from beginning to end. The monitoring of both equipment and material allows for safer and efficient goods flow.


The Difference Between a WMS & WCS

WMS and WCS are different concepts and serve different purposes within a facility. Sometimes, their functions can overlap, creating confusion regarding their roles and affecting the decision-making process during the initial stages of WMS shortlisting.

Knowing the difference between them is beneficial and ensures proper utilization of both WMS and WCS. Some applications that differ WMS and WCS from each other include the following listed below. 


Planning vs. Implementation

The WMS plans all the warehouse activities, including material arrival, storing, and dispatching. The WMS is free to use all available resources. It makes plans of material flow depending on the requirements of the user department.

The WMS directs the material flow inside a warehouse from when it enters the warehouse until it leaves. WMS decides the storage location, time of arrival and dispatch, and allocates resources to facilitate material flow. It also records all the material activities from entry to exit, such as purchase, inventory, and gate pass.


A WCS implements the material flow operation in a warehouse.


It receives instruction from the WMS and uses different material handling equipment to execute them. It then interacts with the material flow equipment, keeps track of their movement, and allocates the equipment to a particular material. In addition to the equipment, WCS also tracks the material, so they are received at their desired destination without delay.


Non-Real Time vs. Real-Time

The WMS controls material movement and ensures all goods are safely stored until heading to their final destination. The WMS uses different mechanisms to ensure the material storage safely and facilitates movement to achieve these functions.

These methods are executing document control, coordinating another department, and allocating workforce. In a warehouse, the WMS works independently and uses these resources to achieve its task.

The WCS, on the other hand, focuses on real-time activities inside a warehouse. They are only responsible for running different material handling equipment to place the material at their desired location correctly. They are programmed to take instructions from WMS.

When the material reaches its intended location, the WCS job is completed. The material handling equipment waits for the next instruction from the WCS and executes the instruction as soon as they receive it.


Multiple Location vs. Single Location

WMS can control multiple warehouses within an organization and can coordinate operations occurring at more than one warehouse. This becomes critical for industries that have different warehouses for different products.

For example, a pharmaceutical company might have temperature-sensitive products and materials stored in a specialized warehouse maintaining specific temperature values, as required by law regulators.

With WMS in place, it facilitates material storage without deploying separate WMS for every separate warehouse. Single WMS controls all the inventory management, material movement, and tracking for all the warehouses for an organization.

WCS can only manage and control a single warehouse. It can only control the material flow equipment for a single site. A single WCS cannot Integrate with multiple warehouses at any level.

In conclusion, a warehouse management system facilitates the majority of all processes within a facility. A warehouse control system is a subset of a WMS. Both of these systems contribute to the success of a facility by optimizing and managing different parts of the process.