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12 Businessexcellence October 07 Warehouse management systems (WMS) are a key part of the supply chain, concerned primarily with controlling the movement and storage of materials within a warehouse and processing the associated transactions, including shipping, receiving, put-away, and picking. The systems also direct and optimize stock put-away based on real-time information about the status of bin utilization. Warehouse management systems utilize auto ID data capture technology, such as barcode scanners, mobile computers, wireless LANs and potentially RFID to efficiently monitor the flow of products. Once data has been collected, there is either batch synchronization, or a real-time wireless transmission to a central database. The database can then provide useful reports about the status of goods in the warehouse. Traditionally, a WCS (warehouse control system) executes instructions provided by an upper-level host Thomas R. Cutler explains why a warehouse control system (WCS) is well suited to working with a lean six sigma initiative Leaningthe warehouse

October 07 Businessexcellence 13 system, such as an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system or a WMS system. True tier-one WCS software provides advanced management capabilities including inventory control, resource scheduling and order management. The bestof- breed WCS systems are modular in nature, easily configurable and platform independent, with a scalable architecture to satisfy the needs of any size warehouse. Unlike a typical WMS software solution, WCS directs real-time data management and the interface responsibilities of the material handling system as well as providing common user interface screens for monitoring, control and diagnostics. WCS systems must be entirely flexible and scalable. Beyond software selection and implementation, there are mechanisms and tools for handling specific and measured process improvement. Selecting replacement, supplementary or new warehouse management software applications is a multi-step undertaking involving a wide range of skills. Finding the best fit will vary in every set of circumstances. A checklist of WCS areas of expertise must include: • Operations audits • Supply chain strategy development and master planning • Process analysis and optimization • Location modeling, transportation, logistics, and distribution network analysis • Inventory analysis and control • Vendor/supplier collaboration • Material handling equipment (MHE) requirements • Analysis, specification development, and bid administration • Warehouse management system (WMS) requirements • Project management, systems integration, and implementation WCS vendors must develop a strategic partnership with a manufacturing and distribution firm in which there is a clear understanding of the organization’s unique shipping needs, and actively assist in reaching and measuring cost reduction goals and service needs. Warehouse control systems must address numerous challenges from multiple angles and perspectives, but if these are met they can produce benefits including a greater return on assets, increased operational capacity, reduced labor costs, increased inventory turns, an increase in picking and shipping accuracy, shorter process cycle times and improved customer satisfaction. According to Jerry List, vice-president of QC Software, “Implementation of a WCS system requires an experienced supplier who should be able to provide streamlined project cycle, single-point of accountability and have a deep knowledge of distribution operations. This can only be achieved through the experience gained from a history of successful projects. Only then Supplychain