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Software That Drives The Hardware In A Distribution Center

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., July 9, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Famous nineteenth century Irish author George Bernard Shaw once wrote "The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place."  Although the quote was probably not written in the context of data flow, information processing and machine controls in an automated warehouse operation, the lesson still applies in that environment. The reaction when someone steps into a distribution center for the first time and witnessing the harmonious orchestra of conveyor systems, order picking technology, print and apply units, in line scales, sortation and a mass of other material handling technology typically starts with a 'Wow!' and quickly goes to a 'How?'.  The answer to this simple, yet extremely open-ended and complex question is software.  Software is what controls the information flow from the highest enterprise level system all the way down to the on/off "switch" for a shipping sorter divert mechanism and everywhere in between.  And just as Mr. Shaw eluded, the absence of this effective communications within the orchestra comes problems, big problems.  That is why it is important to understand the various information systems and their critical roles in ensuring a smooth warehouse operation.

If the lowest level of software in a warehouse is a controller that directs an on/off switch on any given device, then the highest level of software is the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) System.  ERP Systems usually have modules that may include the finance and accounting system, customer relationship management (CRM), human resources, project management, warehouse management (WMS) and a host of others.  In fact, the standard term for the ERP system including its WMS module is called the "host" system.  Host systems, whether they are home-grown, AS400 driven, custom-coded legacy systems or top of the line packages with names like Manhattan and Associates (PkMS, WM), Red Prairie, SAP, or Oracle, or any software package in between, typically do not function as the primary control system for warehouses and distribution centers. 

To view the full white paper by JJ Phelan, P.E. of TriFactor, LLC (, please visit  For other TriFactor white papers, articles or our newsletter, please visit the TriFactor Learning Center at


Copyright 2011 PR Newswire. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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