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Lack of Affordable Control System Options Hinders Operations
January 17, 2021
Most control system solutions currently on the market do not give customers the options to pick and choose from a range of services. As a result, many operations that need just one or two capabilities — such as routing or system monitoring — struggle to find cost-effective, modular and agile options. Until recently, their only options have been to use comprehensive control systems, third-party software or custom solutions developed in-house — none of which present a viable long-term method to meet the challenges of today’s logistics environments.
Of course, high-end solutions like warehouse execution systems (WES) address the full spectrum of modern order fulfillment with diverse automation and material handling requirements. While these systems deliver robust options for nearly every aspect of large-scale fulfillment and distribution, WES modules typically provide more functionalities than most small- and medium-sized operations require. And while some WES solutions allow operators to pick and choose the capabilities they need, using a WES for one or two warehouse improvements is neither cost-effective nor practical. In existing operations, implementing a WES also typically involves replacing most control systems currently in place, cutting short the useful life of past investments.
At the other end of the spectrum are third-party software solutions or customized workarounds that operations have developed to address their unique needs. Both of these approaches increase investment costs and slow implementation. They’re also more difficult to keep up to date over time — and risk becoming unsustainable as technology and other aspects of your operation change.
Where Are the Cost-effective Alternatives for High-performance Conveyor and Sortation Control?
The wide gap between these two options suggests the need for a different approach. Many operations want to achieve throughput and efficiency improvements with less comprehensive solutions than a WES, but more reliable than third-party or homegrown customization. Some are ready for a holistic system if it works with PLC- or PC-based controls and doesn’t require them to replace existing investments in their warehouse control system (WCS) or warehouse management system (WMS). Others simply want an affordable way to upgrade or optimize one or two functions now and expand controls later, if necessary.
A solution capable of meeting all of these needs should ideally be cost-competitive and flexible enough to allow any given service to be used as a stand-alone solution or packaged together to meet a customer’s unique needs. These options would combine the advantage of paying only for the services you need, with smooth and easy upgrades as your operation grows or responds to market changes.
Modular Capabilities for Real-world Operations
Based on our experience with hundreds of DCs worldwide, Honeywell Intelligrated has identified five key conveyor and sortation control functions with a strong need for stand-alone or modular control solutions. While they have traditionally been difficult to find in stand-alone packages, they can now be seamlessly integrated into PC-based machine control, and PLC and third-party controls — often at a significantly lower cost. You’ll find full details in our new white paper titled Modernizing Material Handling: Modular Control Systems.
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