Simple, Secure Conveyor/WCS Integrations for JDA/BlueYonder WMS

Cloud/Hybrid WCS made Simple.

  • Originally Published on April 26, 2019 via LinkedIn

Mark Fralick – WMS Evangelist, co-Creator of MOCA, and currently 76-0 on WMS Go-lives

Am I a Control guy? You know, like those people that feel like they have to control absolutely everything.

Some opinions differ, I am sure, but I don’t think so.

I would say I am very much about strong cooperation and, even more so, coordination. So, when it comes to complicated WMS integrations, which include conveyor systems and other automation, that’s what I am after – a bit more cooperation and coordination between the execution elements.

Since the 1990’s, we’ve seen a continuing a segmentation of the execution responsibilities inside warehouses. In those old days, the WMS controlled pretty much everything – including conveyors. Since then, that has become a bit of a specialty. The WMS vendors surrendered that domain to the WCS/WES systems and, in many cases, regional automation system integrators.

And, the WMS is less for it.

Let me explain. First, while the WMS should not necessarily be controlling everything, it should have visibility to pretty much everything. Unfortunately, the integration points of many of these WCS packages tend to leave the WMS in the dark. Are we getting a lot of NO-READs? I don’t know. Are we getting a lot of recircs (re-circulations, or recircs for short, happen when we may not have the routing information available at the correct time)? We don’t know. This is valuable information the WMS could act upon. 

Then there is the technical integration. Many of these WCS/WES vendors use ancient socket interfaces. Just how ancient? Well, ancient enough that the protocols still implement very synchronous ACK/NAK methods left over from the days of RS-232 serial communication.  Inherently insecure, these older socket interfaces don’t stand a chance of passing any modern IT security audits.

Okay, so what? Well, anyone who reads anything about the work we do at GetUsROI and our R&D organization, AttunedLabs, knows we have a strong bias toward action.  We are not likely to wait for these issues to be addressed.  Thus, we are announcing the first go-live of our free-to-use ElasticWCS feature. In this case, it is running a brand-new sortation system, integrated to an existing JDA WMS. The reaction from the conveyor PLC/controls folks: “The easiest WMS integration we’ve ever done.

Built with modern technologies like DataGrids and Kafka Messaging, it handles any combination of on-premises, hybrid, and cloud deployments. But beyond a myriad of deployment options, what this means to the WMS is this: Simple, secure REST calls to send routing information and an even simpler and secure WCS Event service. Posting back to the WMS, we expose all the WCS events with which the WMS may have interest.

This go-live features the ElasticWCS communicating directly with multiple PLCs running on industry-standard EtherNet/IP. 

Our next release will include support for Pick-to-Light/Put-To-Light and an ASRS abstraction. Additionally, we will release our WCS emulator, now being trialed by a couple our large multinational customers who use automation heavily, able to mimic the interactions of a variety of ASRS, aAGV systems and commercial WCS systems.

ElasticWCS, as with all the AttunedLabs/GetUsROI innovations, is free for our customers and partners to use.

Control? No. Action to yield better coordination? Absolutely!