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Material Direction Control System

MDCS is your Warehouse Control System (WCS) software. Material distribution warehouses have a Warehouse Management System (WMS) and one or more material handling programmable controllers (PLC).  MDCS is the software that fills the gap between the WMS software and the PLC. While the WMS determines where the cartons are needed and the PLC diverts the material to where it is needed, MDCS makes sure that these things occur and records them.

The MDCS software can interface with the customer’s host systems to share data.  Carton routing data, sortation confirmation and picking control details are a few examples of data that can be shared with a customer’s system.  MDCS can drive print and apply systems to generate labels and to verify the label application.  It can interact with scales as part of a check weigh area to assist in QC functionality.  Many other types of shared data and interaction are also available.


MDCS interfaces with the PLCs used to control things such as conveyor systems, print and apply systems, scales, carousels, robots and palletizers.  MDCS exchanges information with each PLC to assist in material movement, system operation and recording activities.


Some of the Advantages of MDCS


·         • Low cost solution to exchange information between WMS systems and PLCs.

·         • Purchase only what you need today. Only the modules required for a project are utilized.  Customer is not paying for functions not required. Easily expandable by adding additional services and applications from the MDCS suite.

·         • Any Windows based computer with access to the server can run the applications.

·         • No per computer or per seat licensing to use the MDCS applications to monitor and control the conveyor system.   

·         • Any computer can be configured to start / stop / reset the conveyor system.  This can lower the overall cost by reducing the quantity of physical push buttons and switches or replace expensive hard to maintain HMIs.

·         • The computer can also be used to control induction points and use of work areas. 

·         • Flexible unlimited types of interfaces with the WMS system such as TCP/IP sockets, shared tables and FTP file exchange.

·         • Customer can quickly and easily control access to MDCS functionality by granting or restricting rights by the user login name.

·         • System status and activity can be easily viewed such as information about scans, diverts, faults, usage, read rates, etc. depending upon the MDCS modules implemented.

·         • Log files for the MDC activity are kept for at least 30 days to provide history information.

·         • MDCS can send WMS updates using any of the collected data.

·         • Not proprietary software. Customer can obtain the source code.

·         • No annual fees.

MDCS Suite

The Material Direction Control System (MDCS) is a suite of services and applications that are available to assist in material handling and conveyance systems.  The MDCS modules required to implement a system solution are combined to provide the desired system functionality.  MDCS provides user interaction to display system activity and to allow users to interact with the system. 


Some of the most common MDCS modules are listed below.  The MDCS modules that interact directly with users have sample screens shown that represent how they would look.  They are configured by project to meet the specific needs of the job. 


·         Check Weigh – Check Weigh is used to capture the weights of cartons at certain points in the process.  It can be configured to validate against expected weights and divert cartons to a reject area or mark the carton for sending to a specific area later in the process.  The capture information is stored in the MDCS tables and can be passed to the WMS system.


·         Container Status – Container Status is used to display the history of containers, orders and waves within MDCS.  It is configured to display the information relevant to each project.

MDCS Image

MDCS Image

Conveyor Status – Conveyor Status provides information regarding faults throughout the conveyor system.  Each device or condition that requires fault detection (motor overloads, E-stop tripped, gate up, slack chain sensor, product jam, etc.) will be monitored.  When a fault occurs, a description of the fault will be displayed on a screen that represents the conveyor layout for that area.  The time the fault occurred and when it is resolved are recorded.


Other conditions that are not faults but are of operator interest are also displayed.  These include accumulation full status where applicable, functional areas running / not running, operational modes, etc.


The operator is provided with a drop down list to select which area should be displayed.  A screen will appear depicting the selected area and indicating active fault, alarm or status conditions.

MDCS Image

·Dashboard - The Dashboard provides a quick view of how a scanner and the associated area are functioning.  Parameters can be set for each scanner to allow for target counts, rates and percentages.  The user can select the scanner to view, type of graph to display and whether to include Total cartons and Good cartons as part of the graph.  The descriptions for the Reject types are dependent upon the area type and the user requirements.

MDCS Image

The user can also select to view the divert statistics in multiple ways.  There are summary and detail displays.  A few examples are shown below.

MDCS Image

MDCS Image

The last tab is used to set the parameters per scanner.  The values entered on this tab are used to calculate the information displayed on the other screens.  The values can vary by scanner to allow for different expected volumes.

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Host Data Exchange - This service is used to exchange information between a host system (WMS) and MDCS.  The data can be exchanged using TCP/IP sockets, shared tables, FTP and other sharing methods.  One or more instances of the Host Data Exchange service may be used to maximize the data exchange rate, multiple customer computer systems or to handle multiple data exchange types.  The communication method, data structure and message types are detailed in the design phase.


Lane Assignments – This is used to allow mapping of WMS routes or logical lanes to physical lanes on a sorter.  One or more routes can be assigned to the same physical lane.  The same route can be assigned to multiple physical lanes.

MDCS Image

Picking – The Picking service interacts with the PLC to direct containers to the required picking zones within a picking module.  When a carton is scanned, the Picking service uses information about the carton to determine if the carton needs picks from one or more of the zones associated with the scanner or camera.  More than one pick zone can be required for a container at a divert location.  MDCS can be set up to prioritize pick or to allow the container to go to the first available zone assigned for the divert location.  The zone divert information is passed to the PLC which delivers the carton to the one of the required zones or allows the container to pass.  It is also used to release cartons from picking once the carton is completed.


Picking Divert Confirm – This service is used to record the result of each attempted picking divert.  This information is stored in MDCS tables for review and / or reporting.  The divert confirmation details can also be passed back to the customer’s host computer.


Print and Apply Identify – The PA Identify service is used to identify the carton being processed and print a label.  The label can be provided by the WMS system or generated by MDCS depending upon the label required.


Print and Apply Verify – This service is used to compare the label scanned at Print and Apply Identify and the label applied.  It will then determine if the proper label is on the carton.  The carton can then be directed as required based upon the comparison result.


Print and Apply Divert Confirm – This service is used to monitor and record the success of each attempted divert based upon the result of PA Verify.  This information is stored in MDCS tables for review and / or reporting.  The divert confirmation details can also be passed back to the customer’s host computer.

Reports - Reports are available to monitor the history of containers, check weigh areas, sorters, etc.  The user can select date/time ranges for the reports.  There are multiple standard reports.  Custom reports can be added.  All reports can be viewed on the screen or sent to a printer.

A few of the standard reports are shown below.  Customer reports can also be created to fit your specific needs.

Parameters can be entered for each report.  For example, some of the reports allow entry of the start date/time and the end date/time to allow viewing of the desired time range. 


There are 4 standard sortation reports.  They provide divert information for the time selected.  Each of the four varies slightly from the others in regards to whether it is a summary or detail report and whether it provides only totals or totals by hour along with the grand totals at the end.
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MDCS Image
MDCS Image
MDCS Image
The Weight Range Verification report is used to compare the weight of each carton at the scan point and compare it to the expected weight.  The weight ranges are set by a MDCS system user with enough authority.
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The Container History Report shows details regarding the MDCS tracking of a carton throughout the process.  It includes information regarding messages exchanged with the WMS system, each scan point, divert confirmation information, label application, weight checks, pallet building details or any other information that MDCS can capture.
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·         Sortation – The Sortation service interacts with the PLC to direct containers to the proper sortation destination.  When a carton is scanned, the Sortation service uses information about the carton to determine the lane (or lanes) designated for the carton type or route.  The physical lane is passed to the PLC which delivers the carton to the lane indicated.


Sortation Divert Confirm – This service interacts with the PLC to record the divert location and divert status of a carton.  This information is stored in MDCS tables for review and / or reporting.  The divert confirmation details can also be passed back to the customer’s host computer.


·         System Controls – This module provides an interface for the operators to control the conveyor system at key locations.  Start / Stop / Reset functions for the conveyor system can be performed from the computer.  Switches to control inducts, print and apply systems and scales can be used.   System Controls also provides the ability to set parameters for portions of the system such as scale tolerances or reason codes for sorter stoppages.  Each function can be enabled or disabled per the user login name of the computer. This allows a supervisor to limit which functions are accessible to other users.  The functions available for a system are dependent upon the conveyor system being controlled.


The System Controls screen provides information about the activities in the conveyor system.  For example, it can show details on the sortation area and sortation confirms.  This type of information makes it easy for an operator to monitor system activity and provides a view to the decisions, directives and results of functions within the system.  
MDCS Image
MDCS Image
Wave Control – Wave Control is used to release groups of orders or cartons based upon customer requirements.  It can also be used to assign pallets to lanes and control notification of pallet / order status to the operators in a work area.


Many other MDCS modules exist within the MDCS suite.  Please contact us to discuss the services and applications that will be used to provide your project a high quality low cost solution.