How RFID is Changing EDI
Electronic Data Interchange, or EDI, has been a component of various supply chains for almost four decades. Originating with Ford Motor Company in 1983, suppliers have been receiving production schedules and/or purchase orders electronically. Soon afterward, suppliers were required to send back electronic packing slips in the form of Advance Ship Notices, or ASNs, along with electronic invoices. The longevity of EDI technology is due to its ability to dramatically lower the cost of doing business. Automotive Industry Action Group studies in the 1990s determined that using EDI saved anywhere from $.75 to $1 per transaction.
Today, there are over 250 commercial EDI transaction sets, facilitating exchange of transportation, student loans, real estate appraisals, mortgages, customs and healthcare information. 70% of business commerce documents consists of the same data, entered over and over between customer and vendor. When EDI replaces the manual data entry of snail mail, fax, email or even stand-alone EDI transmissions, order processing time shortens, accuracy improves, and fulfillment shortens. Beside the ERP backbone, many supply chains leverage EDI – and more are taking a second look at RFID.
RFID itself is not “new”. Developed for commercial application in the 1990s, by the year 2000 RFID was proclaimed to be “the next big thing” – even making the bar code obsolete. However, early applications of RFID turned out to be expensive, unstable, and lacking reliable ROI. Today, RFID is finding its place. Tracking high-value assets and/or containers, capturing traceability data, managing quality control and error-proofing shipments are a few examples of the reliability and value that RFID technology can deliver.
The basic components of an RFID deployment include RFID tags/antennae, readers/portals and middleware. An RFID tag consists of a tiny chip and antenna called an integrated circuit. This tag may also be part of a barcode label that may be attached to or inserted in a product, asset or containers such as bins & pallets, for example. Some tags store static information such as a container ID value; other tags may be assigned variable information such as electronic product code, GS1 data, and so on, that can be read, tracked or appended to by RFID readers. Readers or portals are fixed or mobile network-connected devices, with antennae that send power, data and commands to the tags. Often overlooked, RFID middleware filters, manages and communicates the data between the tag and the back-end system.
EDI has been mandated by various supply chains for many years, and more companies are evaluating RFID EDI technology to streamline and error-proof their processes. What might it look like if EDI and RFID were to collaborate, and further improve a manufacturer’s operations?
Incorporating RFID within an EDI process can further eliminate manual efforts, automate processes and enhance compliance between supplier and customer, such as:
- • Ensuring the right containers are loaded on the right trucks headed for customers
- • Automatically printing labels and shipment documents
- • Updating EDI ASN’s with verified serial shipping container codes
- • Tracking containers and RTI’s
- • And some day RFID tags could even generate EPCIS events to be tracked globally
Taking this idea a step further, if the customer was utilizing RFID and EDI they could receive as ASN and the data cross referenced to their Purchase Order. Upon receipt of a shipment, instead of manually scanning in and counting the order they could receive the pallets through an RFID portal and the materials would automatically be verified within their system against the PO and ASN before being entered into inventory. After this successful triple verification, their system would generate an EDI 820 payment notification.
Our industry is going to continue to evolve and new technologies will emerge. But if we’ve learned anything it’s that there are some tried and true legacy solutions that can be taken advantage of now.
Written by Radley Corporation
Industry 4.0: What Every Manufacturer Needs to Know
With each passing year, our world becomes a little "smarter." Each successive iteration of Internet technology produces a new generation of machines that look familiar yet demonstrate an increasing ability to learn from us and to automate our lives in surprising new ways. Just consider how, in a relatively short period of time, we've gone from landline phones to pocket-sized communication devices that know exactly where we are and can predict where we're about to go next—and even suggest a route to avoid traffic. Or consider the fact that we can now rapidly prototype virtually anything using CAD software and a desktop 3D printer. Instead of talking about the Information Superhighway, we're contemplating a burgeoning Internet of Things (IoT) in which online devices wirelessly interact with other online devices in real time, learning from one another and helping us apply the massive amounts of data now floating around in cyberspace to live better, more productive lives.
Such technology is already changing the way we live, work, and play. That's why forward-thinking manufacturers are preparing for a new era of production in which human workers no longer operate machines; they collaborate with them. After all, in an age of "smart" phones, "smart" homes, and "smart" cars, it's only a matter of time before we have "smart" factories, too.
Welcome to the world of Industry 4.0. That's shorthand for the next wave of digitized automation in manufacturing, which focuses on the disruptive potential of big data, extraordinary computing power, and unprecedented virtual connectivity. The first generation of industrialization involved mechanization, and the second generation involved electrical automation and mass assembly. The third generation arrived with the advent of computerized digital technology; and now, with the introduction of the Internet and machine learning, we're heralding the dawn of fourth-generation paradigms.
Here are a few examples of what Industry 4.0 manufacturing looks like:
• Utilizing big data to streamline processes. Instead of merely operating according to a set of programmed instructions, machines optimize processes in real time by continually acquiring and analyzing sensory data at multiple points along the production line. A high level of interconnectivity between machines enables them to leverage the power of distributed computing to establish complex metric histories, contextualize data at particular capture points, and correlate fluctuations in data against historical benchmarks. Plants therefore see improved recovery rates and reduced input costs as machinery automates routine QC checks and procedural adjustments.
• Digitally mapping physical entities for better design and process engineering. In much the same manner as 3D modeling enables a user to predict the output of a 3D printer, Industry 4.0 technology models physical interactions between machines in cyberspace, enabling a plant's equipment to prototype and "test run" its production environment digitally--without wasted assets. Errors can be more accurately anticipated and addressed in the engineering stage rather than at the point of production, and product designs can be optimized against equipment capabilities.
• Enhancing personnel performance through more intuitive human-machine interfaces. Biometrics, voice recognition, and augmented and virtual reality technology enable more contextualized delivery of information to human workers. This improves real-time decision-making, reduces simple human errors, and automates record-keeping as employees go about their jobs. Increasingly, humans and machines interact according to a collaborative model as the unilateral "operator-tool" mindset becomes obsolete.
Those are some monumental developments, and they represent a sea change in how manufacturers may be doing business in coming decades. It won't be an overnight transition, of course, but for many, it's not a question of whether we're moving in this direction, but of how quickly we'll get there. Manufacturers need to be ready, or they'll be left behind. We're committed to helping you stay informed, because navigating this emerging landscape requires visionary courage and a little help from seasoned partners who know the terrain. Be sure to get in touch if you have questions about how automation technology can help you stay ahead of the curve.
Written by Radley Corporation
Mapping Technology Changes to Physical Changes for Factory Workers
Imagine you have a job doing the same thing day in and day out for 30 years. You’ve become an expert in what you do, and you know your processes like the back of your hand. Then one day, some guy comes in from the IT department thrusting technology into your hand, going on about the new thing that works with another thing called an “ERP system.”
This a loose representation of our Radley XDC implementation at Prince. The extension of data collection onto our shop floor put technology in an area where none existed previously. Our factory operators were experts on their products and processes, but were also accustomed to doing their processes through paper-based methods.
In an effort to ease the transition for some of our most important stakeholders, we placed a big emphasis on connecting the new barcode scanner based processes to physical processes the factory operators already knew. By integrating their new barcode scanner flow into their daily operations and using their terminology as much as possible, we were able to reduce the confusion and frustration that can come with using a new system.
As a good example of this: Our operators have a well-documented procedure about packaging a pallet of material which ensures that we satisfy all customer requirements. After the pallet is fully packaged, labeled, and ready to go it gets put away in the warehouse. We treated our barcode scanner flow as an extension of this overall process, training them to always do their scans at the very end of the packaging run but immediately before the finished pallet was put away in the warehouse.
Benefits to doing it this way were numerous. As an extension of their known process, they became accustomed to it quickly and scanning became second nature after a few work shifts. By tying it to a physical process such as movement of the material in the warehouse, we reduce error because the operators can’t scan material incorrectly if it’s not there next to them. By being very specific about when the scans should occur, operators can be consistent in the procedures and confident that they did everything correctly.
Change is rough, but everyone benefits if processes are designed in a way that promotes success instead of leaving the potential for failure. Factory workers don’t always operate in the same technical world that IT or business analysts do, and it’s important to be sensitive to that. Be kind to your operators!
Contributed by Drew Hibbard
Business Systems Manager, Prince Minerals
Food Safety & Traceability: What Will it Look Like in 2017?
Multiple cases of food contamination kept the detection, response, recovery and prevention of food recalls in the news and was a hot topic within the supply chain this year. With the first set of FSMA rules only just released by the FDA this September, many manufacturers across North America will be entering into the New Year continuing to work towards compliance. On their heels are new and growing concerns of how allergens and food packaging chemicals are handled, which means 2017 might see a push to implement food safety beyond processing and into the labeling and packaging of products.
The majority of food safety measures thus far have focused on the sourcing and preparation of food and not on its packaging, despite the fact that it’s a critical component in the safety of consumer products. There are nearly as many quality concerns with the packaging and labeling of our food as there are with the processing of it: missing a detail on the list of ingredients, ink migrating through packaging and the chemicals used to manufacture bottles, plastic and cardboard containers. All of these aspects are critical to the safety of our food and have attracted the attention of consumers, regulators, industry and the media alike.
As these concerns trickle down throughout the supply chain, food manufacturers should be reviewing standards and initiating risk-assessments of their packaging suppliers in relation to their products and processes. For some manufacturers that means current efforts to track the origin of their ingredients through the processing of their products may not be enough anymore. Food traceability records might also have to contain information about the manufacturing of their packaging as well.
With the globalization of food distribution on the rise it’s more important than ever to consider the vital role packaging plays to ensure food products are safe for consumption. Over the coming years packaging suppliers might see more demand for traceability data that can be passed on to customers to be amended to their products traceability records. They might also be expected to adhere to new safety and quality standards or even become GSFI certified in order to do business.
As the Food & Beverage industry continues to streamline and automate quality and traceability, the need will grow for the packaging industry as well. Large consumer packaged goods companies have already begun to see the writing on the wall, forming the Food Safety Alliance for Packaging, a technical committee of the IoPP (Institute of Packaging Professionals.) Their initiative has developed HACCP models for packaging material categories: cartons, rigid plastics, cut and stack labels and composite cans.
It’s safe to assume that food safety will be just as important in the New Year as it’s been in years prior. We will continue to see standards and requirements trickle down within the industry affecting not just food manufacturers themselves but the suppliers who support them. Companies who might not necessarily fall within FSMA guidelines will be encouraged, if not mandated, by their customers to comply as well.
The good news is that the technology industry has been busy developing a variety of ways to help companies be compliant. From “food to fork” ingredient tracking, track and trace software to full Traceability Solution Platforms addressing not only the need to store and access traceability data for Food & Beverage manufacturers but provide greater inventory visibility, automate the collection of critical data and streamline processes for all manufacturers within the food supply chain.
Contributed by Amanda M. Smith
Marketing Director, Radley Corporation
The Ongoing Evolution of Worker Productivity
In response to competition from abroad many manufacturers have moved from low wage, low-value manufacturing to higher-value-added production as a means for improving their competitiveness. As manufacturing continues its evolution away from labor-intensive processes toward knowledge-based skills requiring technological problem solving, the way an organization regards its workforce must evolve as well. Companies must recognize that not only new skills, but also new combinations of skills are required of a manufacturing employee. Cost reduction initiatives adopted by large manufacturers and have been forced down the supply chain, pushing small companies to move past the position of low-value, low-wage supplier.
Prior to the Industrial Revolution over 200 years ago, gains in human productivity were slow and immeasurable. With the use of moving water and then steam, followed by internal combustion engines to drive mechanical devices used for milling, farming, manufacturing, transportation, etc. productivity began growing exponentially. These advances, as well as advances in communication and electrical networks significantly increased the output of each individual worker and the companies they worked for. Advances in industrial technology and improvements in productivity continued nearly unabated and, in the 1950’s and 60’s, they were bolstered by a new paradigm of technological evolution – the computer revolution, which was a byproduct and extension of previous advances. In the 70’s and 80’s the Internet and the World Wide Web came into fashion and another explosion of productivity began.
Today, technology like mobile applications, the cloud, collaboration, social networking, automated decision support systems, ubiquitous connectivity, and other modern trends and innovations provide ample opportunity for individual enterprises to continue to drive worker productivity higher to combat low wage competitors.
The best way to drive worker productivity growth is to increase investment in workers (through education and training), technology, and capital equipment. To do this however, organizations must do much more than merely implement these technologies with a hope for productivity improvement. Any justified technology purchase should be part of a strategic productivity improvement plan that helps create a “culture” of productivity within an organization.
Here are some considerations when developing a plan:
- • Begin creating a culture of productivity within the organization from the top down with management
- • Evaluate existing process automation, technology and applications to identify constraints and productivity obstacles
- • Avoid continuing to do things because “that’s the way they have always been done”
- • Document repeatable work flows, work instructions and ensure strict adherence to them
- • Weave related workflows together whenever possible to consolidate worker tasks
- • Generate worker tasks through software automation
- • Create or reenergize a strategic core workforce training and cross-training program
- • Encourage manufacturing employees to help identify process innovations
Faster growth in labor productivity allows a workforce to produce more and to earn increased wages, which helps with employee attraction and retention. Building a plan around productivity delivers great benefits to firms that need to make every dollar of investment count. It’s an ongoing effort that requires hard work, vigilance and continuous improvement and is a key component to the longer term health of a manufacturer and its workforce.
Written by Radley Corporation
iR*EDI or iCARaS Login Error
A common issue reported by our Radley EDI users is that their web browser says they cannot log into iR*EDI or iCARaS. Typically they either get some type of Internet Explorer error or when they try to enter their login information on the solution login screen, they get a message saying that their “password is invalid”. This is almost always the result of one of two things that can be resolved quickly.
The iCARaS/iR*EDI URL is not specified as a “trusted site” in Internet Explorer. The site URL can be added on the Internet Options panel located under the gear in the upper right corner of your browser. Under the Security Tab click on Trusted Sites to open the dialog box.
iRadley.com is not enabled under IE’s “compatibility view” settings. The site can be added on the Compatibility View panel located under the Tools menu. Depending on the version of Internet Explorer you are using, the steps for updating/changing settings will slightly differ. These settings are often changed after an IE update is automatically installed by Windows, so be sure to double check it after updates are installed to your computer.
If you cannot find where to add the URL as a trusted site, compatibility settings or are using a different browser, ask your companies’ IT Support Group or System Administrator, etc. Of course, you can always contact Radley’s EDI Technical Support group and they can talk you through the steps to resolve any issue.
Contributed by Kim Vendetti
EDI Support Manager, Radley Corporation
Meeting OEM Standards
The United States has one of the largest automotive markets in the world and despite challenges within the industry in recent years; the U.S. automotive sector is at the forefront of innovation. Technology has definitely played a part in the industry’s growth; driving companies like Honda to set requirements and push for continuous improvement from their suppliers. We are proud to be among the many vendors who serve this industry; which is why we have taken the steps to remain involved and current with the latest standards and requirements. In fact Radley’s EDI & Label solution, iCARaS™ is included in the Honda Approved Vendors list that is published for their suppliers.
Honda requires the use of a certified solution from an approved software vendor and for their suppliers to go through a certification process. If using an uncertified solution, the supplier must go through a much more extensive certification process and are considered hybrid. By using a certified solution, our customers have a relatively quick and simple certification process. The experienced Honda EDI team actually visits each software company to review not only the technology, but the services and support provided by the vendor requesting certification. When they visited our EDI division in Southfield, Michigan they wanted to see how our solutions handle label printing, shipping documents and reporting. Receiving Honda’s certification and being included in the list of approved vendors is a big achievement for companies like Radley working within the automotive industry. However, Honda is just one of the hundreds of trading partners that Radley’s EDI solutions support as standard product. Our reputation as experts within the industry was strengthened as they continued to visit Radley over the past few years, seeking our assistance in testing changes to functionality and new requirements prior to Honda rolling them out to other vendors and suppliers.
Honda’s approach and ultimate success caught the eye of other large automotive companies which led to similar initiatives such as the MMOG/LE (Materials Management Operations Guidelines/Logistics Evaluation) to help establish standards for evaluating supply chain processes within the automotive industry. Logistics organizations and suppliers are evaluated and graded with ‘A’, ‘B’ or ‘C’ ratings. The higher the rating, the more successful the manufacturer or supplier is at reducing costs, waste and workloads by the streamlining of operations.
Radley Corporation has been a long time member of AIAG (Automotive Industry Action Group) in addition to serving on the actual MMOG committee; helping with changes and updates to the future versions of the logistics evaluation. Our participation with these important industry groups is invaluable to our business and our customers and is what helps define Radley as experts in the industry. We are on the forefront of changes within the automotive world and incorporate that knowledge into our existing solutions and development of future products.
Contributed by Kimberly Strange
Solution Specialist, Radley Corporation