Filling in the ERP Gap
Over the past couple of decades, businesses have started utilizing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) in order to manage transactions and data over the totality of their supply chain. ERP systems have been able to provide transparency and valuable insights into transaction-level information along the supply chain, enabling the business to make smart choices in terms of workflow, products, and production. However, new applications called ERP-connected applications are being developed to go further and do the jobs that ERP systems often miss. These applications increase the amount and effectiveness of supply chain analysis that executives can use to make decisions that have profound positive impact on the organization.
Handling Supply Chain Differences
Supply chains vary from company to company, with some executives viewing their supply chain operations as simply "utilities" meant to function without effort or investment. This kind of company generally just relies on following industry best practices, including implementing bare bones ERP to determine their supply chain operations, otherwise known as the “follow the leader” philosophy. However, some companies think of their supply chain functions as an opportunity to create an edge over the competition by supplementing their ERP with expansive software tools.
Reducing Schedule Delays
Schedule delays can potentially cripple a small company, and often the cause of these delays can be blamed on a partially integrated ERP system. The consequence of these ERP glitches is a disconnect in organization and communication between resources, employees and departments. This issue is often the result of faulty implementations of an ERP system that is not designed to anticipate the operations of another department. However, there are tools and software that fill this gap and reduce the frequency and impact of schedule delays.
Avoiding Manual Reporting
ERP solutions are meant to streamline business processes, but when you have to generate reports manually, these solutions become ineffective. Supplemental tools enable you to enter data into the system automatically, to calculate and design reports determined by the criteria you specify.
Integrated Solution Success
Using an integrated solution to the ERP system allows the business to fulfill orders and gain a competitive edge while maintaining the value of centralized data and the capacity to effectively handle transactions. But the strengths of ERP can also be supplemented in areas outside of order fulfillment using the flexible power of business optimization tools and processes. Companies can enhance their ERP capabilities through techniques that include integrating data collection, tracking product through serialization and kitting, increasing OEE (overall equipment effectiveness, and streamlining warehouse activity through task scheduling.
To find out more about how you can fill the productivity gaps in your ERP and help your business run more efficiently contact the experts at Radley today.
Written by Radley Corporation
Automation - Filling the Gap in the Manufacturing Job Market
Automation and the direction it's heading in manufacturing is often put out as a doom and gloom situation. ‘Robotics will bring an end to the need for actual human workers’ is what is being stated. But is that really the case? Or will automation open up a whole new arena for workers? And what does it mean for how current manufacturing jobs are being filled? The current situation could have a huge impact on what happens in the future with automation and the job market.
Changes in the Playing Field
Companies are currently having difficulty finding enough employees to meet their manufacturing needs. While that seems to be at odds with the number of people needing jobs there are several reasons behind the problem. One of those is an aging work population. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average age of half of all manufacturing workers was 45, and half as many of those were 55 or older in 2016. Retirement is closing in and there are no young workers stepping up to replace them. This is a critical issue for the future of manufacturing.
Drug problems are another major factor when it comes to employable men. Opioid use is wiping out a high percentage, as much as 25%, of what would be reliable, younger workers. Lack of skills is another contributor. Leadership and decision making skills, along with a broader array of adaptable skills, are sadly lacking in the training of young people today.
Automation Can Fill the Gap
Faced with a worker shortage, automation can help fill the gap. Jobs that are mundane, tedious and repetitive can often be replaced or enhanced by automation. As automation increases, areas such as data gathering can be automated. Automation can also free up current workers to be better utilized in other areas where automation isn't possible. Companies are going to have to become innovative and think outside the box to make these things happen. The need for implementation and planning is immediate as many businesses are already in a labor crisis.
Automation at a much broader level is coming. Using it to meet your manufacturing needs calls for a business with a dedicated team that can come up with a sound strategy for the future—one that helps fill the current labor shortage and one that will create jobs as employees move from one position that's automated, to another.
Moving Into the Future
Businesses simply cannot wait to make changes. They aren't going to happen overnight so the planning has to begin now, especially those who are currently in need of workers. Here are some things to consider:
- • Access Your Needs - Determine what areas you can use automation to downsize your need for workers and increase productivity.
- • Training Programs - Consider implementing training programs that can retrain current employees to move into more skilled areas.
- • Create New Job Titles - As you increase automation, where can you add job titles? Productivity increases with automation. How can you take advantage of that to add more diverse jobs and creativity to what you do?
- • Consider Apprentice Training - How can your company work to develop an apprenticeship program that will train young workers as skilled workers of the future?
Automation can be the key to both fulfilling your current labor need and increasing the manufacturing job market in the future. As your need for automated processes change we are here to help. Radley Corporation can provide business solutions to enhance your company's transition into the future. Contact us for more information today.
Written by Radley Corporation
3 Benefits of the Intelligent Shop Floor
Technology continues to improve our lives and the way we do business, especially when it comes to business automation. From the factory lines to the front lines of customer service, technological solutions give management better insight into the real-time workings of business. That said, the shop floor all too often remains divorced from other business systems, with minimal automated communication between the two. A truly intelligent shop floor brings business software into close contact with automated manufacturing systems, giving a top-to-bottom view of the environment as it really is.
The intelligent shop floor gives real-time data on the actual goings-on of the moment. That means if a client calls for a status update, you no longer need to consult with a chain of people to gain that information. With a few clicks, anyone with access can find out what projects are underway and make reasonable estimates for completion. If there are any problems on the line, you can see those too.
Big Picture View
Better details mean a clearer overall picture. The intelligent shop floor also gives information on production times, allowing you to compare productivity of workers and machines. Using the objective data collected from these integrated systems, you can spot problem areas, and also areas which are working well.
Less Paper (and More Accuracy)
Another, far less efficient way to get much of this data involves regular handwritten reports. Such reports take time, use paper and are subject to all manner of human error. An intelligent shop floor cuts out the middle man, freeing workers to do their jobs without taking time out to fill out endless reports.
If you would like more information about Shop Floor Control and other solutions to help make your business more efficient, contact us today. See what Radley Solutions can do for you.
Written by Radley Corporation
Four Ways Manufacturers Benefit From Cloud Computing
Cloud computing is now the choice platform for many technology enterprises due to its innovative and dynamic features. As opposed to on-premise implementation, manufacturing in the cloud gives developers access to unlimited resources such as servers, storage, hardware, and software. Cloud computing enables manufacturers to outsource almost everything they need for software configuration. Software vendors in the cloud implement all the hosting, software update, and maintenance operations.
Cloud deployment has many advantages over the traditional on-premise model of implementation. Let’s take a look into four key areas where cloud computing beats on-premise deployment:
Cloud computing saves you time and cost
With the on-premise approach, you have to invest massively in hardware, software, and servers. Cloud computing takes care of these costs since a third-party vendor provides the infrastructure and you rent it out for a fee. This fee is much less compared to deploying your resources to purchase everything you need for your setup. Apart from saving you money, cloud computing also saves time spent by your internal IT staff developing, managing and maintaining your on-premise technologies.
With cloud computing, you get access to resources when you need them; hence you can complete and deliver projects within short periods of time. In this era of great demand for technologies and applications, clients require that you take the shortest time possible to deliver with efficiency.
Cloud computing enables you to customize your technologies depending on your needs. You can easily scale your cloud capacity up or down based on your bandwidth demands. Available resources are matched to your actual usage needs, keeping costs contained and taking the worry out of database capacity.
Automatic Software Updates & Security
With cloud computing, you don’t have to worry about regular software updates. Your supplier handles all the security upgrades and compliance concerns so you’re always up-to-date. Security updates and disaster recovery are also handled by your supplier so you can focus on running your business. For more information on the advantages of cloud deployment, contact a Radley product specialist today.
Written by Radley Corporation
How Task Interleaving Can Improve Warehouse Productivity: 4 Benefits You Need To Know
Achieving maximum warehouse productivity may often seem like an unattainable task, but with the right processes in place, it is definitely achievable. One step towards optimal warehouse productivity is to introduce the concept of task interleaving.
Task interleaving essentially takes multi-step tasks and consolidates them into a single workflow, for warehouse staff assignment. These warehouse tasks could include:
- • Order Fulfillment
- • Inventory Replenishment
- • Put-away
- • Consolidate Inventory
- • Picking (Wave, Directed, Distributed)
- • Cycle Counting
Interleaving helps to achieve maximum efficiency throughout the work day. It allows workers to complete replenishments, put-aways and picks simultaneously, and in a logical way.
Here are just a few examples of how task interleaving can improve warehouse productivity:
1) Eliminate Non-Productive Activities
Did you know up to 55% of order picking time is spent traveling? Task interleaving is designed to reduce deadheading (traveling without completing any useful tasks). For example, when a worker picks products and drops them off at a dock and then returns to the picking area without performing any useful tasks along the way. One of the biggest benefits associated with task interleaving is the reduction in unproductive activity.
2) Manage Labor Costs
In a competitive market, it is essential to keep costs down in order to gain full efficiency. Managing labor costs is another benefit that will greatly impact long-term growth. In addition to keeping labor costs down, task interleaving helps businesses thrive and flourish without the added cost of more labor. Productivity increases, but costs stay down. A complete Task Management solution, including task interleaving, can collect and monitor task data, letting you know precisely when and where tasks are completed, and by whom.
3) Eliminate Manual Efforts
Manual methods are time-consuming and prone to errors. Having task management software in place means that a lot more of manual work is lessened, and leaves workers free to pursue other productivity efforts without slowing down operations. Eliminate labor intensive, manual data entry while accurately predicting demand to increase customer satisfaction. Automate put-away, replenishment, order picking and cycle counting making paper lists and reporting a thing of the past.
4) Automate the Flow of Information
Keeping steady track of information flow may be hectic and difficult, especially during busy seasons. With task management software, this process becomes automated and much easier to handle. By automating data collection throughout the supply chain, you can eliminate manual tasks and decrease errors, so your data is always accurate. With automated processes in place, it will also become easier to measure productivity and understand where improvements are needed. The ultimate goal is maximum efficiency, and having measurable outcomes in place puts your goal within reach.
These are just some of the benefits associated with task interleaving. To learn more about how task management software can take your warehouse productivity to the next level, please contact a Product Specialist today for your free consultation.
Written by Radley Corporation
Can Printers Boost Your Manufacturing Productivity?
While you may not immediately think of printers as a vital productivity-enhancing tool for assembly and manufacturing industries, reframing this concept will reveal the hidden costs incurred when production contends with frequent printing problems: wasted time, squandered materials, documentation errors, disruptions to the office workflow, and unnecessary IT or help desk assistance.
Printers boost manufacturing productivity, but only when you have the right printer for the task—one that uses the best technology for the application, is easy to operate, clean and maintain, and has the features needed to automate many manual functions. Many production processes involve creating labels, work orders, inventory logs, bills-of-material and job tickets. When this necessary production documentation is handwritten, errors inevitably appear when numbers or instructions are transcribed from one document to another.
A dedicated printer for office and plant floor printing will streamline the manufacturing process and provide multiple benefits:
1.) Seamless integration with enterprise-wide business systems, connecting manufacturing management with production, inventory, and outbound logistics
2.) Barcode scanning and printing will add built-in information to labels - recording each production process; your company gains improved product traceability and production visibility
3.) Dedicated printers eliminate wasted time walking to distant printers; 'just-in-time' printing at the point of production reduces the likelihood of order mix-ups
4.) Removal of valuable labor time (and human errors) when documentation is sent directly from business systems to the production line
5.) Reduction in part mislabeling with on-demand, pre-printed labels at the point of use; a more efficient system compared to mass printing labels prior to production runs
6.) Quality and efficiency are promoted, while traditional, yet inefficient methods that add workflow burden and additional costs, are demoted
Printing technology can add extensive functionality to your production environment. Selecting the right printer depends on a number of factors, including your production environment, quantity and type of labels needed, and network requirements. The experienced consultants at Radley Corporation can evaluate, recommend, install, configure and support your hardware needs whatever your industry and environment. Contact us for a free consultation with a Product Specialist.
Written by Radley Corporation
3 Tips: What to Look For in a Software Vendor
Utilizing current software technology is one of the best ways to automate various business tasks. Streamlining your current workflow may appear daunting. Fortunately, there are companies that specialize in providing these services. A good software vendor can help you transform your current business processes successfully.
What to look for in a software vendor:
1.) Established History: Look for a software vendor that has a reputable work history. A company should have some way of establishing trust with you before you make a purchase. Seek out a company with years of proven results, working with companies that are similar to yours in areas such as size, industry or your software requirements. Many companies will also be glad to provide references upon request.
2.) Training and Support: Vendors that provide training and support can help to cut the learning curve of business owners and employees. Software vendors typically offer face-to-face and remote support options. Ask your vendor questions about the level of support and training that will be included in your purchase. This will help to reduce confusion in the future.
3.) Upgrades and Security: Speak with vendors about how often your software purchase will need to be upgraded. Find out if there are any fees associated with keeping your software current. Other topics you may want to discuss are things like security breaches, and the threat of technology related viruses. Any vendor that you choose to work with should have measures in place to provide you with support in the event of a business emergency.
Hiring a software vendor is not unlike hiring a good employee. You check their references, evaluate their expertise, and assess their ability to provide support to your team.
Software vendors can help automate processes and decrease downtime. Purchasing and updating current business software can be an invaluable business investment. If you are seeking more information regarding reliable and innovative software solutions contact us today.
Written by Radley Corporation
If putting data into computer databases with little to no human intervention sounds appealing to your company, radio-frequency identification may be for you. Radio-frequency identification, otherwise known as RFID, is a technological tool that reads tags, identifies information about the object the label is attached to, and enters this information into a computer database. This technology is similar to barcoding; however, RFID systems are able to store much more information than traditional barcodes.
So, how does this tool work? RFID is a system consisting of a RFID tag or smart label, a RFID reader, also called an interrogator, and an antenna. The tag contains a circuit and an antenna, which transfers information to the reader. Once the information is transferred, the reader converts the information to a more usable form of data. This information is then transferred to a computer database with a software.
Now that we know how RFID systems work, let's talk about why your company would want to implement an RFID system. In the fast-moving consumer goods industry, your company needs to be just that, fast. Many manufacturers need to count products several times during the span of one day. By using an RFID system, these products can be counted in seconds, decreasing the amount of manual work, and in turn, reducing costs. In addition, RFID scanners do not have to be in the line of sight of the tag, and the scanners can also read more than one tag at a time.
As we mentioned, RFID systems are able to contain much more information than a barcode. The system can contain information such as real-time movement of products, amount of time needed for production, and which machines have and haven't gone under maintenance. Some additional benefits of an RFID system include: accuracy, efficiency, quickening of the manufacturing process, greater visibility, and improved planning.
Although RFID has many pros, it also comes with some cons. Some of these include:
- • The range of the reader can be short
- • Cost of development can be high
- • Incompatible standards across tag type, industries, and different countries
A critical element of the RFID system is the middleware (software) that aggregates, manipulates, and analyzes tag data. Radley can provide the middleware solution, and also help select the best hardware and equipment needed for your system. If you are interested in a RFID Solution, contact a Radley product specialist today.
Written by Radley Corporation
The BYOD Debate: Warehouse Data Collection
Now that barcode and QR scanning apps are widely available and popular, the possibility of employees using their own devices for warehouse data collection arises. Companies debate whether to invest in purchasing and setting up mobile computers and scanning devices that are specifically made for warehouse data collection or to allow their employees to use their own phones, tablets, and computers with work-related apps installed where applicable. There are pros and cons on both sides of the issues.
Employees are familiar with their own devices. They would need to learn to use the app and device in a work related way, but there is less of a learning curve. This means they would learn the workplace-related tasks more efficiently.
The costs of the personal devices would be carried by the employee; there would be some costs for setting up the devices to connect to the database and writing or purchasing applicable applications, but the devices themselves would not be a cost. Employees are more likely to keep their own devices up to date so the costs of technology upgrades would be passed along.
IT no longer has to maintain a lot of hardware; maintenance of the mobile devices is up to the employee. The software needed to work a system like this is cloud-based, and the cloud provider will maintain it. This frees IT to work on developing and implementing the rest of the technology in the company.
Privacy and security are a concern on both sides of the employer/employee relationship. Employers may not want employees taking information home with them, and if the employees are using their own devices, that is difficult to avoid. This raises very real security concerns. Personal devices may not have adequate antivirus protection and may be vulnerable to hackers. Devices that leave the facility are more likely to be lost or stolen. On the other side of the equation, employees may not want to let their workplace have eyes in their personal devices, and may be very leery about allowing work that far into their personal life.
Employees' devices may not be compatible with the employer's system (though there are many network applications that claim to be compatible with most devices). Employees that do not use smartphones, or who are happy with their current device and are told they need a different one that will fit the network, may be unhappy with the requirement to buy a piece of expensive equipment for work. The gains in productivity from using familiar devices may be lost in distractibility; personal devices are usually set up so that emails, Facebook and Twitter feeds, texts and other personal applications pop up constantly. If the devices are being used for work, the employer can't require employees to leave them in their locker or desk. And since the device is a personal possession, the employer can't tell them not to have those applications on their device.
While the initial idea of not having to purchase devices may be tempting, the security and productivity concerns may outweigh those temporary gains. Should you decide to invest in hardware solutions for your company, Radley Corporation has the expertise to evaluate, recommend, install, configure and support your hardware needs whatever your industry and environment. Radley data collection offers mobile capability for iOS, Windows and Android devices, as well as traditional handheld terminals and a web-based user interface.
Written by Radley Corporation
4 Tips for a Successful Software Implementation
New software can help you make the most of your resources, allowing you to have a bird's-eye view and drill down into the daily operations of warehouse and manufacturing. Today we're going to look at Tips for Successful Software Implementation, especially as related to Warehouse Management (WMS) and Manufacturing Execution (MES) software.
In any successful endeavor involving multiple people, communication is key. This is especially the case when implementing new or extensively modified software in a warehouse or manufacturing environment. You have many moving pieces, many parties with a stake in these changes. Make sure that knowledge flows both ways. Make sure that your employees and business partners know about relevant changes, and don't forget to solicit any insights they may have. At each step, make sure to keep interested parties involved and in touch.
Document everything. Make sure that you have a specific list of features in writing and make sure that your software includes all the functionality it should have. There is a phrase in software circles: "legacy code." This phrase generally refers to code so complex, so old and outdated that no one knows exactly what it does - but what it does is important. You never want to wind up in a situation where only a handful of people know how things work, where even a software expert is at a loss while trying to figure things out in a timely and cost-effective manner.
Take time to train new users in a safe environment. Let them try out the new features - and maybe discover some flaws in program functionality. Give them a chance to ask questions, make mistakes, and see for themselves, preferably in a training environment where no one's real-world goods will mysteriously disappear from the system.
4. On-going Maintenance & Support
Arguably the most important and often the least overlooked step. We're taking about the after-party of a successful software implementation. Trust us - here's the part you definitely don't want to miss. Even if there are no problems (knock on wood), change happens. Government regulations pertaining to the goods you store may change, requiring updates to your processes and documentation. New clients and new possibilities may bring with them a whole new level of complexity. Successful software implementation does not end on the first day - or the second - and you should plan for that. Make sure you have processes in place to deal with the unexpected.
Radley Corporation has decades of experience helping companies like yours enjoy successful software implementations. To learn more about how Radley's EDI, Manufacturing & Warehouse solutions help to improve your business operations, increase productivity and achieve new levels of efficiency, contact us today.
Written by Radley Corporation
Advantages of a Real-Time Warehouse
A real-time warehouse uses the most up-to-date technology to track what is happening in your warehouses, your business functions, and the way they interact with each other. How can your warehouse operations benefit from real-time data visibility?
Respond Rapidly to Data
On-going data analysis allows you to respond to information quickly and efficiently. You can immediately use this information to streamline processes, discover potential new income sources and ways to improve revenue while reducing inefficiencies. Discover customer, employee and operational needs and take corrective action to improve functionality.
Could your work force be more productive? Evaluate employee staffing and organization and discover ways to improve efficiency and productivity, streamline operations, and increase production. Implement task management to consolidate workflows and interleave tasks to increase efficiency.
Reduce Loss and Theft
Manage and control critical assets in your operation. Automatically track the location, condition, status and cost of fixed assets, specialized tooling, equipment, returnable transport items and components, checking them in and out using role-based security features. View alerts so you’re always aware of key changes to low inventory, status changes and more.
By automating data collection throughout the supply chain, you can eliminate manual tasks and decrease errors, so your data is always accurate. An integrated labeling solution can eliminate handwritten labels and manual labor creation as kits or shipments are produced, allowing you to accurately track goods when they leave your warehouse.
Better Predictions of Product Needs
Always know exactly what you have on the shelf. Eliminate labor intensive, manual data entry while accurately predicting demand to increase customer satisfaction. Gain visibility to inventory stock levels so you can avoid over- or under-purchasing.
Real-time data can offer a wide range of benefits to today’s warehouse operations. When it’s time improve your operations, look to Radley’s platform of solutions for all of your real-time warehouse and supply chain needs.
Written by Radley Corporation
5 Signs That Signal You Should Replace Your Homegrown Inventory System
When your company began, your homegrown inventory system worked fine and everybody understood and liked it. However, as your business has grown and your inventory continues to increase, it might be time to consider replacing your system with a professionally designed and configured system.
Here are five signs that indicate it might be time to replace your homegrown inventory system:
You have hired a lot of new employees.
New hires are familiar with the current operating systems and inventory management practices. Training them on a homegrown system could confuse them, and is time spent away from work.
Homegrown inventory systems don't have dedicated support teams.
If something goes wrong with your system, who is going to fix it? If you depend on your IT team, that is only a stop-gap solution. IT work is a full-time task and asking one of them to look at your inventory system is too much of a strain on their time and resources.
As your older employees leave or retire, there will be a gap in the knowledge of the system.
Your older employees are the most experienced with the system; even with on-going training they have knowledge that may not get passed on.
Your homegrown system isn't based on current inventory management practices. Inventory management practices have improved, and current systems are better at tracking the traffic of your inventory.
If your company had significant upgrades to its computer hardware or operating systems, your current system may not be compatible
This will require time spent adapting your system to your new computer network.
The word "scalable" gets tossed around a lot in business management. Companies are advised to be flexible in their markets and internal procedures to adapt to the constant changes in their industry. The concept also applies to inventory management. A management system that worked great a decade ago could be costing you time and money, and not efficiently managing your inventory.
If the time has come to replace your homegrown inventory system, Radley Corporation can help you move beyond spreadsheets and manual data entry to reduce errors and streamline your business processes. Contact us for your free consultation or visit our website to learn more.
Written by Radley Corporation
Is it Time to Replace My Legacy EDI System?
In so many ways your business is reliant on an EDI system to ensure customer satisfaction, maintain compliance and a successful flow of information throughout the supply chain. Your EDI system must support the functions that are critical to your business while being adaptable, easy to use, and allow for future growth. If your company can identify with any of the issues described below, then it may be time to consider replacing your legacy EDI system.
High Operating Costs
It’s getting very expensive to operate, especially if your EDI is no longer supported by the vendor. If you’re on maintenance only, it’s probably difficult to modify specifications when needed. The maintenance contract itself might be limiting, making it challenging to modify or drop a trading partner that you are no longer doing business with. Many aging EDI systems also have dramatic and unpredictable price increases.
It’s been neglected so you find it slow, hard to use, inflexible and that it simply cannot meet your changing requirements. Perhaps you are unable to test new customer EDI communications, have to create false invoices within your ERP system or are unable to integrate with your ERP system altogether. Worst of all, when you absolutely must request assistance or changes in functionality, you’re directed to an off-shore technical group who is not familiar with you, your business or your industry.
It’s so ancient that the provider who wrote the original software is no longer in business. This means that as technology evolves and industry standards change, your system doesn’t evolve with it. You’re left without access to new software releases and patches to your existing version. While your competitors are utilizing the latest enhancements to their EDI service to improve productivity, you’re still looking at the same stale, old, green screen user-interface.
In so many ways your business is reliant on your EDI system to ensure customer satisfaction and a successful flow of information throughout the supply chain. Adding or changing software into existing business processes can be overwhelming. However, when determining if your business is ready to upgrade to a new EDI solution, be sure to consider the total cost of ownership of your current system—and not just the cost of the software, maintenance and support, but the total cost to keep the legacy system going with manual work arounds and reporting to meet customer requirements. Most often, it is cheaper in the long run to replace and upgrade to a new EDI system.
Written by Radley Corporation
Controlling RTI Costs May Be Easier Than You Think
The cost of shrinkage from a company's returnable transport items increases quickly if not given proper attention. These returnable transport items are necessary when shipping finished goods. The fact they're recycled makes them an asset with respectable value. Every time a returnable transport item successfully returns with minor, if any damage, their value increases. On the other hand, losing one costs the company double, if not more; doubled because of the cost to replace it and the loss of the would-be value when re-used for another shipment. In addition, lack of a container tracking system increases labor costs by requiring time-intensive manual tracking processes and the extra inventory costs of having a backup supply on hand to compensate for missing or late containers.
A system in place to track and guarantee the return of RTI’s will produce substantial cost-savings. Once a tracking system is in place, a significant decrease in shrinkage would be a goal easily within reach. If these returnable transport items are not currently listed individually in a tracking system, why not?
It may seem complicated to develop a system for tracking, valuing, and reusing containers, but technology, as usual, can make the job easier. Treating your returnable transport items as an asset by labeling them with a unique number and listing them separately on all paperwork such as invoices, packing slips, bills of lading and inventory reports can provide the information required for shrinkage control. RFID is one possible solution to container tracking. 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 containers such as bins & pallets.
Assigned with a dedicated number and tracked within an asset tracking software system, any decrease in the count on hand, not adjusted and accounted for in some way, will appear on a returnable transport asset report. Backed by data, received through RFID tagging and interpreted through the tracking software, companies are prepared to address the reasons for the shrinkage: damage, loss, etc. Discovering the cause for any discrepancy becomes a much easier task with a quick resolution, saving labor and inventory costs.
Gain visibility to your RTI’s across multiple locations as they move through the supply chain. Radley’s end-to-end RFID solution includes not just tags, labels and hardware, but the middleware software required to process and validate the data to update your back-end applications. Contact us for your free consultation or visit our website to learn more.
Written by Radley Corporation
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