A reliable material handling application allowed one company to minimize inventory tracking errors and receive more comprehensive and precise project status updates.
Problem: Many manufacturing companies use manual processes to track inventory and provide project status updates. Over the years, these traditional methods have proven to be inefficient, costly, and time consuming for yard and shop employees. In the yard, lost inventory and products that can’t be located and can negatively impact profitability. Without a reliable way to track how many moves are made around the yard in a given day, many organizations lose money because they cannot determine the optimal number of employees and forklifts required for route optimization.
The industry lacked a durable and mobile computing solution that could withstand the weather conditions that often affects storage yards and provides the workforce with instant connectivity. There was no software or hardware solution that could help increase employee productivity and improve reporting time in conditions where employee and company communications are limited to phones attached to forklifts and in-person communication.
Solution: SoftElegance’s Material Handling Application for Panasonic Toughbook modelsIn the fall of 2009, SoftElegance developed a Material Handling Application that could be integrated with the Panasonic Toughbook’s operating system.
SoftElegance, a global IT services and software development company, created the application to reliably track each item’s movement around the yard using the Toughbook’s embedded GPS and integrated barcode scanner, passing movement communications from the planners to the forklift drivers and update material management system. With built in API’s, the Material Handling Application is designed to integrate seamlessly with any major ERP or homegrown systems.
The system was first tested at a large manufacturing company based in Houston, Texas. Forklift-mounted Toughbook 19 models loaded with the Material Handling Application were employed, and the Toughbooks were able to withstand the vibrations and movement around the yard, as well as the Houston heat and rain, allowing operators to record the exact drop-off location of materials around the yard via the Toughbook device’s embedded GPS.
By reducing tracking errors in the yard, SoftElegance’s Material Handling Application helped eliminate wasted time searching for lost products and helped keep the client’s inventory management system accurate. Additionally, the employees can now record and update the material management system electronically instead of manually, and the client’s warehouse inventory soon began operating more efficiently because of more precise product counts.
SoftElegance’s Material Handling Application can be used not only with the Toughbook 19 model, but also the Panasonic Toughbook U1. The handheld Toughbook U1’s rugged design is built for field operations and features a full Windows OS, hot swappable batteries (allowing employees to complete a shift without ever needing to recharge), embedded WiFi, and an integrated barcode scanner. Because the Toughbook U1 runs a full OS, SoftElegance was able to build the Material Handling Application with a rich and ergonomic user interface and intelligent data synchronization mechanism, based on web services.
The Toughbook can be connected wirelessly through a scaled and secure WiFi network. This permits manufacturing companies to configure the Toughbook devices to only allow access to the company’s intranet, improving worker efficiency and allowing seamless communication between employees in the yard, factory headquarters, and remote locations via WiFi.
Training for the SoftElegance Material Handling Application can be completed in two hours. Employees at the Houston-based manufacturing company quickly adjusted to the new computers and software, immediately increasing employee productivity. The system essentially made the employees’ jobs easier by allowing them to track product moves they completed throughout each day while improving management reporting.
The Toughbook 19 and U1 devices gives oilfield service companies the reliability they need in the yard to survive the inevitable drops, bumps and spills that come with working outdoors. And now, with the implementation of SoftElegance’s Material Handling Application, companies have the tools they need to dramatically streamline the inventory process, saving employees’ valuable time and the company money.