When my kids were younger they used to make some winter money by shoveling snow. They’d march to the garage, pillage my shovels and work their way down the road clearing driveways. As the day progressed they invariably met with other entrepreneurs and settled ownership of the untouched drives with an impromptu snowball fight.
Tools tossed to the side, forgotten, they hurled balls of frozen delight until Victory was secured or Moms recalled their troops for dry clothes and lunch. In the post battle confusion of reclaiming tools, my gang was always first to leave the field, certain of their equipment. Their secret: ugly shovels.
Before the first snow, I spray painted the blades purple and the handles orange; simple, cost effective asset control, well suited for the item, its use and environment. I’ve used similar strategies with varied controls to manage warehouse assets. Here are some of the systems I’ve used.
One operation was a full line Grocer, shipping full cases and single units packed in totes on a mixture of plastic and wooden pallets. The Customers wanted plastic pallets for display on the selling floor and I needed to get the plastic totes and pallets back to the warehouse for reuse. Data collection was simple; the Loader indicated pallet type (white, CHEP or plastic) as he scanned and loaded the pallet on the truck. Totes were counted as he scanned them, creating the loading manifest. A line item for each was added to the Customer’s invoice.
At the end of the month we’d bill the Customer for each plastic pallet or tote that had not been returned. We had a ‘float’ figure for each Customer that allowed for an asset carry over from month to month based on shipping volume. This plan worked well and was fully automated. The cost of the program (an add on application to the existing Shipping function) suited the assets covered, but it only tracked the total number of pallets and totes, not the specific ones. We handled it differently at a ready– to-wear distributor.
As a garment distributor, we used a blend of contract and common carriage for delivery. Coats and dresses were shipped on hangers, loaded in a rolling bin. Each bin was RFID tagged and had a bar code label which was assigned to a Customer invoice. The bar code was scanned as the garments were hung in the bin. When the bin was full, it was sealed and rolled from the sorting room to shipping where the bar code was scanned, telling the loader which truck to load, and the tag was read, assigning the bin to the invoice and Customer, who was now responsible for it.
Each bin cost several hundred dollars, but protected thousands of dollars of inventory from loss or damage on the road. The bins were sent back to the warehouse with returns and passed through another RFID reader releasing it from the Customers queue and closing the shipping loop. Customers were assured of order integrity in transit and Shipping knew where their bins were and billed accordingly. At a fresh food producer we combined the bin and the tote strategies to good effect.
Products were packed in single sku trays which were stacked, counted and inventoried with a bar code scan before moving on to shipping. The single sku stack was distributed; using a Speech enabled mobile terminal, onto RFID tagged rolling carts. These carts were labeled and assigned to individual Customers, and each tray was added to the Customer’s invoice by a second bar code scan, accounting for both the tray and the product it held.
When a cart was full, the stacker scanned the Customer label, spoke the tray count and was told which truck to load. He then rolled through a portal which read the RFID tag assigning the tray count and specific cart to the invoice. As carts and tray were returned to the plant an unloader spoke the count of the inbound trays to the system as he passed through the receiving RFID portal. This relieved the Customer of the tray quantity and individual carts. The low cost and high number of trays coupled with the high value of the carts made this mix of technologies a fine tracking solution and gave real time visibility to the floor.
The appropriate use of RFID and bar codes can make asset tracking cost effective and provide insight to shipping operations. And it’s a nice upgrade from spray paint and ugly shovels.
Tagsasset control asset management bar code label Bar Codes bar coding Brian Mahoney data collection directed labor dispatch distribution center fulfillment harsh environment implementation industrial data collection Jonathan Knezek label printing labor direction laser scanning Lindsey Collins mobile computing mobility NEMA enclosure Nick Sho Nick Shoemaker order slection pallets portable scanner process flow product recalls product tracking regulation reporting RFID ROI scanning speech recognition Speech Selection syvox totes voice picking voice recognition Voice Selection warehouse warehouse processes wireless network