Supply chain solutions
From the June 2016 print edition
The MODEX show in Atlanta, April 4-7 offered a look at a huge array of technology available to organizations to address manufacturing and supply chain challenges. The show attracts 850 providers. PurchasingB2B attended the conference and provides the roundup below of just some of the solutions and technology innovations that were displayed during the event.
Yale has partnered with Balyo, an automation and guidance company, to provide automation technology for lift trucks. The company uses its surface network to deal with the complexities associated with integration and systems computing that occur, says Mick McCormick, VP, warehouse solutions, Yale. That removes much of the anxiety from putting in automation. But because the technology automates conventional lift trucks, manual capabilities remain to deal with peak need times and other situations that arise, McCormick says. Drivers can simply get into a truck that’s been automated and use it as a normal truck—when the driver is finished, it is easy to switch it back to its automated function. “It’s becoming a self-driving world,” he says. “More and more, the trucks are being told where to go and then they have to find their way there. We think this is the beginning of a change that’s quite significant.” A trend McCormick notes is the increase in guided products, with Yale currently offering a pallet truck and tugger, or towing truck, with automated capabilities.
Soti Mobicontrol is an enterprise mobility management (EMM) product designed to help organizations manage, secure and deploy mobility across an organization, according to Soti’s COO, Ron Hassanwalia. The product is most often used after the purchase of computer software for mobile devices, he says. Often, during deployment, the software is put onto those devices, then they’re configured. “After that, when it’s deployed and you realize you have to iterate the configuration, make changes and update—those costs start rising,” Hassanwalia says. Mobicontrol provides a platform to lower those costs to a baseline, making the process easier to manage. With a scan of the barcode, the device can be configured with the right applications, security settings and configurations. It can then also be monitored and tracked. As well, SOTI MobiControl’s security features can help businesses to maintain control over who is using mobile devices and how they are using them. “Your investment is constantly being looked at,” Hassanwalia says. “We know the usage of devices. We know which devices are online or offline, when they’re online or offline, their quality of battery, and
their quality of signal status.”
VALUE STREAM MAPPING
CHEP is a provider of supply chain solutions serving the consumer goods, fresh food, beverage, manufacturing and retail sectors in more than 60 countries. The company offers a wide range of logistics and operational platforms and support services, some of which were on display at MODEX. And one of the company’s main messages at the show was that it’s more than just a pallet company. Rather, CHEP provides expertise across the entire supply chain, says Skip Miller, VP of customer service and solutions. Those solutions include within a manufacturing environment, where the company can identify opportunities to improve efficiencies, lower costs, look at packaging performance, unit load optimization and so on. Or, CHEP looks at transportation activities to determine where efficiencies might be. “When we look at a customer’s supply chain and do a value stream map,” he says, “we typically find about 12 different opportunities that will then lead into different solutions that we can bring in to help them improve that portion of the value stream.” Within nine months, CHEP was able to help their customers save $13 million through their supply chains. Roughly 16 million pounds of C02 was eliminated through getting rid of empty miles. Within the last nine months, Miller notes, CHEP has seen 31 customers take part in their solutions, 18 of those are repeat customers.
Voxware’s focus is providing advanced technology to the supply chain, says the company’s president and CEO, Keith Phillips. For example, the company offers a cloud solution for voice automation and the warehouse. The software replaces past warehouse practices that have been predominantly paper based, says Phillips. The company has focused recently on introducing predictive analytics into the marketplace, as supply chain becoming more of a focus for companies. That focus is because consumers no longer tolerate incorrect or late products, with retail the most affected. For example, the food service industry is under this sort of pressure, with younger customers insisting on fresh, healthy foods. These industries were keen to adopt voice picking technologies and are early adopters of voice and analytics technologies, Phillips says. To deal with these issues, Voxware offers their software as a cloud-based, subscription model on a per-month, per-user basis. The company is able to add functionality not offered within current systems without having to buy a new WMS. “It’s very palatable from a price perspective,” says Phillips. “Because of that we have customers that are as small as one warehouse with ten users and customers that are as large as 70 warehouses with 5,000 users.”
HYDROGEN FUEL CELLS
Nuvera Fuel Cells designs and manufactures hydrogen fuel cell and generation solutions. At Modex, the company displayed its PowerEdge Fuel Cell system that acts as a replacement for the standard lead acid battery for lift trucks. The system produces emissions-free power output, said Jon Taylor, CEO of Nuvera who, along with director of sales Alan Marder was on hand to answer questions about the product. Refueling happens at locations around a facility—both outdoors or indoors—allowing drivers to refuel in three minutes or less. That way, lift truck operators are able to charge at any time during their workday. They don’t have to wait until it’s 80 percent empty, and there’s no impact on the fuel cell battery. “Hydrogen is becoming an increasingly popular option,” notes Taylor. “It has the convenience and efficiency of an electric truck operation combined with the convenience of a fuel. That means the operation is able to free their operators and their lift truck fleet and keep them more productive and not lose the time that the traditional fleets have of going to the battery room to charge. It really increases the productivity of the facility.”
Scandit’s CEO and co-founder, Samuel Mueller, says that his company is focused on unlocking the power of the mobile device through apps or dedicated deployments. For example, Scandit Order Entry is a rapidly deployable mobile solution for smartphones, tablets and wearables that’s designed to streamline order management processes for customers and employees alike. The cross-platform mobile solution comes with a customizable order entry application, mobile frameworks and backend services that integrate with existing IT systems. Customers and employees can manage orders by adding products through browsing, scanning a barcode or searching a catalogue—with or without network connectivity. Once orders are finalized, users submit orders directly from their mobile device and track order progress. Another of the company’s solutions, dubbed FieldTrac, is a field service app that tracks assets from a mobile device. The cross-platform mobile app enables employees to identify products and report quality assurance details quickly. Scandit’s solutions are available through a subscription model, says Mueller. “We can constantly update this solution over the air at any point,” he notes. “Your investment is safe, even over a longer period of time.”
The X Tablet T8650 is the world’s first rugged tablet with an integrated 3D camera, according to its manufacturer, MobileDemand, which showcased the product at MODEX. The camera can get the length, width and height of an object and calculate the volume, says Derek Oja, the company’s marketing project manager. A transportation company can charge customers based on shipment volume within a truck rather than weight, which many are switching to. The tablet includes standard 4GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage backed by an Intel Atom X5-Z8550 processor and secure, enterprise-ready Window OS. System expansion ports include multiple USB along with a single microHDMI, which come with covers to keep out water, dirt and dust. The device is IP65 sealed and meets mil specs for drops from five feet. “We’re seeing a lot of companies replacing traditional VMTs—the vehicle mounted terminals—and laptops with tablets so they can have it mounted in a forklift, they’d be able to hook up a barcode scanner, either blue tooth of USB to the tablet,” says Oja. “They could run their full windows-based software so they don’t have to do any type of custom software to fit this device.”
Hyster unveiled the Hyster H50XT at the show, a lift truck the company says was designed to operate in a variety of applications at a lower cost of acquisition and ownership. The new XT truck series will be offered in 4,000 and 6,000 pound models. The series incorporates design and component elements of the premium Hyster Fortis truck series, ensuring that the new trucks deliver dependability. The new truck will be available with a PSI 2.4L dual-fuel engine featuring Hyster variable power technology, which includes selectable performance modes that allow customers to maximize productivity or fuel economy to fit specific application requirements. The truck delivers power at low speeds with accurate and responsive traction and hydraulic controls, allowing operators to place loads quickly where intended. “We felt there was a gap,” says Mark Koffarnus, director of business development with Hyster Company. “We were selling a premium product in that marketplace for many years. We found that customers wanted more value than what that offered, especially in those medium duty cycles. So this product was designed from that perspective and absolutely delivers what those customers were looking for.”
Muller LCS introduced a solution for wrapping pallets with its new Raptor HPL high profile turntable stretch wrapper. The Raptor HPL features Muller’s branding tool, Logo Wrap. Logo Wrap—previously only available as an option for the Octopus line of ring stretch wrappers—promotes an organization’s brand on pallet loads, reduces products tampering, shields product visibility and can be applied anywhere on the load. Logo Wrap is also designed to minimize waste and labor from hand-applied stickers and labels. “This machine also comes with a roping feature,” says Neil Weisensel, brand and marketing director at Muller. “The benefit is that it secures the actual product to the pallet with an enhanced rope when you get near the bottom of the skid.” The heavy-duty, semi-automatic machine, which can wrap up to 35 loads per hour, has an elevated turntable platform, intuitive controls and an easy-to-use interface. As well, the patented strain gauge technology allows for electronic film feed and optimized handling on pallet load corners. The turntable also contains a lubrication-free power pre-stretch carriage with variable pre-stretch levels from 100 to 300 percent, guaranteeing users optimal film usage while preventing film breaks and product damage.
Intelligrated, an automated material handling solutions and software provider, showcased several solutions, among which was its computerized maintenance management software (CMMS) designed for material handling systems. Known as the Intelligrated Reliability Intelligence Solution (IRIS), the software comes with implementation support, OEM maintenance expertise and a deep pool of relevant, reliable data. IRIS collects and analyzes system data to help plan and execute a preventive lifecycle maintenance program. The software is able to create work orders and daily maintenance schedules, maintain accurate inventory of spare parts and automatically place orders for necessary replacements as well as improve budgeting, reporting and tracking of KPIs. According to Intelligrated, this can help facilitate regulatory compliance, improve lifecycle productivity and increase uptime with reduced overtime and paperwork. “We continue to have the very best aftermarket sales and support,” said Chris Cole, the company’s CEO. “We have very strong programs that allow customers—if you dial our 800 number—to get two things that happen. One, you get an engineer who talks to you who also can help you with your problem. And we promise that in two minutes or less—we average less than 15 seconds.”
LITHIUM ION BATTERY
In the past year, Yale Materials Handling Corporation has launched a lithium ion battery in the company’s MPB 45BG, its 4,500-lb pedestrian walkie. The benefits of lithium ion batteries include that customers can keep the battery in a partial state of charge without damaging it, says David McNeill, the company’s manager of product strategy-warehouse products. That gives the batteries a “phenomenal shelf life,” he says. The battery can sit on the shelf for years, then be utilized like a new product. “We felt like an application where you have a walkie truck that has two to three hours of usage per day, a lithium ion battery is far superior than a lead acid battery” McNeill says. Applications where such a battery are especially useful include beverage delivery, retail delivery and the back of retail stores where an operator uses the truck for a few minutes at a time. The product also has an onboard charger, so during non-use it can be charged and ready the next time it’s needed. It takes about 2.5 hours from fully discharged to full charge, McNeill notes.
Most companies can offer a limited number of styles and sizes of containers. But FLEXcon is different—and the company tailors both the size and style of its totes to suit the customer’s needs. “This is exactly what people need with no compromises,” Stephen Beckerman, the company’s president, says of the company’s offerings, which were on display at MODEX this year. “And it’s the same price as doing it standard.” For example, the company was able to custom-make handles for a client who said that no other offering provided comfortable tote handles, even while dealing with heavy weight. The client also had a bar code on every tote that identifies that tote. Each time there’s an order, the company puts a bar code label on. This leads to multiple labels. So FLEXcon made a removable bar code label. Those are just some examples of the specific challenges that FLEXcon is able to solve for its clients. “We don’t say ‘here are our containers, buy it and make it fit your system,’” says Beckerman. “We say, ‘tells us about your system—what do you really need? We can do it.’”
STEPLogic is a software development tool that automates development tasks, replacing them with configuration steps. The product provides the user with the tools to build decision tree navigation so users can enhance their current warehouse management system (WMS) to meet specific needs. The platform was designed to eliminate the “pain points” in WMS systems, says Bob Kennedy, the company’s senior vice-president of business development. Business environments change rapidly these days, and systems can struggle to keep pace. While large companies may have IT departments, those departments can lack the time to help address needed changes. “It’s the list of those pain points that their system doesn’t address that they have to live with—that’s where STEPLogic comes in,” Kennedy says. The platform has automated features and functions designed to make the process of developing software easier, quicker and less expensive, he notes. Organizations can also broaden the scope of employees who are able to evolve the software. That puts companies in a position where they are able to address those pain points. “They can take care of personalizing their packing screens, personalizing their RF processes to make themselves incrementally that much more efficient,” Kennedy says.
Experts in print, mail and parcel automation, Bell and Howell showed a number of innovations in the lifecycle of a parcel from purchase through to distribution to fulfillment at the last mile of delivery. The company creates high-performance systems used in larger distribution centres, says Mark Durrett, the company’s vice-president of marketing. The company’s “sweet spot,” Durrett notes, rests in facilities that, for example, process anywhere from 4,000 to 30,000 parcels a day. The e-commerce world is driving a shift in the industry, he said. The expectations of the consumer are rising as companies like Amazon offer same-day delivery. Some niche organizations are finding alternatives to same-day delivery that work very well. The company works to cut the cost, increase efficiency and drive the speed of the process so that customers can meet demand and expectations. Bell and Howell offers an automated packing system that’s capable of processing packages of variable sizes that come through a conveyor. “We wrap it with a box that ships zero air,” Durrett says. “That innovation drives efficiencies—it’s like a ten-fold improvement over human packing systems. You’re not just saving on labour.”