The infrastructure necessary to power manufacturing and industrial processes is increasingly dependent on mobile data collection technology. In North America, energy equipment supplier TMEIC helps its industrial partners, including mills, factories and manufacturers, maintain operations by providing them with access to energy that helps power virtually all critical internal functions. The company develops the equipment and electronics needed to supply factories with the power necessary to ensure production and distribution continues on course. It also provides the engineering expertise that makes certain automation runs smoothly.
Chris Eakin, the company's inventory logistics and warehouse supervisor at the TMEIC facility in Roanoke, Virginia, explained the company occupies a unique position in the global supply chain. The business functions largely as a systems integrator, helping manufacturers and other industrial organizations coordinate their software systems with machinery to develop a solid energy infrastructure.
Manufacturing Technology Continues Year-Over-Year Growth
TMEIC is part of a larger manufacturing technology upward trend that's helping to generate an increasing number of orders. The Association for Manufacturing Technology recently reported orders for April reached more than $391 million. Although this figure isn't as optimistic as those demonstrated in March, manufacturing technology orders are up 9.8 percent compared to the same time last year. Overall, 2014 is proving to be a more profitable year than 2013 as the year-to-date sum has exceeded $1.62 billion, a 3 percent rise over the previous year. This report is used to get a better picture of the overall manufacturing health of U.S. industry. In general, the greater investment companies make in equipment, the bigger the increase in capacity and production, explained the AMT.
However, even the companies supplying innovative tools that make manufacturing work seamlessly need assistance in creating streamlined operations. For instance, TMEIC runs a warehouse out of Roanoke that pairs with a facility featuring simulation labs. While the majority of the company's inventory and equipment volume moves directly between external suppliers, customers and other stakeholders, 10 percent of total inventory was managed through a labor-intensive manual process. Although TMEIC's Oracle E-Business Suite ERP system already managed warehouse and back-office data, workers were still forced to repeatedly key in information into its inventory management system. Eakin explained it was counterproductive and not intuitive to use a manual system when the company is founded on the idea of automation. What's more, the Oracle EBS and inventory systems the business used to manage warehouse and financial reporting weren't aligned, creating a bottleneck at the end of every month.
Mobile Data Collection Creates Efficiency
As a result, the industry energy solutions provider decided to partner with RFgen to take advantage of a mobile data collection solution that delivered simplicity, accuracy and efficiency that was severely lacking. The software integrated seamlessly with the company's existing Oracle EBS system, as well as Microsoft Excel and Access databases. Eakin found the interface to be incredibly user-friendly, requiring very little guidance on how to utilize it.
Meanwhile, mobile barcode technology gave TMEIC's warehouse employees the ability to monitor transactions in real time and with fewer errors. For instance, subinventory transfers have increased in speed by 83 percent, while sales order management is completed 67 percent more quickly than the time it took using their previous processes. According to Eakin, the warehouse saves two hours each week by using RFgen's mobile data collection solution for Oracle EBS. Essentially, employees are required to scan barcodes and the rest is automated, cutting down on the need for manual data entry.
TMEIC is just one of many companies part of the manufacturing technology sector, and consistent activity will likely breed increasing complexity in the supply chain. Now more than ever, it's more important to invest in the tools that will ensure manufacturers can operate at the speed of business.