The housing market in the U.S. has gained significant ground since the Great Recession brought many construction projects to a grinding halt. According to reports from the U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development, the number of authorizations and completed projects portrays a somewhat mixed message.
Housing Sees Gains Overall
On one hand, the seasonally adjusted rate for single-family authorizations in May reached approximately 619,000, which is a 3.7 percent increase above the figures for April. However, the number of housing projects started in the month was 5.9 percent below the number in April, which was 644,000. Meanwhile, the most telling data from the report is the fact that single-family and privately-owned home completions both ended up well above the numbers from the previous month, and demonstrated strong growth over figures from 2013. In fact, both kinds of construction saw a double-digit rise in completions compared to May of the last year.
While this news reflects the health of the economy overall, it's even more impactful for the manufacturing industry, especially those involved in providing materials for housing construction. If companies are still operating through a manual, paper-based system for inventory or warehouse management, they're not going to be able to keep up with the speed of business. For instance, the Houston-based window and door system company Quanex Building Products is a major supplier for many organizations across North America. The enterprise has a wide reach with facilities in both the U.S. and Europe, providing manufacturers with composite systems and materials for the creation of window and doors.
Suppliers Need Data Visibility
The problem the company faced was largely found in its SAP software. In the simplest terms, it was far too rigid for Quanex's needs, even after the company had migrated to a more up-to-date SAP version. The costs to develop new mobile applications were too high, while the SAP's mobile enterprise application development platform SAPConsole wasn't as functional as it needed to be. Accordingly, Mark Ferwalt, applications director for the supplier, decided to partner with RFgen to integrate the RFgen Mobile Foundations for SAP solution. Why? As opposed to the built-in SAPConsole provided by the SAP software, the RFgen software suite includes pre-written and validated transactions for SAP data collection. More importantly, the software is highly adaptable to the specific needs of a manufacturer or supplier, with special attention paid to mobile applications.
As a result of the partnership with RFgen, Quanex was able to see faster development cycles, and the total cost of ownership was markedly reduced compared to other solutions because the company was able to make alterations without high development expenses. Additionally, RFgen is able to support virtually all versions of SAP, which helps mobile applications get off the ground quickly. For instance, Quanex was able to seamlessly integrate RFgen's software to develop its mobile data collection system after an RFgen consultant helped make customized coding changes.
Mobile Applications Bolster Operations
Quanex was able to strengthen several aspects of its warehouse management processes, including order confirmation, sales order picking and multiple transfer types. Using mobile data collection software and tools, the housing materials supplier gained greater visibility into its inventory by looking specifically at the amount of scrap that its manufacturing facilities created. Scrap capture gives Quanex an accurate and verified picture of what equipment and processes are creating wasted materials. In doing so, they can adjust procedures to reduce scrap and save costs.
The company was also able to improve cycle count by using RFgen. Because Quanex can see how much inventory it has and its location in any cycle using mobile data collection, the operation is much faster and more efficient than before.