Automotive Manufacturer Brabant Alucast Nears 100% Stock Accuracy with Automated Data Collection Software

Michael Clark
Tue, Jul 15, 2014

The automotive manufacturing industry involves a massive number of suppliers, distributors, producers and research and development professionals, all of whom are interconnected to create a complicated supply chain. It's also a sector that can be profoundly impacted by product recalls, leading to diminished productivity and putting negative pressure on companies' bottom lines.

GM and Chrysler Experience Serious Setbacks
For instance, Manufacturing.net, an online news source for the industry, explained a recent recall involving ignition switches is raising numerous questions about the safety of vehicles on the road. American company General Motors recalled 8.2 million automobiles in North America for this issue, while Chrysler has added roughly 700,000 cars and trucks to a list affected by ignition switch trouble. The problem ultimately impacts drivers and manufacturers. The switch error has the potential to cause cars to move from the "run" position into a different mode, which can prevent power steering and braking, as well as air bags, from functioning properly. 

Karl Brauer, a senior industry analyst with the automotive news source Kelley Blue Book, told Manufacturing.net that companies that supply GM with switches have been forced to look closely at their manufacturing processes to see if there is any kind of issue in assembly. Brauer went on to say that the recall will benefit the automakers in the long run because it will ensure the public has safer vehicles, and there will likely be fewer accidents as a result. At the same time, both the car producer and the manufacturers will probably face deep financial setbacks as a result.

Recalls Highlight Need for Automated Data Collection
Additionally, the event puts pressure on companies to keep accurate records of their shopfloor procedures. This kind of issue illustrates a clear need for automated data collection. Brabant Alucast International has first-hand knowledge of why this is the case. As the European firm has grown from being a family-owned business to an integrated partner with Volvo, it has increased its global footprint, rapidly becoming an international enterprise. Brabant Alucast provides car engines and vehicle parts to multiple major automakers through its seven factories.

High Error Rates Due to Manual Processes
In two of these locations, the company used a legacy ERP system that didn't allow for full automation on its shopfloors​, where employees use paper-based manual processes to record stock data. This information was then transferred to the logistics department where it would be entered by hand into a computer. This protocol was error-prone due to handwriting issues and typing mistakes. On top of that, Brabant Alucast performed monthly stock checks that led to inaccurate figures, as well as financial and compliance issues. The workflow at the manufacturing company involved several steps, and errors at the onset of processes invariably led to others further down the line. If a recall were to occur, the company would face a mountain of trouble trying to find the point at which a defect might have occurred.

Barcode Scanners Enhance Accuracy
The company found the answer to these issues in automated data collection using barcode scanning technology. In addition to Microsoft Dynamics AX, Brabant Alucast chose RFgen's automated data collection software because it provides an adaptable platform that can work with virtually any ERP software version. The automated data collection solution was implemented using a flexible platform that could be deployed at a pace that allowed the company to gradually customize the process. Employees were given time to experiment with the barcode scanning equipment before the upgraded system went live.

The results have significantly changed the way Brabant Alucast operates. Within six months, stock reliability improved from between 70 and 80 percent to 96 percent. The organization was also able to streamline its workforce because it didn't need the middleman entering data manually between the shop​ floor and computer system. Additionally, the finance department is leaner since there's no need to handle paper invoices.

More importantly, in the unfortunate event of a vehicle recall, the manufacturer has visibility into its processes as a result of automated data collection. Because the automotive industry is regulated by both state and national lawmakers, it's critical that manufacturers are able to comply with standards quickly. Recalls often require manufacturers to produce documentation to provide proof that they've been maintaining mandated practices. Barcode scanning technology and automated data collection linked with agile ERP software helps companies avoid financial and legal trouble, in addition to improving accuracy.

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