Headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, VSE Corporation is a diversified defense contractor employing over 2,700 people. As a preferred strategic partner to the U.S. Department of Defense, VSE extends the service life of military land, sea and air vehicles by providing sustainment services, consisting of supply chain management (SCM) and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO).
VSE Corporation was growing. As they began competing for larger contracts, the company realized that using manual processes in day-to-day inventory management for vehicle overhauls were going to prevent them from continuing to grow without drastically increasing the size of their workforce.
At the time, VSE employees were managing MRO inventory on spreadsheets, the data from which would then have to be manually re-keyed into the company's Deltek Costpoint ERP system--a slow process that left multiple opportunities for error. Similar manual processes were used for purchase order receiving, cycle counting and inventory transfers as well. VSE had to find a scalable solution to automate these processes and optimize efficiency, productivity and accuracy in order to remain competitive.
An additional challenge would appear during implementation: New to Costpoint's Inventory Module, the VSE team was unfamiliar with its capabilities, and so were unsure exactly what they needed or what could be done with their current framework. Discovering their options would be a learning experience.
After adding the Deltek Costpoint Inventory Management module to their existing financial ERP, VSE began researching a scalable automation solution that integrated barcode scanning into inventory management processes to reduce the manual data entry burden for employees at the receiving dock, the warehouse and on the shop floor.
It was also important to us to choose a partner who had 'been there, done that' and could provide a live, successful system quickly.
- Cathy Henry, Director of IT Operations
"Our employees just want to fix trucks," recalled Cathy Henry, Director of IT Operations at VSE. "They don't want to mess with computers. That's why it was really critical to have an automated solution that included barcode scanning. We wanted to be able to scan something as it was received on the loading dock and have that item automatically loaded into inventory at a specific rack, shelf and bin, so that we could grow the business without having to add a lot of staff. We needed to scale up."
Henry's top priority for an automated data collection solution was seamless integration to Costpoint. After speaking with experts at Deltek, Henry implemented RFgen Mobile Foundations for Deltek Costpoint--the only Deltek recommended mobile solution for providing real-time, bi-directional information exchange between Costpoint and barcode scanners, handheld devices, RFID devices, PLCs, and scale-type devices for the aerospace and defense industry.
One of the deciding factors in Henry selecting RFgen was its ability to capture and track miscellaneous receipts in a formalized process that mirrored the level of detail used in purchase order (PO) transactions. This filled a gap in the native Costpoint functionality where purchases could not be added to inventory and tracked through the manufacturing process without a purchase order.
Henry and her team were more than impressed with what they saw: "RFgen really blew our socks off. You could scan something and data would appear in Costpoint live--in real-time."
RFgen is a suite of pre-written, pre-validated data collection solutions that apply best practices to real-world challenges in inventory and supply chain management. RFgen is also flexible and easily tailored to meet individual business needs. Mobile barcode scanning improves accuracy and creates labor efficiencies by eliminating data entry. In addition to the handheld barcode scanners used by VSE, RFgen can run online and offline on any Android®, iOS and Windows® mobile devices, including both rugged and consumer-grade devices.
RFgen led the initial implementation process until Henry and VSE team were sufficiently trained on the solution to spearhead the remaining rollout and deployment. Since VSE was still new to the Costpoint inventory module, they discovered additional inventory options available to them during implementation, especially as Henry's team realized they could get even much more functionality and value out of their existing Deltek ERP system with RFgen.
Although VSE increased the scope of the project beyond their original assessment, RFgen was able to leverage existing knowledge and experience with Costpoint to handle every addition. RFgen's ability to remain flexible enabled VSE to add multiple options for scenarios not originally known.
"It was really important to us to choose a partner like RFgen who had 'been there, done that' and could provide a live, successful system quickly," said Henry.
Not only was VSE able to deploy RFgen quickly, their employees found the barcode scanners simple and easy to use. Eliminating the need for manual, spreadsheet-based data entry significantly reduced the time it took for employees to perform each task. VSE mechanics were able to work faster, easier, and concentrate more time on their jobs instead of getting bogged down with time-consuming administrative tasks.
The VSE team also ended up expanding the scope of implementation with several additional features as they realized the many capabilities of their new Costpoint-RFgen environment. In the end, VSE achieved more goals and efficiency gains than they originally believed possible.
Some of the benefits VSE Corporation experienced include:
RFgen replaced manual spreadsheet inventory control by automating processes for Purchase Order Receiving, Issuing to Projects, Cycle Counting, Inventory Adjustment and Inventory Transfer, and then making these actions available to users on rugged handheld devices that transact against Costpoint, updating the system in real time. That way, if multiple people pull the same parts all day, it doesn't take until the end of that day for inventory managers to be alerted.
"We also have the ability to reserve things," said Henry. "So if there are three in the bin, but they are reserved for a hot project, other employees won't be able to see them on the scanners."
VSE employees previously completed inventory transfers by moving items to a new bin and then noting that on a spreadsheet. With Costpoint Inventory Module and RFgen, they gained a transfer function that enabled employees to scan the barcodes on items and bin locations in order to complete a transfer quickly.
RFgen took this functionality one step further: "Our RFgen consultant further suggested that after a transfer is completed, we should set up RFgen to come back and ask us if this is the new default location for this item. We hadn't thought of this, but it was obviously the next logical step--you don't want new things coming in on the loading dock and going back to the old location. Now RFgen takes care of that by popping up and asking during the transfer process," Henry said.
RFgen also built an inventory mass transfer app to make the process of transferring inventory between locations fast and easy. This helped transfer inventory from an existing warehouse to a new facility that had opened during the RFgen implementation process. Instead of moving individual items between bins, the mass transfer app could move an entire rack or section of inventory at once--even to another warehouse.
Utilizing RFgen in receiving enabled employees to know when parts required for a certain vehicle had arrived in real time. Before RFgen, employees printed out a copy of the Purchase Order and checked each item before logging into Costpoint and manually re-keying the information by hand.
"Now, we can bring up the PO right on the scanner and go through the lines to add quantities. If everything on the PO is in the box, we can perform an auto receive with just one click," Henry said.
Many government contracts require lot-number traceability, so that if a part fails in one vehicle, other vehicles that use the same part from the same lot can be identified and the part replaced proactively. RFgen supports lot-controlled inventory and can track and trace lot numbers throughout the supply chain.
"One of our contracts required that we track lot numbers, even for components purchased with miscellaneous receipts, and that made traceability more important than ever," said Henry. "And because we bill the government, obviously our billing has to be correct and exact. When we bill for a project, we have 100% traceability of each part installed on each vehicle."
RFgen enabled VSE to improve the visibility of inventory management operations, increasing inventory turns without double-ordering parts or running out stock. This benefit carried over to quality control as well. Some items are identified as requiring extra quality checks. RFgen automatically assigns these items to go through QC upon receipt, transforming a confusing, opaque process into a simple and transparent one. Henry explained: "QC used to require several emails back and forth. Sometimes items sat for days because people didn't know they'd been received. RFgen traces who received an item, when QC was notified, and when it gets into stock. Anyone waiting for that part can see where it is."
Thanks to RFgen's integration with Costpoint, the VSE IT team was able to build new inventory reports that helped optimize operations. "We're trying to increase inventory turns and reduce the money that is sitting on the shelf. Reporting enables us to keep much better track of what needs to be ordered, what's on order, and to avoid double-ordering or running out," explained Henry.
Henry was pleased with the RFgen team's expertise and foresight during the solution rollout: "The consultants at RFgen have all been first-rate. They were very helpful in increasing our understanding of how things work and coming up with suggestions to solve any problem. If we made a suggestion about how to do something, they would listen and come up with a better suggestion because they had more experience than we did. They are very familiar with Costpoint."
Henry and the VSE team was very satisfied with the stability and ease-of-use of their new RFgen solution.
"RFgen is a very easy-to-administer system," said Henry. These two critical factors prompted VSE to make additional plans for introducing RFgen to their larger facilities across the U.S. in the future. The RFgen team is looking forward to a strong, beneficial long-term relationship with VSE Corporation.
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