Schwing America

Global manufacturer of concrete construction equipment modernizes aging WMS software using RFgen Mobile Foundations for SAP, driving new levels of reliability, accuracy, efficiency and productivity.

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  • Industry: Construction Equipment Manufacturing
  • ERP: SAP 6.0
  • Application: Inventory Management,  Warehouse Management

Goals Achieved

  • Achieved world-class picking accuracy of 99.8%.
  • Improved picking efficiency by 42%.
  • Increased reliability, accuracy and speed over legacy system.
  • Boosted efficiency and productivity through consolidated pick process and directed put-away.
  • Empowered future in-house development for self-sufficiency.
  • Implemented smoothly with dedicated support from start to finish.

The Challenge: An Aging System

Schwing America had been using the SAP ERP system for many years to support its primary manufacturing plant for North America, a 40-acre facility with seven buildings located in St. Paul, Minnesota. Warehouse and plant personnel collected data and performed warehouse transactions using mobile barcode scanners and a legacy warehouse automation system put in place in 2004. But as that system aged, it became less and less reliable.

Several of the processes managed by this system were considered critical to daily operations and the Schwing America team could not afford to perform these activities manually.

Every day it seemed like there was a non-stop line of guys walking into the technical support area with locked up barcode scanners.

– Ken Meyers, Director of Information Systems | Schwing America Inc.

“As the system aged out, four areas became serious constraints for us: reliability, latency, lack of functionality and the absence of a true development platform,” said Ken Meyers, Director of Information Systems at Schwing America. “Every day it seemed like there was a non-stop line of guys walking into the technical support area with locked up barcode scanners. We also had a big latency problem. After a scan, you might have to wait five or six seconds for it to respond. As the company grew, we needed additional functionally to enhance efficiency, but we did not have a development platform, so we would have to continually go back to the manufacturer for any modifications or new transaction solutions.”


RFgen empowered Schwing with the ability to drive greater manufacturing and warehouse efficiency to support with their long-term strategy.

The Solution: RFgen for SAP

The implementation team evaluated several solutions, ultimately choosing RFgen Mobile Foundations for SAP, a suite of pre-written, SAP-validated data collection solutions that feature real-time, bi-directional information exchange with SAP. The RFgen solution extends ERP functionality through real-time wireless barcoding and mobile enterprise application development to improve efficiency in manufacturing and warehouse operations through automation.

“Our number one requirement for third-party software is that it’s SAP-certified. We also looked at RFgen’s installed base and tried to draw a parallel between our business needs and some of their current users. Our strategy lined up well with the RFgen product offering,” said Meyers.

RFgen sent an analyst on-site to spend a few days on the shop floor to learn about Schwing’s business requirements. The RFgen team also conducted a Business Analysis Workshop (BAW) to gain detailed knowledge of processes and workflows, maximizing the effectiveness of the new solution.

Our number one requirement for third-party software is that it’s SAP-certified.

– Ken Meyers, Director of Information Systems | Schwing America Inc.

The RFgen consultants advised Schwing to deliver a phased rollout that ultimately contributed to the overall success to the project. After a short implementation period, RFgen delivered an excellent product within the designated budget and scope.

“RFgen did a great job from start to end and they put the right people on the project,” recalled Meyers. “All too often, you get only the technical person on the project, and what you ideally like to have is a resource that has a balance of sound technical skills and a good understanding of the business processes. RFgen provided a clear understanding of the application and architectural structure coupled with a well-structured project plan.”


The Benefits: World-Class Results

Just four months after rollout, RFgen has already made an immediate positive impact at Schwing America. Not only has Schwing experienced the gains in efficiency, accuracy and productivity they were looking for, but the new solution has been able to match and improve upon existing workflows, as well as add several new mobile apps to further extend their system with WMS directed movement functionality.

Automating relatively small routine tasks through RFgen made a huge difference to the warehouse employees, to the surprise and delight of all.

Some of the other benefits Schwing America experienced, include:


99.83% Picking Accuracy

One of the most significant impacts RFgen has made is in the immediate acceleration of warehouse picking processes, leading to big gains in efficiency and accuracy.

“We track what is going on in the warehouse on a daily, weekly and monthly basis from a performance standpoint. We’ve increased our picking efficiency by 42% in the course of just four months–it now stands at 94%,” said Meyers. Greater efficiency must be matched with equally high accuracy. With RFgen, picking accuracy jumped to 99.8%–an impressive number, considering that operations achieving greater than 99.5% picking accuracy are considered world-class.

“The operations team is very happy with the performance of the [RFgen] system and how it helps them to increase overall material handling accuracy,” commented Meyers.

Central to these warehouse improvements is the Schwing team’s new ability to consolidate picking paths. RFgen improved the existing process for issuing material to production orders and sales orders by enabling workers to consolidate multiple picks into one pass through the warehouse.

Consolidated picking on the mobile side was a big enhancement that we did not have before. Our team no longer has to ‘one off’ the production orders and sales orders, so that is a nice efficiency gain,” said Meyers.


Faster, More Efficient Receiving

RFgen’s WMS directed movements contributed to speed and efficiency of shop floor tasks in other areas as well, such as receiving. Since most of the materials used in Schwing’s production arrive in large crates or container loads, the warehouse team receives these materials in bulk at a staging area. Now workers can enter receipts directly into SAP, then use handheld scanners running RFgen to pick up materials at staging and drop them off in the correct locations through software-directed movements.

“We scan groups of products, then workers get on fork trucks and put them away. RFgen directs our workers through the most appropriate sequence for put-aways going right down the line,” said Meyers.


Cycle Counting on the Go

RFgen made it easy for Schwing employees to complete cycle counts in the warehouse using only a mobile scanner. Before, workers had to create a cycle count list and generate paperwork at an SAP workstation. RFgen allows an individual to go to the bin location and cycle count on the fly using just a mobile device.

It’s a huge efficiency gain for the warehouse workers not to have to go back and forth–they can do it all on the floor,” said Meyers.

Our workers love being able to scan or type in a material number and see material availability throughout the facility on their wireless devices. They really raved about that ability, because before they had to go back to an SAP workstation.
– Ken Meyers, Director of Information Systems | Schwing America Inc.


Data Insights for Production Labor

Schwing uses RFgen extensively for labor data collection on the production floor by allowing workers to clock on and off during production orders. The IT team has added to this by building back-end applications to analyze the data captured for work order labor. These capabilities, coupled with a new set of modern mobile hardware, enable management to rapidly identify trends or problems in labor utilization.


Future Self-Sufficiency

In addition to providing superior reliability and accuracy, RFgen also provides a mobile development platform (MADP) that allows the Schwing team to continue developing their software installation in-house. Going forward, Schwing would be have the flexibility to handle modifications or additions without having to wait on or pay for an outside provider.

Myers explains: “As our business continues to grow, we will receive new requirements. And we need to be able to provide a viable solution moving forward. With RFgen, we can do that in-house with minimal effort and that is a win-win, for the company and the business units we support. We wanted to have some control over our own destiny and to be flexible enough to support the business without making big projects out of every request.”

Overall, it was an absolute win for our company.

– Ken Meyers, Director of Information Systems | Schwing America Inc.


The Right Technology Partner

RFgen proved to be the right partner to help Schwing America step into the 21st century with a modern automation solution that accelerated shop floor processes. Not only were data collection and materials management faster, smarter and more accurate, the dedicated resources and customer service Schwing received enabled the company to make additional refinements to the solution based on user feedback in real-world scenarios.

Meyers was very pleased with the on-time, on-budget deployment of RFgen, as well as the open dialogue and cooperation maintained throughout the project planning, development and rollout.

“It was a great experience,” concluded Meyers. “The people at RFgen know the value of having a good business relationship with their clients. They produce a solid solution, and we have a great relationship with their developers. The project went smoothly with excellent collaboration. Overall, it was an absolute win for our company.”

Schwing America is a member of the Schwing Group, a global leader in the design, manufacture and distribution of innovative, high-quality concrete construction equipment. With production facilities on four continents, Schwing America is headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota and handles distribution throughout North and Latin America.