This article, recently published in Supply Chain magazine: wearable technology in the supply chain is an interesting point for discussion and certainly a subject that raises some valuable questions.
There is a huge number of warehouses in the UK, with widely varying degrees of efficiency, some at optimum efficiency with very little time or resources wasted, all processes integrated with the company’s ERP and well-motivated, well managed staff.
However, at the other end of the scale there are still many, many warehouses still operating inefficiently, with manual processes such as entering data into spreadsheets and duplicating paperwork still taking up the lion’s share of the total man-hours input.
So is the discussion about wearables and mobile apps even something to be considered for the majority of companies operating warehouses, or is this just something for the top echelons of the scale?
With the cost of wearables going down at a rate of knots, they may be more accessible than you think.
More specifically, it occurs to me that the practicality of our mobile warehouse apps would increase, if the devices that they run on could be strapped to an operator’s wrist, rather than be carried in one hand.
The article focuses particularly on the pressures on supermarket suppliers but in fact, it’s relevant to any and every business with a warehouse operation.
In this increasingly competitive space, efficiency in the supply chain will ultimately mean the difference between success and failure, and no organisation can afford to sit back on its haunches.
Like it or not, mobile computing is the direction things are going and with hardware prices coming down, that is highly likely to mean wearables will play a part.
If your competitor is freeing up his staff to work with both hands, it’s worth considering whether you’d be stupid to keep yours with one hand tied behind their backs.
The Baku 2015 European Games – Warehouse Management
The Baku 2015 European Games, are the inaugural edition of the European Games; an international multi-sport event for athletes representing the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) of Europe.
The Games took place in Baku, Azerbaijan, from 12 to 28 June 2015 and featured more than 6,000 athletes from 50 countries competing in 20 sports.
With 109 venues across Baku, the Baku European Games Operation Committee (BEGOC) needed a failsafe system to track inventory to all sites across the city, and ensure it was returned to the 25,000m2 Main Logistics Centre (MLC) warehouse set up especially for the Games.
WAERlinx is a next-generation warehouse management system, perfectly suited to delivering the asset management required for the Games and was set up within just two months of the first meeting.
With a relatively short lead-time, the requirements were established via WebEx meetings, negating the need for international travel.
All the assets were uploaded in Azerbaijani and staff were trained on the system over two days.
There were some fundamental requirements for the WMS for the Games, all of which were easily achievable with WAERlinx’ flexible and extensive functionality. They were broadly categorised as:
In addition, the system would need to be able to support labels in both English and Azerbaijani.
As standard, remote operations support was provided for end-users both before and during the games.
Specifically, the WMS needed the functionality to:
The inventory to be managed included consumables, furniture, fixtures, equipment, machinery, IT equipment (telephones, fax machines, computers, photocopiers) and any other tangible assets.
Elements unique to this project
An event such as the Games has a unique lifecycle that usually involves a long period available for planning activities, followed by a very short period for deployment and operations. The adjustments were made, and thorough testing carried out early on so that once the Games started, the system was running perfectly.
Waer Systems has been extremely proud to have been involved in such a prestigious project such as this. The European Games were a huge success and the asset management system ran like clockwork throughout.
To be part of the BEGOC team was a tremendous opportunity for Waer Systems. There were challenges in that WAERlinx has never been used to track assets across 112 different sporting venues, and project delivery was quite rapid. The project has proved that WAERlinx is a truly agile and dynamic tool that can be implemented in many different environments.
Kim Noyce, Operations Director, Waer Systems.
The WAER Systems team really rose to the challenge of delivering an effective solution within extremely tight deadlines and with enough flexibility to cater for the cultural and environmental differences a Games presents. Their professionalism along with the ability of the WAERlinx solution to accommodate our specific requirements, proved invaluable in ensuring BEGOC’s Logistics team were able to deliver their services successfully for the Games.
Pennie Brinsden, Senior Manager, Baku 2015 European Games Operations Committee.
We have started a new series of videos showing the functionality of various different elements of our our WMS, WAERlinx.
The first one is now available on YouTube and shows how goods are Received into the warehouse.
Why not take a look: WAERlinx WMS Receiving Functionality.
Waer Systems’ cloud IT partner, NoBlue Limited, today announced the upcoming acquisition of the concern of Spanish NetSuite Solution Provider, SaaS Consulting, further extending its services into Europe.
NoBlue, a leading NetSuite Solution Provider, is one of Waer’s key NetSuite partners, bringing WAERlinx – Waer’s advanced cloud warehouse management solution – to NetSuite customers across the UK, and increasingly throughout Europe.
NoBlue already has a strong customer base in the UK and Europe, and has experience of Spanish NetSuite implementations. Joining forces with SaaS Consulting will allow them to offer customers in Spain a local office with Spanish-speaking consultants, along with specialist local knowledge and experience.
As NoBlue’s international footprint continues to grow, the acquisition will also allow the company to:
• Continue to grow its European customer base
• Better assist UK businesses when dealing with EU suppliers / vendors
• Offer specialised support for compliance needs across various countries
• Provide multi-language options for businesses with international offices
This acquisition brings together two leading NetSuite Solution Providers. Based in Nottingham, NoBlue has 15 years of ERP consultancy and software development experience. Considering it to be the only mature cloud-based ERP solution, NoBlue has focused exclusively on NetSuite – and the solutions that complement it – for the last six years, providing NetSuite services spanning consultancy, implementation, development, integration, training and support to customers in a variety of industries. The company attributes the successful expansion of its customer base across the UK and Europe to its growing NetSuite practice.
SaaS Consulting has been delivering NetSuite consultancy services to small and medium enterprises in Spain and Portugal since 2009. Based in Madrid, the company has established itself as the official NetSuite Partner in Spain, and has successfully implemented various NetSuite projects across a range of industries.
“With the completion of this acquisition, we are combining the expertise of two leading NetSuite Solution Providers and increasing our reach across Europe.” said NoBlue Managing Director, Ian Irwin. “As NoBlue’s growth across the UK and Europe continues to expand, this exciting acquisition will allow us to continue to grow our European customer base and better serve our UK customers with European operations. Utilising SaaS Consulting’s local knowledge and experience, we will be able to offer specialised compliance support and multi-language options to our UK and European customers alike.”
“We are very excited about the synergy of NoBlue and Saas Consulting.” said Kelvin Seddon, Managing Director at SaaS Consulting. “With our local experience of fiscal, industrial and cultural specifics we look forward to giving our clients even more capability and empowerment with the backing of one of the top European NetSuite partners, NoBlue. Many countries have barriers to entry and we are certain that we have already beaten a path for NoBlue’s expansion in the Iberian Peninsula.”
David Snelson, Sales Director at Waer said: “Waer is absolutely committed to growing our NetSuite customer base in the UK and Europe, so this is great news. We extend our warmest congratulations to NoBlue and are excited by the potential this partnership brings for both our businesses.”
SaaS Consulting will be re-branded ‘NoBlue Spain SL’, trading as ‘NoBlue España’. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2016.
Using SAP? Need a VMI solution? Surely SAP’s VMI product is the natural answer, or is it?
Whether you’re buying a new laptop, a VMI solution or your weekly shopping, it can be hard to see the wood for the trees and often you are left trying to compare apples with pears.
Information is given in such different ways that you really have to dig deep to find out whether one product suits your needs better than another. Well, help is at hand.
Recently, a long-standing customer of Waer’s, who has SAP as their ERP was looking for a VMI solution. The natural choice would be to go to SAP – they have a warehouse management provision after all – however, the obvious solution is not always the best one.
For this customer’s needs, the SAP solution fell short, and the table below shows just how many advantages our VMI offering has, over SAP’s for this customer:
|Consignment / VMI Using SAP||Consignment / VMI Using WAERlinx|
|Customer and supplier would not be able to use one system. They would each use their own, separate ERP systems, requiring EDI or XML data transfer between the two.||Customer and supplier will be using one system, making things far simpler for training and for everyday use.|
|SAP ideally requires the customer and supplier to be using the same Material Master records.||The customer and supplier don’tneed to use the same Material Master records; the Alias feature provides the cross-reference.|
|The forecast that is output for the supplier is based on customer sales.||Usage data is based on manufacturing consumption.|
|Supplier and customer both need to be using SAP. (Otherwise, the data exchange becomes a lot more complex.)||There are no prerequisites over which ERP system is used.|
|Significant manual input to record material movements.||Barcode scanning is used to record material movements.|
|The concept of ownership does not seem to exist.||Ownership is clearly tracked, at all times.|
|Uses stock and sales data as the raw planning data.||Uses stock and actual consumption in manufacturing.|
|Stock visibility is not real time. (Needs a scheduled data transfer.)||Real time visibility.|
In short, SAP Consignment/VMI doesn’t exist as a single, modular entity in the way that it does on WAERlinx. Rather, SAP requires the customer to go through a convoluted process of using pieces of functionality that are distributed across several SAP modules, before they can say that they are doing Consignment/VMI on SAP.
For a refreshingly different approach to supply chain software, ring David Snelson on 01293 768036 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAERlinx – our fully integrated WMS suiteapp for NetSuite now interfaces to a wide variety of third-party courier systems using the NetDespatch portal. We recommend this approach because it is a lot more cost-effective than building bespoke interfaces to individual couriers.
The way it works
At the point when a despatch is processed, WAERlinx makes a call to the courier system, transmitting the relevant details. Typically, this includes (but is certainly not limited to) product code, ship-to address, number of packages, package weight(s), tariff code and special instructions. There are a great many other data elements that can be included and these can be set up according to the needs of the customer.
The tariff code and any special delivery instructions can either be specified on the NetSuite sales order or manually input at the point of despatch. If the tariff code and delivery instructions are specified on the NetSuite sales order, then this is included with the sales order information that is interfaced to WAERlinx, and no operator input is needed at the point of despatch.
In all cases, the courier system responds with the additional information required by the courier in order to execute the collection and delivery. This includes information to be output on courier-specific labels, which can be printed locally in the despatch area of the supplying warehouse, as well as a tracking reference number. The courier’s printed labels are then fixed to the relevant packages, prior to physical collection by the courier.
For the purposes of customer service, the tracking reference number mentioned above can, via WAERlinx, be optionally interfaced back to its corresponding NetSuite sales order and in all cases, a full audit trail of courier collection and delivery status is maintained.
Here is our latest bit of news on our NetSuite partnership – the official NetSuite press release on our verification as a “Built For NetSuite” partner solution.
Great news and we are busy delivering new WMS solutions right now for businesses that run NetSuite as their ERP.
Lancing, Sussex, UK – February, 2015 – Waer Systems, aleading provider of flexible software solutions for organisations with complex supply chain and reporting needs, todayannounced that its WAERlinx WMS for NetSuite has achieved ‘Built for NetSuite’ verification. The new SuiteApp is a warehouse management system (WMS) that enables users to manage all inbound, storage and outbound processes.
‘Built for NetSuite’ is a program for NetSuite SuiteCloud Developer Network (SDN) partners that provides them with information, resources, and a method to verify that their applications and integrations, built using the NetSuite SuiteCloud Computing Platform, meet NetSuite standards and best practices. The Built for NetSuite program is designed to give NetSuite customers additional confidence that third-party SuiteApps have been built to meet these standards.
“The support given by the NetSuite SDN team and the SuiteAnswers self-help portal really helped to steer our development plan and project approach to ensure that the customer experience when using the WAERlinx WMS SuiteApp is seamless,” said Rod Scott, CEO at Waer Systems.
Key Features and Benefits of the WAERlinx WMS for NetSuite SuiteApp include:
Through the new WAERlinx WMS for NetSuite SuiteApp, Scott hopes to bring his team’s strong technical capability and extensive experience in inventory management to NetSuite’s large, diverse and ever-growing customer base. “We are really energised by this partnership and the vision NetSuite outlined around the collision of product and services in businesses during its recent SuiteConnect event in London,” Scott said. “The fit between the product sets of our organisations seems pretty perfect right now and we are looking to build on our successes and become a key partner for NetSuite on WMS.”
“Waer made big promises and have delivered on all of them,” said customer Tim Wilkinson, Director at Wine Box Company, a UK-based wholesale trade supplier of retail display and gift packaging for the specialist food and drinks market. “In fact, Waer has gone beyond what was promised. A very thorough project was put together and delivered on time – we now have a great WMS solution that works seamlessly with NetSuite.”
“The scope of the WAERlinx WMS for NetSuite SuiteApp’s capability presents an opportunity for customers looking to extend NetSuite’s award-winning ERP solution with warehouse management,” said Guido Haarmans, Senior Vice President of Business Development for Technology Partners at NetSuite. “And by achieving ‘Built for NetSuite’ status, Waer is showing a commitment to our customers by providing a quality SuiteApp.”
For information about ‘Built for NetSuite’ SuiteApps, please visit www.netsuite.com/BuiltforNetSuite.
For more information about the WAERlinx WMS SuiteApp, please visit www.suiteapp.com.
NetSuite’s SuiteCloud is a comprehensive offering of cloud-based products, development tools and services designed to help customers and commercial software developers take advantage of the significant economic benefits of cloud computing. Based on NetSuite, the industry’s leading provider of cloud-based financials / ERP software suites, SuiteCloud enables customers markets quickly with newly-created mission-critical applications built on top of mature and proven business processes.
The SuiteCloud Developer Network (SDN) is a comprehensive developer program for independent software vendors (ISVs) who build apps for SuiteCloud. All available SuiteApps are listed on SuiteApp.com, a single-source online marketplace where NetSuite customers can find applications to meet specific business process or industry-specific needs. For more information on SuiteCloud and the SDN program, please visit www.netsuite.com/developers
It’s a challenging time for manufacturers and yet an exciting one too. Rarely have there been greater opportunities for global trading than there are today, and there is huge potential for growth. In developing markets especially, however, unless these opportunities are managed efficiently, increasing costs – of inventory in particular – make it ever more difficult to protect gross margins.
The never-ending quest for progress demands continuous innovation, yet many of the systems that are in place to support manufacturing operations today are deeply embedded, legacy applications that are difficult either to replace, or to improve in any way that adds real value.
So how do manufacturers gain a competitive advantage under these conditions?
One proven method is to take control of manufacturing by means of improved supply chain visibility, so that human ingenuity and common sense can regain control.
There is a clear and direct link between improving the flow of information and improving the flow of materials. In other words, by keeping your finger on the pulse of change, manufacturers remain agile and in control, and able to manage ever-increasing levels of complexity and variety.
So how do you find a solution provider that will be flexible enough for your manufacturing business’ needs, and what are your constraints?
Cost is often the first consideration and there are many all-singing, all-dancing solutions that would be ideal but unfortunately cost a small fortune.
On the other end of the scale, many of the lower cost options are pretty inflexible and while they may help solve some issues, there’s more often than not, a compromise in terms of functionality.
WAERlinx is a purpose-built suite of applications (Kitting, Kanban, RFID, WMS, VMI, Capacity Management) with a background in the demanding field of Aerospace supply chain management that is flexible by design. Customers can choose the applications that meet their requirements, with no need to change their existing ERP and MES systems in order to get there. WAERlinx simply bolts on, to enhance and improve what already exists.
WAERlinx’ purpose-built console of operational and management information, presented using information gathered from multiple systems and facilities within the organisation, helps to:
… and reduce costs
Astute, a global distributor of electrical components, is the largest nonfranchised
company of its kind in the UK, with an annual turnover of £40
million. In 2009 it won the contract to provide material management services to
a leading French defence contractor.
The contract was a complex one, with unique requirements that Astute’s
embedded ERP system (Syspro) could not fully provide the functionality and
flexibility to effectively support. What’s more, Astute had to find a solution that
would not disrupt its current operations; something with minimal
implementation and timescale implications.
That’s where WAERlinx from Waer Systems came in. This Cloud-based service is
now the primary system used by Astute for demand management, Kitting,
transaction processing, inventory management and point-of-use replenishment,
and it was this partnership that allowed them to show their customer that they
were the right choice for the contract, with the first live transactions processed
on WAERlinx at the start of August 2010.
The contract between Astute and the defence contractor involves the supply of
products such as PCB boards and electrical components, and the management
of inventory between Astute’s warehouse and their customer, using a
combination of WAERlinx Kitting modules and its Kanban/Replenishment
What does it do?
All master data, such as part numbers and BOMs (Bills of Material) are
interfaced from Syspro (Astute’s system) to WAERlinx, allowing vastly improved
visibility and efficiency for all parties.
How it works (in detail):
Initially, Mestec (their customer’s system) sends the MPS (Master Parts
Schedule) – a delivery schedule for Kits for the next five years – to Syspro.
Syspro then formats the MPS and it is interfaced to WAERlinx.
At this point, any changes to the delivery requirements for the next two years
(new orders, delivery date changes, quantity changes etc.) are identified and
added to WAERlinx, updating the delivery schedule.
When the delivery schedule is sent from the customer it is at Kit level, and
WAERlinx explodes the Kit to the individual components and quantities
required. Once the MPS is processed to WAERlinx, a forecast file at component
level is generated and interfaced to Syspro at Astute. Astute then generates an
MRP identifying their purchasing requirements for the next five years.
As the customer’s demands become due, Astute picks, packs and ships them to
the customer and a delivery file is generated and interfaced to Mestec showing
that the inventory is in transit.
Once received by the customer, the Astute’s on-site person records receipt of
the inventory to WAERlinx, the records are interfaced to Syspro and Mestec to
confirm the stock position on site, and the transfer of ownership from Astute to
the customer is captured.
As the customer consumes the inventory their engineers update Mestec,
confirming quantity and traceable information used. Mestec interfaces these
records to WAERlinx, which triggers an automatic replenishment order if the
inventory levels drop below the agreed levels – ensuring a smooth
consumption pattern and crucially, no shortages.
Real-time WAERflow interfaces are in place between all key systems, meaning
that demands, shipments and receipts are immediately shown on WAERlinx.
Consequently, at any given time, all inventory can be accounted for at any
point in the supply chain, whether through Mestec on the customer’s side, or
Syspro at Astute.
The parts and components required by the customer are changing all the time –
a key requirement that has been incorporated into the solution; when each
order is received and formatted for processing, an exceptions report is
automatically generated and sent to Astute to highlight missing part numbers
and other anomalies. WAERlinx also automatically manages the transfer of
ownership from Astute to the customer.
In addition, if parts become damaged on the customer’s site, this is also
recorded so that although the part is unusable, it is still accounted for, for
billing and stock replenishment purposes.
All this requires no human input and is therefore highly effective and
accurate, and has dramatically reduced both human resources and errors.
What is particularly noteworthy with this project is that it provides Kitting and
Kanban (using WAERlinx) but also an interfacing solution (WAERflow) allowing
all parties to see real-time stock information wherever they are in the supply
chain and whatever system they are looking at.
What’s more, demand lines allow Astute to better forecast and share
information with suppliers, thereby also vastly improving procurement.
Schematic Diagram of the Astute/WAERlinx/Mestec Solution
Understanding and making the key decisions at the start of an RFID project makes all the difference between success and failure. These are our top 7 agenda items when discussing RFID feasibility.
Active or Passive tags?
Active tags emit a stronger signal, and do so without activation from an RFID reader. They continuously ‘chirp’ their identity. However they are battery-powered and cost more than passive tags. Passive tags tend to be smaller than active tags, and have a longer lifespan. If a tag only needs to respond at the time when it is read, then this would be a strong point in favour of selecting passive tags. Active tags should only be selected over passive tags if there is a compelling reason for doing so. In our experience, passive tags will provide an ideal solution for automated inventory control, but without the cost of active tags.
Required read range
The distance at which tags need to be read influences not only the choice of tag, but also crucially the choice of reader too. Some key questions to consider are: How far will the reader be from the tag that it is reading? Will tags have different orientations when they are read? What are the spatial dimensions of the area where read coverage is needed? The choice of hardware must be proven to achieve the read requirements that are set out by the answers to these questions. With RFID, there is no single ‘best’ solution, and particular care is therefore needed in choosing the right equipment.
Selection of tags
The primary consideration when selecting tags is to find the optimal balance between tag size and required read range. As a general rule, the larger the tag the greater the read range. Next, consider whether there is likely to be interference from any electromagnetic source. Today, tags are optimised to work either on metal, off metal, or near to metal. Consider also whether the tags will be subject to physical contact or impact. Are any special coatings needed for the tags?
Attaching tags to assets
Think carefully about how and where tags will be attached. Obviously a secure attachment, which does not affect the integrity of the asset to which it is attached, is essential.
Think through how tags will be programmed with unique information, such as an identification number. Tag commissioning should ideally be done away from the final asset location, and not after the tag has been fitted to the asset itself.
Once the system has been designed, is it essential that it is thoroughly tested in the actual operating environment where it will eventually be used. Sources of interference in the actual operating environment can give rise to test results that are significantly different from those achieved in a different location, such as a design office for example.
Research new applications for RFID
RFID technology is evolving continuously at the moment. New, innovative devices and applications are being released all the time. It is very worthwhile keeping up to date with these, since any one of them could be ideally suited to the requirements of your project.