Lean replenishment: Wireless asset tracking system eliminates parts shortages

GETRAG FORD Transmissions, a German company that deliver more than one million transmissions annually to major automotive manufacturers around the world, says its lean-oriented parts replenishment process is more efficient following deployment of a wireless asset tracking system. 


GETRAG FORD Transmissions , a German company that delivers more than one million transmissions annually to major automotive manufacturers around the world, says its lean-oriented parts replenishment process is more efficient following deployment of a wireless asset tracking system.
The Material Flow-Replenishment System from WhereNet has automated the complete parts replenishment process at a two-million square foot assembly plant in Cologne, Germany. The facility makes six different transmissions for global brands including Ford, Mazda, and Volvo.
“The WhereNet material flow system moves us a long way toward our ultimate goal of a completely forklift-less production operation, as we are now operating leaner than ever before,” says Ralf Vierkotten, supervisor, logistics and material handling, GETRAG FORD Transmissions. “Production-line employees no longer need to leave their workstation to help search for parts or to help material control determine the correct part; all they have to do is push a WhereCall active RFID button, and the system notifies all the required parties—from the line side to the forklift driver to the internal warehouse—that more parts are needed. This‘intelligent’ automated system supports our lean manufacturing processes as we benefit from real-time inventory consumption and can execute replenishment orders just in time.”
GETRAG FORD Transmissions is one of the first automotive industry manufacturers to use WhereNet’s Material Flow-Replenishment System, which combines business intelligence with real-time location and consumption-based demand data. The flexible parts replenishment solution tracks the exact time of every part request, automatically prioritizes the requests, and sends instructions to material handling drivers—whose vehicles are equipped with vehicle-mounted Wi-Fi terminals—telling them where to pick up and deliver the parts. The system promptly alerts both the manufacturer and suppliers when parts are needed on the assembly line, resulting in a synchronous material flow across the supply chain, reduced inventory, and higher productivity. The WhereNet system at GETRAG FORD Transmissions, running in German, consists of:

Åkerstroms (recently acquired by LXE, an EMS Technologies, Inc. company) rugged, mobile computers, mounted on the forklifts.
Based on the success of this initial implementation, GETRAG FORD Transmissions is planning the rollout of the second phase of the project at its Cologne factory, as well as expansion at other facilities.
Among the benefits GETRAG FORD Transmissions expects to gain from the WhereNet Material Flow-Replenishment System are:

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