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Android Industries' Auto Subassembly Plant Boosts Efficiency

The company cuts labor costs by 10 percent and improves safety, by using Zebra Technologies' Material Flow system for parts replenishment.
By Claire Swedberg
Dec 18, 2012Automotive subassembly company Android Industries reports that it has reduced the labor cost of its inventory and operations replenishment by 10 percent, using a combination radio frequency identification and bar-code solution provided by Zebra Technologies. The system, installed two years ago at the company's facility in Arlington, Texas, allows workers to use either an RFID tag or a bar-code scan to order parts from the warehouse, while warehouse workers retrieving the goods can view the order on their onboard computers via Zebra's Material Flow software application.

Android Industries assembles complex modular systems, including instrument panels and vehicle assemblies, and ships those units to its customers' car and truck factories. Its business has been growing, the company reports, and it continues to employ lean manufacturing practices to keep costs low.

If an operator's parts supply is getting low, he can press the button on the WhereCall V tag, which will transmit a replenishment request.
Recently, Android Industries wanted to use an automated system to better manage its material flow and replenishment processes, while also reducing waste. The firm must often make quick changes to its operations in response to customers' orders, and it needed a flexible system that would enable it to change the parts associated with a specific workstation easily.

Before installing the Material Flow replenishment system, Android Industries used a manual method to keep its assembly staff furnished with the parts required for the task at hand, says Dirk Cranney, Android Industries' material manager. Workers from the warehouse would drive through the facility's assembly areas, searching for component containers with low levels of parts, and would then locate a replenishment supply of those components. Assembly workers, known as operators, would either send a message via radio or simply shout out to those individuals when they needed parts, or they would place a piece of paper on top of any components boxes they had emptied, indicating the need for replenishment.

The warehouse staff had to remember where those parts were located within the warehouse, and then find them and bring them to the operator. As the Arlington site—the company's largest—was growing, several buildings were added, totaling 750,000 square feet of storage area. What's more, goods were often stored farther from the assembly area, and the assembly area itself was becoming larger. All combined, this created a greater challenge for staff members attempting to manage replenishment via the manual system. Operators might not find someone in the area within hearing range to ask for replacement parts, or workers may have trouble locating parts within the warehouse, or miss an empty parts box on the assembly floor that required replenishment.

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