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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
For management, there was little visibility into what was happening with this system, as well as when inventory levels were getting low in the warehouse.

With the Zebra system in place, the process is simpler, the company reports, requiring fewer trips for the warehouse staff. Operators at each station are equipped with one of two devices; if they use just one replaceable part, they have a pendant consisting of a WhereCall V battery-powered 2.4 GHz RFID tag complying with the ISO 24730 standard for 2.4 GHz active real-time location systems (RTLS), with a single push button. If they use more than one part, they have a bar-code scanner that links back to the Material Flow software on Android Industries' database. A single WhereNet RFID reader installed on the ceiling can interrogate all WhereCall tags within about a 7,500-square-foot area in which assembly is taking place, says Adebayo Onigbanjo, Zebra Technologies' senior product marketing manager.

Zebra's Adebayo Onigbanjo
If an operator's parts supply is running low, he can press the button on the WhereCall pendant, which transmits a replenishment request, along with its unique ID number, to the reader. The reader then forwards that information to the Zebra software via a wireless connection. The software, residing on Android Industries' back-end system, retrieves the part number associated with that particular tag ID and sends an alert to a defined group of 20 onboard computers running the software on warehouse forklift vehicles, thereby indicating the need for a specific part by a specific operator.

One of the forklift drivers can respond to the request by pressing a prompt using the touchscreen, and therein, the order will be displayed only on the responding driver's screen. The Zebra software instructs the driver as to where boxes filled with those parts are located within the warehouse, based on the company's predetermined storage plans. He can then proceed to that location, take a box of parts, deliver it to the requesting operator's station (also displayed on the software) and press a prompt indicating that the order has been fulfilled. The system also captures timestamps from the initial call to the delivery, enabling Android Industries to understand the efficiency of its replenishment process, as well as the frequency of parts replenishment.

Those ordering multiple parts can scan the bar-code on the boxes of the items requiring replacement, which will then be transmitted from the bar-code scanner to the Zebra software. The same process of displaying data takes place for forklift drivers.

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