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Endries International Simplifies Parts-Inventory Management

The global fasteners and production supplies distributor has designed its own RFID-enabled kiosk to identify empty component bins and automatically trigger replenishment orders.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 14, 2016

Endries International, a distributor of fasteners and related production supplies, is offering its customers an RFID-driven service that automatically replenishes parts inventory. The service is designed to help its customers prevent out-of-stocks, speed up replenishment times and reduce the amount of inventory they need to keep on hand.

Endries, based in Brillion, Wisc., distributes fasteners and related production supplies to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) throughout North America, Europe and Asia. The products that the company distributes are critical to the production of many types of equipment. In addition, Endries typically supplies a high number of stock-keeping units (SKUs) to each customer, thereby increasing the complexity of the process for monitoring those items' inventory levels.

A Smartrac Mini Block passive RFID tag is attached to each bin.
Endries has been providing the OEM marketplace with managed-inventory solutions since the mid-1980s. One common solution for Endries and other distributors of fasteners and related components, according to the company, has been to send a supplier's representative to a customer's facility to scan bins whenever the quantity of parts stored within those bins drops to a predetermined level, and to then create an order. Such a representative must be onsite at the customer's facility, however, in order to process any reorders. Many times, it is not cost-effective for a customer to have the representative onsite on a daily basis, or even multiple times per week. Additionally, any time that the representative is not at the customer's site, the supplier lacks visibility into that customer's demand.

"We were looking for something different," says Todd Fischer, Endries International's VP and CIO. His firm had already been offering a multi-bin inventory-replenishment service—which, he says, could be described as a kanban system. With the multi-bin offering, Fischer explains, an OEM worker scans a bar-code label on an empty parts bin to trigger the reordering of the part.

A bar-code-based system is dependent on users physically scanning every bar code. "Our customers wanted their employees manufacturing their products, not scanning bins," Fischer explains. Systems with scales for weighing each bin offer data regarding the exact quantity of parts inside a particular bin, but are expensive and often lack the flexibility to be moved around in what is typically a dynamic manufacturing environment.

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