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Intelligent Asset Tracking: More Transparency and Automation in Material Flow

Digitales Materialfluss-Tracking auf dem S
6 minutes Reading time
6 minutes Reading time

At a leading global provider of automation solutions based in southern Germany, finished goods are moved between production facilities and a customer center at three different locations within the supply chain every day. To ensure a smooth and transparent process, the company needed a technical solution in this use case for real-time mapping of material flow processes. The solution was found in an intelligent IoT system provided by INTRANAV, an Inpixon company.

The challenge: Reducing search effort and manual scanning processes, implementing a paperless system, and real-time material flow monitoring.

The goal of the automation engineer’s project was to digitize live movements and inventories of finished goods as well as the load carriers used for transport. In addition, processes such as manual scanning should be reduced in order to optimize working times and avoid possible booking errros.

In this context, traditional paper waybills, which can be easily misplaced or lost, should be replaced with RTLS tags. The company was therefore looking for a solution that would enable them to retrieve goods and accompanying documents for production orders electronically and post them automatically in the SAP system. Finally, the automation specialist from southern Germany was to be given the opportunity to view and continuously analyze the throughput times of each individual station of material flow.

The customer’s main goal is to implement a digital and automated internal material flow and replace individual scanning activities in internal transport. To implement this, the company chose the INTRANAV Real-Time Location System provided by Inpixon.

The solution: Asset tracking, automation of manual scanning processes and implementation of paperless logistics between three locations

INTRANAV, an Inpixon company, based in Eschborn near Frankfurt am Main, Germany, is a leading German provider of IIoT and real-time location systems (RTLS) and sensor data services. Since December 2021, the company has been part of the US-based company Inpixon from Palo Alto, California.

For the automation company, INTRANAV, an Inpixon company, identified two use cases in the production and logistics areas. The objective was to be able to track and trace finished products within the three locations, including two plants and a customer service center.

In the first use case, material flow tracking, packaged finished goods ready for shipment are tracked from plant A to the external warehouse in plant B. The packaged finished goods are wooden boxes that are not palletized and, in many cases, exceed the dimensions of a Euro pallet.

The second use case is asset tracking. Here, packaged cylinders are transported from production to the customer service center via internal transport. There they are packed and buffered at the loading ramps. A forwarder then picks them up and takes them to the external warehouse in plant B. Buffering takes place in the grid boxes in which the packages are located. About 20 to 30 packed cylinders are transported per cage box.

The IoT sensor-based INTRANAV RTLS system tracks packets in real time from the starting point to the destination point, as well as through all intermediate nodes. For this purpose, tracking tags are attached to the starting point and linked to the respective production order via the INTRANAV software and connected in the backend of the INTRANAV.IO and SAP system.

Now, when packets enter the workstation through a geofence (virtual zone), they are automatically registered at all nodes. Manual scanning is no longer necessary.

Additional production information is stored on the individual packages at the respective material flow stations. The packages are provided with a unique barcode and are married with the corresponding information in INTRANAV.IO and SAP by scanning the tag, which is also provided with a unique ID, at the respective work/buffer stations via mobile device. For this purpose, a mobile device with an INTRANAV.APP is stored at each workstation.

Employees can use the INTRANAV.APP to scan these numbers and create a new asset in the INTRANAV platform, which can then be tracked. The app was developed specifically for matching barcode information such as delivery bills or production orders with tags.

Upon arrival at the Customer Service Center or Plant B, the goods are placed in two possible zones depending on the material flow relationship. Once the specified zone is reached, the association of the information with the tag is automatically deleted by a rule function via a geofence in the INTRANAV.IO system. The tag is then empty and can be overwritten with new information. The empty tag is collected in containers in the corresponding zone and transported back to the starting point (Plant A) at regular intervals.

With the digitized real-time data, the user now has all the data of the transports carried out available in a database. With the INTRANAV software, all individual material flows and material flow relationships can be analyzed in real time or retrospectively. In the INTRANAV material flow module, the exact time stamp of entry and exit into the respective zone is stored and the dwell time in the respective zone is calculated to the second. The final status shows the lead time of all zones and the intermediate lead times per asset / package / material flow relationship. Material flow throughput times and process optimizations are now based on historical data of completed transports and the dwell times of goods at the nodes they pass through.

The result: Scalable RTLS solution enables efficiency increase, transparency and quality optimization in cross-site material flow tracking and paperless logistics

The IoT system INTRANAV makes it possible to record the flow of goods and values in production and logistics digitally and across locations. It can be easily and efficiently used to track various material flow relationships. It is also scalable to support additional use cases and additional real-time tracking software or hardware. The efficiency and quality improvements achieved by the automation customer in production are measurable and can therefore be compared in a comprehensible manner. The RTLS can be used internally by various departments within the supply chain to realize the potential for real-time optimization of processes.

Various interfaces enable the connection to all common ERP, WMS and MES systems and databases as well as to Power BI, SQL Server. Data coupling enables further processing and use to optimize logistics and supply chain processes as well as the entire flow of information.

In summary, the INTRANAV system offers a variety of benefits such as time savings through material flow transparency, reduction of manual scanning processes, detection of high dwell and idle times, analysis of transport routes and material flow paths, paperless logistics, increased security and quality of material flow processes, and real-time tracking and alerting of potential thefts and losses.

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