Intelligent inventory management systems replace manual inventory management

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3 minutes Reading time
3 minutes Reading time

The effort required for inventory management of C-parts such as shipping packaging is comparatively high: companies need storage space and employees for inventory management. With the Industrial IoT, automated inventory systems are possible that detect a need for materials through sensors.

The challenge: Material occupies storage space and must be procured manually

In the logistics industry, it’s called the C-parts dilemma: the actual packaging material accounts for only 20 percent of total costs. The remaining 80 percent are process costs for labor, handling, procurement, warehousing, shipping and compensation for transport damage. In addition, the packaging material occupies a significant part of the storage space intended for goods.

The packaging specialist Just Pack GmbH is an experienced system partner for packaging materials. Among other things, they use the Kanban Pack + system known from the industry. This ensures demand-oriented warehousing. A continuous flow system ensures that the shelves at the storage and work stations are always full. As a service provider, Just Pack takes care of manual inventory monitoring for its customers and replenishes stocks regularly as needed.

This approach of the service partner is efficient, but can still be optimized – with automated inventory monitoring and control. With this, subcontracting becomes more accurate, as shortages do not have to be checked or counted on site. In addition, manual effort is reduced and empty runs are minimized in favor of sustainability. Sensor and automation specialist Balluff has developed a digital inventory management system that Just Pack is now using as part of a new service.

The solution: A system for digitializing inventory monitoring and control

Balluff’s Smart Reordering System (SRS) replaces traditional pull approaches, where users only reorder material when there is a demand, or inventory levels are even already below a critical value. The SRS enables an intelligent and dynamic push system where stocks are automatically determined and reordered. It can operate completely automatically as a Kanban system or complement existing systems.

Just Pack follows the principle of vendor-managed stock with the use of the Smart Reordering System in their e-Kanban system. For this purpose, Just Pack attaches a battery-powered sensor to each of its customers’ material locations. Sensor readings and thresholds selected in the cloud application are used to automatically determine when material supplies are running low. Via a wireless radio link, all sensors per shop floor or warehouse are connected to a gateway that connects to the Industrial IoT either via LTE or Ethernet (internal LAN). The cloud application receives and evaluates all inventory data.

The application includes a dedicated dashboard where users can view all current inventory graphically at any time. Threshold values can be defined to cleverly control the inventory. As soon as a critical value is exceeded, Just Pack receives a message. Just Pack supplies the missing packaging materials and fills the packing stations and shelves. In principle, the system is also suitable for products other than packaging materials and can also be used on flow racks, for example.

The result: Automatic monitoring and reordering of material

The Smart Reordering system monitors inventories simply, dynamically and fully automatically. The sensor system can automatically determine the fill level of shelves and storage containers so that – unlike conventional Kanban shelving – no scanning is required. Due to the wireless sensor, the system can be used in almost all areas of application. The cloud platform enables location-independent management and the overall system does not interfere with the existing IT landscape. Due to the simple interfaces, it can therefore also be used together with other solutions for procurement management – a connection to existing ERP systems is also possible.

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