Zebra Technologies launches lean manufacturing starter set to reduce inventory, labour costs and production cycles

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Zebra Technologies Corporation is launching its Material Flow "Wireless Replenishment Starter Kit" to organisations across Europe. The manufacturing refill system provides real-time visibility on the plant floor so manufacturers can respond quickly to changes in inventory, production status and customer requests. It has been tested and implemented at leading companies across different industries and is now available as an out-of-the box starter kit.

Material Flow supports and automates lean replenishment techniques and provides visibility across the entire supply chain. It replaces traditional paper-based kanban and push systems, eliminating the need for manual and labour-intensive processes.

The "Wireless Replenishment Starter Kit" is designed to improve the flow of products, processes, information and services along the production line. It includes all the hardware, software and services to get one or multiple assembly lines up and running with lean replenishment principles. Once it is installed, a line-side worker can make an inventory replenishment request by pushing one of the wireless request buttons. The Material Flow server then processes the request and the material handler will deliver the required inventory quickly and efficiently.

"We have been working with leading companies around the world to develop a replenishment solution that helps manufacturers to improve their asset utilisation and efficiencies across the plant floor. Now, we have taken this technology from large-scale manufacturing to smaller production lines," said Jill Stelfox, General Manager of Location Solutions, Zebra Technologies. "Our wireless replenishment starter kit is ideal for smaller and medium-sized enterprises looking to implement real-time locating systems (RTLS) for the first time, as well as for pilot tests at larger manufacturers. It is easy to install, brings a sense of order to even the most complex manufacturing environments and helps companies to operate leaner than ever before."

The Getrag Ford Transmissions plant in Cologne, Germany, is a prime example of how an automated system supports the lean manufacturing processes. The plant makes six varieties of transmissions for global automotive brands, including Ford, Mazda and Volvo, which must then be dispatched efficiently across the world to various assembly plants. Production-line employees no longer need to leave their work stations to help search for parts – all they have to do is push one of the 'WhereCall' active RFID buttons and the system notifies all the required parties – from the line side, to the forklift driver, to the internal warehouse – that more parts are needed.

Through Zebra's Material Flow, Getrag Ford Transmission improved its labour productivity by 20 per cent, cut a third of daily forklift trips while also decreasing on-hand inventory from local suppliers from seven to two days. This represents $750,000 of savings in inventory carrying costs while nearly eliminating downtime due to parts shortages.

"Similar savings and gains have been achieved across the companies and industries that we work with. On average, manufacturers accomplish a decrease of up to 10 per cent of on-hand inventory, 20 per cent reduction in labour costs and between 5-10 per cent improvement in asset utilisation. In economic times like these, such compelling returns are very persuasive reasons to streamline business operations," concluded Jill Stelfox.

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