BEC – Making the right connection

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At this year's M3 User Association UK Conference (M3UA UK), held at the Best Western Plus Meriden Manor Hotel in Solihull on 1 and 2 March, BEC (Systems Integration) Ltd., the UK-based supplier of data capture solutions for supply chain logistics and manufacturing, was the event's Diamond Sponsor, together with solutions partner Honeywell.

This year's conference was again well-attended; exceeding last year's numbers with over 120 people attending over the two days.

The event – which focuses on the latest technology developments and application examples related to Infor's M3 ERP solution, together with the complementary solutions and activities of a number of Infor's solution partners and associates – featured a packed schedule of customer presentations, as well as product updates and live demonstrations. There was also a Gala Dinner and Charity Auction on the evening of the first day, which raised nearly £1500 for cancer charities, plus a close-up magician who entertained the assembled before dinner was served.

BEC and its solutions partner Honeywell featured prominently in the proceedings during both days, being actively involved with customer case studies and solution discussions, as well as running a dedicated presentation and demonstration suite.

Raleigh Distribution Centre case study

One of the case study highlights at the M3UA UK Conference was a presentation given by Steve Wigley, the Raleigh Bicycle Company's recently retired distribution manager. Wigley explained that in order to move away from paper-based processes and to map out a project to automate its entire warehouse, Raleigh contacted BEC. BEC proposed a two-phase project using its eSmart WMS software underpinned by Honeywell hardware to update the goods-in and goods-out sides of Raleigh's Parts and Accessories business.

Wigley outlined the different phases of the implementation. He explained that Phase One focused on the receiving and picking side of the business, eliminating existing issues around stock control by ensuring that all the stock received into the warehouse was barcoded. Raleigh used Honeywell barcode scanners to make sure that everything coming into the business was scanned and coded appropriately and that the data was correct before products could move forward into the storage and distribution process.

Honeywell's CK3 mobile computers were selected for receiving goods-in as they are designed for rugged warehouse environments. For packing, Raleigh opted for Honeywell's 3820 cordless Bluetooth scanners, which are ideal for scanning applications where freedom of movement is essential.

Wigley pointed out that Phase Two dealt with picking and replenishment, equipping warehouse staff with Vocollect A730 Talkman devices, which are purpose-built for Voice-recognition in challenging warehouse environments. The A730 integrates a Voice-activated scanner so workers are completely 'hands-free', while SRX2 headsets allow them to communicate directly with the warehouse management system.

Due to the success of the Honeywell and BEC system, Raleigh now plans to extend the solution across the rest of the business. For example, for cycle picking a system is currently being written by BEC and this is anticipated to go live by the beginning of April this year. "Everything we said would happen did happen," said Wigley. "We have made savings on manpower and have much more accurate stock. Although we had accurate stock levels before it was overall accuracy rather than accuracy within specific locations."

Some of the key benefits of the project include: 99.9% stock accuracy levels, up from 96%; increase in worker productivity; real-time stock control; the creation of flexible pick-face; and faster training of new staff and seasonal workers.

Voice for M&I

During a seminar presentation titled 'Vocollect Voice Recognition Solution for Maintenance & Inspection (M&I), John Bradshaw –business development manager for the Honeywell Vocollect M&I solution, who works in partnership with BEC and Infor – explained that, from a speed and accuracy perspective, Voice-directed working has for a number of years proved a highly efficient method for picking and replenishment in the warehouse and distribution centre. However, he made the point that an increasing number of companies in a range of industrial sectors are now realising that Voice can also be used to achieve similar benefits concerning maintenance & inspection (M&I) tasks. Relevant sectors include aerospace, truck fleet, automotive, process control, utilities and rail.

Bradshaw outlined what he described as three 'buckets of goodness' concerning the use of Voice for M&I. "The first bucket of goodness concerns the utilisation of Voice to optimise process and workflow steps. The second bucket of goodness is ergonomics. Bradshaw highlighted that the engineer in a demonstration video he showed during his presentation was able to use both the Voice technology and his hands to use tools for the task at hand – in this case, maintenance tasks carried out on an APU (auxiliary power unit) for aircraft. The user in the video also benefitted from the ability to capture M&I information on his iPad and see that information on the screen before he submitted the data back to the host system.

The third bucket of goodness concerned compliance and information. Bradshaw explained that many organisations have to conform to various regulatory and standard requirements, and this information can be captured and used in real-time. He added that it can also be used for historical purposes; a case in point is within the aerospace industry where it is important to keep detailed data for a number of years for use in the event of, for example, a plane crash or some form of incident.

Video: Raleigh Achieves 99.9% Stock Accuracy Levels Thanks to New Voice Picking Solution from BEC

True-life example

M3UA Conference chairman, Robin Irvine, spoke about the background behind BEC and Honeywell becoming the Diamond Sponsors for M3UA 2017, and outlined some of the key benefits BEC and Honeywell brought to this year's event. "We listened to the membership last year who were asking for a true-life example of how they could connect external systems and hardware directly into the M3 ERP layer to provide added value without expensive interfacing projects. BEC and Honeywell accepted the challenge of setting up a complete demo suite, providing hands-on demonstration of BEC's warehouse management system, touch screens, scanning hardware and the Honeywell Vocollect Voice solution.

The membership received a very clear insight into Voice-automated WMS systems, which was gratefully received by many who attended the repeating sessions throughout the two-day event.

"This kind of hands-on demonstration also shakes off the traditional views of ERP systems sitting in a darkened room only to be used by a selected few within the business, and started to explore the benefits and options of extending users' ERP layer into their whole business. We are already planning on how we can repeat and better this successful approach at next year's event."

Photo courtesy of Georga Irvine

Close links

Tony Hampson, managing director at BEC, said the M3 User Group event ensures BEC keeps close links with M3 end-users. "For many years, we have been one of the most popular go-to companies for data capture functionality built into M3," he remarked. "After all, this is our core focus, and one whereby we have built a solid reputation. Also, because we are a small, tight-knit organisation, this gives us a high degree of agility and flexibility."

Philip Jarrett, director of sales and marketing at BEC, said the M3 User Group event helps to forge a stronger, mutually beneficial relationship between BEC, Infor and end-users of M3. He added that this type of forum gives BEC even greater credibility within the Infor community. "It's also an ideal event for users to find out more about how companies such as BEC can add complementary, highly flexible Voice-directed warehousing technology and data capture functionality around the core Infor M3 ERP suite," continued Jarrett. "Users of M3, such as Raleigh, recognise the need to rely on an independent company with the right solutions, know-how and proven track record regarding the integration of Voice and data capture solutions seamlessly and efficiently within their ERP system."

Video: Maintenance and Inspections with Vocollect Voice

Networking benefits

Trevor Howard, general manager at the M3 User Association, highlighted the value that the M3UA recognises in M3 partners and independent associates such as Honeywell and BEC. He said many users or prospective users like the opportunity to talk with other companies at the event about their experiences of deploying M3 and complementary solutions provided by system partners.

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