With ever-increasing global competition, manufacturers and distributors are constantly looking for ways of driving down costs and improving efficiency within the supply chain. For many, however, just-in-time supply chain management remains a concept rather than a reality.

Industrial consumables distributor, Infast is, however, investing in mobile technology from Impact Applications that will help it work towards that goal. The web-based operations management system from Impact Applications will enable Infast to achieve significant cost savings by improving the efficiency of its mobile workforce and its just-in-time stock control systems across the supply chain. By enabling real-time communication between Infasts 200 mobile workers on site at client factories and Infasts back-office warehouse management system, the system will help Infast improve the delivery of stock to its clients whilst cutting costs out of Infasts communications infrastructure.

Steve Smith, Project Manager at Infast explains, The lack of real time communication between our mobile workers - or line feeders - and the back office was a major concern for us. We were constrained by the need for our mobile workers to stop and download the information they had gathered. We recognised that we needed a mobile solution that would give us real time communication but also the flexibility that our different mobile workers require. By achieving greater accuracy in our just-in-time delivery systems, we can dramatically reduce our stock levels but at the same time be confident that production lines will not come to a stop.

As part of a wider project to replace its frontline and back-office IT systems, Impact Applications will replace Infasts existing fixed link scanning solutions with a standard mobile solution that will be able to cope with the different requirements of Infasts multiple business units. The mobile system will also integrate with Infasts new back-office ERP system, whilst retaining the flexibility to interface with a variety of systems in the future. The solution is currently being piloted at several of Infasts major customers, including Aston Martin.

Infast provides an end-to-end supply chain management service distributing fasteners, adhesives, tooling and industrial consumables to a wide range of markets including Aerospace, Automotive, Construction, Defence, Electrical, Rail, Marine, Medical and many more. Amongst the value-added services Infast provides are direct to bin inventory management systems, which are installed on the side of production lines at customer sites. The mobile workers, or line feeders, are deployed to customer sites across the country to ensure that each bin is sufficiently well stocked to maintain production. Each line feeder uses a hand held scanner to scan the bar code on each bin which takes an electronic reading of what needs to be ordered. Using Infasts existing system, line feeders must stop scanning every few hours and return their scanner to a location with fixed line communication in order to download the information they have gathered and send it to the back office so that more stock can be ordered.

Impact Applications is providing Infast with a GPRS-based mobile scanning solution, where customer stock levels or bar codes can be recorded onsite, and immediately sent through to Infasts ERP system, saving the organisation time and improving supply chain efficiency. The systems furthermore deploys zero-client technology, which means that no software is installed on the mobile device, reducing the cost of operation and Infasts overall deployment costs, allowing instant swap out of malfunctioning devices and minimising downtime.

Smith adds, We currently have to install kilostream lines for fixed communication at a site office in the customer production area to allow the line feeders to communicate with the back office. This cost and inconvenience will be removed by Impacts solution. Furthermore, mobile devices can be delivered direct from the manufacturer without requiring software installation or tasking by our IT department.

Once the first phase of implementation has been completed, Infast intends to use the system for two-way communication enabling the back office to talk back to the scanner. For example, if a line feeder requests an order but the product is out of stock in the warehouse, the back office can alert the line feeder that there may be a delay in dispatching this order.

Smith concludes, We are very excited about the possibilities Impacts solution brings us. It will allow us to dictate the running of our business on our terms.

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