Inventory Management Technology in Manufacturing

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Inventory management is a complex and vital aspect of any business. In the manufacturing industry, the stakes are even higher, as any disruption to production inventory risks slowdowns and stoppages.

With raw material, work-in-progress (WIP) and finished goods inventory to manage – not to mention machinery and equipment – it’s essential for manufacturing teams to monitor all processes and data effectively.

Luckily, technological advances have emerged to bolster inventory management and reduce supply chain risk for manufacturing operations.

NFC Technology

Near-field communication (NFC) uses tags to transfer data over short distances (usually within 10 inches). This is the same technology used when you pay by “tapping” your credit card. In the manufacturing industry, NFC tags can be used to enhance a variety of processes:
  • Quality Control: Quickly check the configuration of packaged goods without having to open them by holding a smart device near an NFC-tagged product. There are even NFC sensor tags that can indicate the temperature, humidity, pressure, vibration and motion of products.
  • Asset & inventory tracking: By attaching an NFC tag to an item, tag readers can track its every movement. Data such as time, location and serial numbers can all be auto-saved into a cloud to enhance traceability of assets.
  • Manufacturing Work Instructions (MWIs): NFC tags can be attached to machinery, equipment or workstations to trigger specific instructions to pop up on a smart device for easy reference.
  • Inspections & maintenance: In combination with digital forms that can be completed on a mobile device, NFC technology can enhance inspections and maintenance procedures. An inspector could tap a mobile device on the NFC tag of an asset, which would bring up a tailored inspection form for that particular asset. It could even auto populate basic information about the asset on the form to save time. The same process could apply to maintenance request forms or work orders.
To bolster NFC capabilities, you’ll need software to create the digital documents and forms that will appear on a mobile device when triggered by an NFC tag.

FastField offers this very service, with easy-to-build, customizable forms that are compatible with NFC technology. You can even set up an automated workflow for all of your digital forms, and all data is stored in one place for easy access and analysis.

RFID Technology

RFID technology provides several invaluable advantages for manufacturers. For one, RFID automates tracking while providing real-time insights – improving traceability and visibility of all products and assets.

RFID also enhances the speed and accuracy of inventory counting through the near elimination of human error. In fact, this RFID increases inventory accuracy from 65% to 95%, according to Auburn University’s RFID Lab.

The data on tags can also easily be modified or rewritten. This comes in handy when tags are used on containers that may hold different items at different times.

In addition to inventory management, there are several other use cases for RFID in the manufacturing industry, including strengthening security, QC and damage reporting. All in all, it’s hard to argue against investing in RFID for your manufacturing operations.

Digital Reporting & Data Insights

When it comes to inventory management, there are ample forms to keep track of: inventory lists, bills of materials (BOMs), work orders, purchase orders, invoices, etc. To save time, increase accuracy and organize all forms, the solution is to go digital.

Managers can customize their own digital forms and dispatch them to operators who can complete them on their mobile devices. Photos of products, parts and assets can even be taken as evidence and embedded directly into the form. Dropdown selection lists, checkboxes and auto-populated fields also reduce human error and save time.

Since all data is digital, reports can be instantly generated and stored in one place and translated into meaningful data – usually through a dashboard for managers to view KPIs and trends at a glance.

FastField provides a one-stop-shop solution for all of the above capabilities. With FastField, you can even automate your forms workflow by presetting reporting endpoints, delivery methods, triggered actions and multi-step approval systems.

Robotics

Science fiction has shown the dangers of AI when autonomous robots are given too much control. In the world of inventory management, however, humans do most of the thinking while robots do the heavy lifting – literally.

Pick-and-place robots increase productivity and allow more time for human decision making. Innovations in AI and machine learning enable robots to navigate and work autonomously in a number of ways:
With advanced AI, there are even robots that can inspect inventory for QC and remove faulty items.

Utilizing the latest robotics technology could be an investment with a massive ROI by reducing time, overtime costs and injury while significantly increasing production.

Automated Inventory Management

An essential component of preventing a stock out of raw materials is calculating the reorder point (ROP). Each raw material needs its own ROP, and calculating each ROP can be tricky because you want to make sure you always have a level of inventory on hand that will meet demand, but not exceed what is realistically possible to move.

You can now easily determine your ROP through online calculators by inputting a few pieces of data, such as your average unit sales, average lead time and safety stock quantity. Thanks to automated technology, you can even trigger automated reorders when an ROP is reached. Finale Inventory offers a Reorder Point Control System that helps you calculate accurate ROPs and implements automatic reorders – saving you time while reducing human error.

Conclusion: Invest & You Shall Receive:

Investments in technology such as NFC, RFID, digital reporting, robotics and automated inventory management software can be costly up front. However, by reducing human error, saving time and increasing production, these are worthwhile investments to improve inventory management and reduce supply chain risk.
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