Advances in radio frequency identification (RFID) technology in recent years have created new possibilities for managing inventories in real time. Among their many applications, eCommerce expert, Zac Gray, says the potential for automated inventory monitoring and replenishment may be particularly interesting for remote mines looking for a better inventory management process.
“The possibilities with RFID for inventory management are very varied and robust,” says Zac, who is the Manager, Marketing – Digital Business Programs & eCommerce at Industrial Solutions Australia, part of Motion Asia Pacific. “By using RFID labels and installing a RFID portal at the entrance of your warehouse, you can track the movement of anything from spare parts to tools and equipment. In the case of remotely located warehouses, this means your employees can have 24/7 access to the products without having to hire store supervisors across multiple shifts.”
A containarised RFID-enabled storage solution provided by Motion Asia Pacific and its technology partner, Inventory Control Systems (ICS) – the Australasian reseller of CribMaster – shows just how robust the RFID technology can be.
John Meaney, National Sales Manager at ICS, says the solution first emerged when a major mining and construction equipment manufacturer sought the assistance of one of Motion Asia Pacific’s businesses to manage its inventory of fasteners across different project sites.
“The client was interested in using CribMaster’s CribX™ Vend, which are shipping containers fitted out with vending machines and CribMaster hardware and software solution to provide 24/7 inventory tracking. In consultation with Motion Asia Pacific, we took this a step further by equipping the containers with CribMaster’s AccuPort™ RFID portals with badge readers to enable automated check-in and check-out and better control on product movements,” says John.
“In this system, the products are not necessarily placed inside vending cabinets. They can be placed on normal shelves, giving the site more flexibility for storage,” he adds.
He further elaborates on how the system helps streamline inventory management.
“All of the products inside the container are applied with traceable RFID tags containing critical information like product details and batch information. When employees pass through the AccuPort™, they scan their ID badges and proceed to collect the products they need. As they exit, the RFID portal identifies the products they are removing, and the data is automatically recorded on the company’s system for real-time budgeting and compliance purposes. When the quantities reach below set values, the system sends automatic replenishment notifications to the vendor to replenish the products,” he explains.
Cost savings from minimised warehouse staffing was a key benefit for the company, as Zac elaborates.
“Since deploying the solution, they have been able to save an estimated $3000 per month from RFID control of fasteners alone. They are now looking to expand the solution to include products in safety, hydraulic fittings and hoses. We are also in the process of integrating data from the AccuPort™ with their enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to ensure better inventory and compliance control.”
Robustness and adaptability are other features of the RFID-enabled storage solution, according to Zac.
“You can expand your storage space infinitely by connecting multiple shipping containers with the one AccuPort™ RFID portal. We can also customise the inside of the shipping containers to fit anything from hand tools and power tools to spare parts and personal protective equipment (PPE). The CribMaster RFID tag solution enables us to print RFID tags in a variety of shapes and sizes based on the tools’ shape and surface materials.”
Zac is also quick to clarify that the containerised solution is just one of the many bespoke inventory control solutions made possible with RFID.
“There are many more possible solutions for inventory control that we can implement alongside our partners in ICS and CribMaster. While the containerised solution has benefits for companies in need of flexible storage spaces, the AccuPort™ can also be deployed with existing brick-and-mortar warehouses,” he concludes.
“It all comes down to the requirements of the end user. Whether they are looking to automate their vendor managed inventory or gain higher inventory accuracy, we help them achieve those objectives.”