For over half a century, the STAUFF Group has been at the forefront of developing, manufacturing, and distributing essential pipework equipment and hydraulic components. With a steadfast commitment to quality and innovation, STAUFF has played a crucial role in advancing mechanical and plant engineering, industrial maintenance, and hydraulic technology across diverse industries. Besides mobile and industrial hydraulics, their products find application in critical sectors such as marine, oil and gas, as well as in demanding environments like food and chemical industries.
With wholly-owned facilities for manufacturing, sales, and service present in 18 countries, complemented by an extensive network of authorized distribution partners, STAUFF ensures unmatched global presence and service, all while upholding the highest standards of availability. In 2022, the STAUFF Group, comprising 1,500 dedicated employees worldwide, with 650 based in Germany, achieved a remarkable external turnover exceeding 322 million euros. This outstanding success underscores STAUFF’s unwavering commitment to excellence and innovation, driving industries forward for generations.
STAUFF was faced with the challenge of optimizing inventory management and replenishment. They wanted to maintain established workflows, particularly in their Kanban system, which relied on designated empty boxes for automated booking. However, the manual replenishment process was labor-intensive and time-consuming, with workers using handheld scanners. This increased workload and time loss.
The challenges can be summarized as follows:
- Preserving Established Workflows: STAUFF aimed to maintain their existing operational workflows, especially in their Kanban system.
- Manual Inventory Management: The manual process of replenishing materials using handheld scanners was labor-intensive and time-consuming.
- Excessive Manual Work: Workers had to make frequent trips to customer locations for manual box bookings, consuming valuable time.
To address these challenges, STAUFF looked to embrace RFID technology to automate scanning and enable the simultaneous reading of multiple boxes. They also required a solution that operated in the Azure cloud environment and seamlessly integrated with their SAP system to optimize inventory management.
Despite the demanding timeline, with the goal of deploying a fully functional solution within six months, Neoception were committed to transforming their manual processes into streamlined, automated, and data-rich operations.
ROADMAP TO SUCCESS
The process started with a series of workshops where Neoception carefully worked out all the details of the solution. These workshops were a team effort, involving experts in both the process and the solution, which helped us gain a deep understanding of the project.
In terms of the technical aspects of the solution, Neoception took a multifaceted approach to ensure its effectiveness.
- Proof of Concept at STAUFF’s Testing Facility: After defining the solution’s specifics, the project moved on to creating a proof of concept at STAUFF’s testing facility. This step served to validate the solution before its deployment to the end customer.
- Software Integration: A fundamental aspect of the solution was the development of software interfaces. These interfaces were crucial for seamless communication with STAUFF’s SAP system. They allowed for efficient bookings on the shelf and ensured that these bookings were accurately represented in the overall process. Additionally, a custom front-end interface was designed to enhance user interaction, making the solution user-friendly and accessible.
- RFID Optimization: Neoception’s team focused on refining RFID signals to make the scanning process more efficient. This refinement aimed to ensure a clear trigger for the SAP system. For example, when multiple readings occurred on a single box, the system was configured to filter out duplicate readings, ensuring that only one booking was made for each trigger in SAP.
- Data Transmission via Azure IoT Hub: Another crucial element was the establishment of communication with the Azure IoT Hub. This infrastructure facilitated the effective transmission of data, playing an important role in collecting and transmitting essential information related to inventory management. This allowed STAUFF to keep track of materials in real-time.
- Installation at the Customer’s Site: The culmination of these efforts was the installation phase at the customer’s site. During this stage, the practical application of the solution was tested and refined to ensure its seamless operation within the existing operations.
The technical complexities were not without their challenges. The limited scope of the initial solution created some complications, as it didn’t account for all possible scenarios, leading to an inability to read RFID tags on nearly 60% of the empty boxes.
In response, Neoception introduced an innovative solution – a single RFID pole that allowed workers to perform one-to-one box readings, resembling the use of handheld scanners. After successful booking, workers could place empty boxes on nearby pallets, signaled by a green light. This practical and simplified approach won the approval of both STAUFF and the end customer, a globally operating manufacturer of construction and agricultural machinery and equipment, exceeding initial expectations.
The successful implementation of the solution translated into tangible results, with a 95% success rate in material availability. This impressive boost in material availability signified the solution’s effectiveness in ensuring materials were readily accessible and reduced costly material shortages. It not only enhanced the customer’s operational efficiency but also contributed to their overall satisfaction and cost savings.
- Simple Operator Guidance: The introduction of a signal light made it easy for operators to perform their tasks effectively. This simplified the process and allowed them to operate with clarity and confidence.
- Improved Error Analysis: The solution enhanced error analysis during booking. It allowed for more accurate and reliable bookings, reducing errors and discrepancies in the inventory management process.
- Simplified Ordering Process: The new solution streamlined the ordering process. This not only improved the speed at which orders could be placed, but also reduced the complexity of the entire process.
- Employee Independence: The solution reduced dependence on specific employees to perform inventory management tasks. Now, these tasks could be executed by any employee, eliminating the need for specialized personnel. This flexibility enhanced operational efficiency.
- Easy Learning Curve: The user-friendly nature of the solution made it easy for employees to learn and adapt to the new system quickly. This minimized the time required for training and onboarding.
In conclusion, Neoception’s journey with STAUFF in transforming material replenishment with RFID automation has been marked by success and valuable insights. The feedback from Manuel Träger and Carl Schade, who played instrumental roles in this collaborative partnership, underscores the strengths and qualities that Neoception brought to the table.
Manuel Träger’s description of Neoception as “transparent, trustworthy, solution-oriented, and hands-on-mentality” is a testament to the effectiveness of the partnership. Open and honest communication, even in challenging times, contributed to the project’s success. Carl Schade’s acknowledgment of Neoception’s exceptional communication, responsiveness, self-initiative, and project management reinforces the notion that the partnership was based on trust and reliability.
Neoception’s partnership with STAUFF is a shining example of how innovative solutions and meaningful feedback can lead to an amazing result. The commitment to always learning and evolving makes the way for a bright future of continued partnership and success.