Intelligent bins

Streamlining processes to save time and cut costs has always been a key focus at SMEs. In today’s fast-moving markets, it is a more pressing issue than ever. Würth Industrie Service GmbH & Co. KG helps its customers achieve this goal by automating and digitalizing the logistics of C-Parts management.

Even a seemingly negligible machining error or mistake in writing can have expensive consequences. For example, if the supplier delivers only 1,000 instead of 10,000 bolts, nuts, or washers, or if there was any other mistake in the order, production can falter or even come to a complete stop. This kind of slip-up is not uncommon for small and medium-sized enterprises that have not yet carried out seamless end-to-end C-Parts optimization. Once they have identified the problem, many of these companies are prepared to equip their logistics processes to keep up with the competition in a more and more digital and highly agile working world.

Würth Industrie Service, based in Bad Mergentheim, Germany, specializes in C-Parts and helps small and medium-sized enterprises leverage the potential hidden in their logistics with only a little effort. It uses CPS RFID, the first C-product service in the world, based on a traditional Kanban system and RFID technology by Siemens. With this solution, the company will soon be able to use consumption-based planning to supply nearly half of its customer base quickly, instead of having to wait for orders or conform to ­recurring schedules. Users no longer need to worry about inventory levels and can therefore reduce effort while cutting costs.

A reliable bin

The core components of the system made available by Würth Industrie Service are standard bins with an RFID label (the Würth W-KLT®2.0 small load carrier) and RFID boxes, or iBoxes, custom manufactured for them and equipped with communication and identification technology by Siemens. “Ordering is exceptionally easy with these bins,” says Christian Schorndorfer, head of key account sales and innovative systems at Würth Industrie Service.“ The user places empty bins into an iBox and closes the lid. The Simatic RFID reader on the inside then automatically reads the transpon­der data,” he adds. The boxes trans­mit updated data several times a day, usually shortening the order process by one delivery cycle. The data are unambiguously assigned to customers, bin sizes, fill volumes, and sites.

Thanks to ultra-high frequency technology, this also works well remotely and in bulk. A Simatic industry PC prepares the data and transmits them via a Scalance mobile wireless modem right from the box to the central Würth ­Industrie Service warehouse, where the ordering process starts automatically. Parts that do not fit into a bin have Kanban cards with an RFID tag. The procedures are identical, the only difference being that the cards indicate what is needed and an “intelli­gent” mailbox on the iBox places ­replenishment orders.

This system is as easy as it is reliable and it can be integrated into any running production line and gradually expanded. The system is self-sufficient and has no negative impact on existing ­network structures. It is even possible to connect logistics systems from other suppliers to the Würth system and integrate them into the customer network.

Tremendous savings potential 

The results are impressive: On the one hand, the system considerably increases speed and security of supply. At the same time, it drastically reduces the number of incorrect deliveries as well as the risk of delivery bottlenecks and production downtime. “In addition, by automating and digitalizing their C-Parts management, customers can also reduce inventory and expenses. If only a few bins are in circulation, we have more ­transportation capacity, and customers have more space available in ­production,” Schorndorfer ­summarizes.

The results translate into real money. “In a specific project for a customer, we compared the procurement costs for about 500 items with the costs of our RFID-based solution. As it turned out, with more than 190,000 euros annually, the costs were less by a factor of 20,” he explains. This figure does not even begin to show the potential of digitalization. In any case, Schorndorfer is sure of one thing: “The time has come for small and medium-sized enterprises to jump onto the bandwagon of digitali­zation.”


Picture credits: Siemens AG

The "C-Parts supply" logistics service with CPS RFID is increasingly setting the standard at Würth Industrie Service. To set themselves apart even more in the future, the company is working on offering even more added value. Customers are also increasingly turning their attention to data management. For example, "pay per use" models are being considered for RFID boxes, as is infrastructure, hardware and/or software, or even optimization “as a service.” Digitalization opens up numerous opportunities in these areas.

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