SensrTrx was developed to provide visibility into operations – essentially helping manufacturers make product and do it well, without any disruptions. Throughout the years, we’ve been asked by people in various areas of focus to expand that reach. “Can you develop SensrTrx to do ___?”
It’s not uncommon for a question, but rarely do we expand SensrTrx’s purpose because our goal isn’t do everything moderately well, but do a few things exceptionally. So, in short, we listen but tend to stay within our established goals of providing visibility into the plant.
But there are times where we listen and realize the use of SensrTrx in other departments could be incredibly beneficial by simplifying the process as a whole. Such was a case for Tacony.
Tacony Expands SensrTrx in an Unique Way
Nick Hinman, Director of Supply Chain and Business Operations, and Ben Wohlschlaeger, Business Process Optimization Manager, who were and continue to be instrumental in implementing SensrTrx at Tacony scheduled a call with Bryan, SensrTrx CEO, to convince him of a new idea, using SensrTrx into a different area of the factory. Nick and Ben thought they would get a lot of pushback and maybe told no because they figured it wasn’t something SensrTrx would be interested in doing.
But once they explained how they wanted to use SensrTrx, the idea wasn’t so far fetched after all. It made sense. It was an out of the box solution that would solve the problems they were attempting to fix.
If you can count something, a minute by minute, hourly, or daily measurement and compare that to the goal, SensrTrx will work, no matter the use case. SensrTrx is a great tool to measure performance and how close it is to reach a goal, in any area of the manufacturing industry.
So what was this brilliant, unique use case? Using SensrTrx within production and distribution.
“I thought it was pretty cool,” Bryan Sapot, CEO of SensrTrx said. “It’s really great when customers take your software and do something with it that wasn’t intended or do something you didn’t think of.”
Using the software in the distribution side – picking, packing, and shipping – wasn’t on our radar, but only because we didn’t realize there would be a need. Nick and Ben at Tacony saw differently. In fact, they saw a solution that would greatly help different departments, and in the process, create streamlined visibility. (Check out how Tacony gained half a million dollars in unrealized revenue in this case study.)
Using the software on the distribution side actually turned out to be pretty simple. At Tacony, the ERP system of record is Epicor. That system not only handles distribution, but also the business side of things – accounting, ordering, etc. Nick and Ben realized that if SensrTrx could integrate with Epicor, streamlining a few of those processes would become that much easier, and simpler.
The integration with Epicor was built, and thanks to a very strong internal IT team at Tacony who documented and implemented the system, the initiative was launched in less than 3 weeks (which also included setting up a couple of parts, adding licensing, and testing).
The Science Behind Using SensrTrx in Production and Distribution
The process was easy and simple, yes, but the biggest takeaway was the ability to integrate with the ERP system. We preach that integration with SensrTrx is relatively easy, but it’s true. Anything you can do manually with the system, you can do automatically through a corresponding API endpoint.
Our goal, as illustrated in the Tacony use case, is to make it very easy to automate pretty much anything you want to automate in the software. To get into a bit more detail, the ERP system, Epicor, pretty much functions like a machine. In Tacony’s case, it sends out picking, packing, and shipping data on a regular schedule.
For simplicity purposes, say Tacony has 4 different locations within distribution, Epicor will send out the picking, packing, and shipping data at each location or “station”. Through SensrTrx, Tacony monitors picking and shipping. So to do this, they set up every station as a “machine” inside of SensrTrx.
When Epicor sends over the data, SensrTrx matches the data up with each of those stations through the mapping system. Then, it calculates how many line items were packed and shipped according to the orders for that day.
Within SensrTrx, Tacony looks at the hour by hour numbers to make sure they are on schedule to deliver on time to their customers. Determining the goal is relatively simple by understanding how many lines need to be picked per day based on the number of people picking, packing, and shipping.
So, for example, if Tacony needed to pick 1,000 lines today and 500 lines tomorrow, they may schedule 2-3 people today but only 1 tomorrow. The lines vary based on the number of people.
And, if they find they’re ahead or behind schedule, they can move people around, from operations to distribution, to ensure all goals are met regardless of department. (quote from video)
Team members can track via tablets or dashboards, but just as Tacony has scoreboards on the operations floor, they also use them on the distribution side, too. This gives all workers the visibility they need to know exactly where they stand at any given time.
Data from distribution also goes out in the manufacturing insights emails every day so everyone knows what their picking and shipping efficiency was, keeping everyone aligned.
Not to put words into Nick and Ben’s mouths, but from what we’ve heard, Tacony really likes the idea of a single system giving them full visibility into what’s happening in the plant. Now, if the product was made, they can answer the question, “Did we actually ship it on time?”
And, the big bonus is that metrics are now standardized across departments, and not limited to just the operations floor in the plants.
Overall Goal: Remove Friction from Manufacturing
Applying SensrTrx to other departments within manufacturing is not out of reach, we’ll admit. At the end of the day, manufacturers need visibility into all areas, and that is the determining factor if our software could be used to provide that visibility.
In fact, we do think there’s even more use cases.
Measuring the utilization of forklifts? It could be done. Forklifts tend to cause big bottlenecks on the factory floor. Getting the product to different cells, work centers, or lines is often delayed just as picking the product up and moving it to the next location is delayed, inevitably creating large bottlenecks.
With productivity and analytics software, you could track when the forklift was moving, if not, why.
Even something as simple as a Kanban could be used with SensrTrx. An electronic Kanban could call for parts when low. If someone goes over and notices certain materials are getting low, the worker could hit a button, and the button creates a job which then requests the parts to be made.
In the end, it all comes back to the same idea – visibility.
What if you could have visibility into where your raw materials are or where your finished product is at any given time throughout the whole process? If I’m a manufacturer ordering steel from vendors, I want to know where those materials at every step of the way.
Or, take another use case in the example of processing and shipping from start to finish. You will know where your jobs are in the process, know when product is loaded on the truck, and delivered to your customers, with one system. Manufacturers can ask themselves, “What is the expectation for delivering on time? Will we meet the demand? How will any delays affect the overall delivery time?”
You could even go as far as attaching sensors to the pallets of product to track quality. If there was a shock to the pallet, it was dropped, there was a car accident, etc., you would know from the sensor if it was damaged.
It’s not uncommon for similar sensors to be used on frozen foods to tell if the food stayed frozen the entire time, how long shipping took, etc.
These are all examples of providing visibility into the supply chain through the use of productivity and analytics software. Real-time visibility gives manufacturers the ability to know when exceptions appear and providing the ability to react and plan for them.
We realize there are many potential use cases. We’re open to the idea of others beyond production and distribution, but there always needs to be one main underlying goal – removing friction from the manufacturing process to create visibility.
If there are blind spots, we want to help eliminate those. Which really exemplifies our guiding principle of eliminating friction to create visibility.
There are many possibilities in creating visibility into the plant. We challenge our customers, readers, any bright minds to think outside of the box. What could another use case be? We’ve got open ears so let’s hear it, but remember, the idea is to create visibility and remove friction. At the end of the day, that is our goal and will remain the goal.