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Getrag Ford Transmissions, one of the largest manufacturers of automotive transmissions in the world, has deployed WhereNet's new Material Flow-Replenishment System at its two-million-square-foot assembly plant in Cologne, Germany, to automate parts replenishment processes as part of the company's lean manufacturing initiative.
The environment is highly comlex as six different transmission varieties for global brands, including Ford, Mazda and Volvo, are made at the facility. The Cologne factory produces more than one million transmissions annually for automotive manufacturers in Argentina, China, Europe, Japan, South Africa, Taiwan, the Philippines, and the United States.
WhereNet says its Material Flow-Replenishment System combines business intelligence with real-time location and consumption-based demand data. The flexible parts replenishment solution tracks the exact time of every part request, automatically prioritizes the requests, and sends instructions to material handling drivers-whose vehicles are equipped with vehicle-mounted Wi-Fi terminals-telling them where to pick up and deliver the parts. The system promptly alerts both the manufacturer and suppliers when parts are needed on the assembly line, resulting in a synchronous material flow across the supply chain, reduced inventory, and higher productivity.
"The WhereNet material flow system moves us a long way toward our ultimate goal of a completely forklift-less production operation, as we are now operating leaner than ever before," says Ralf Vierkotten, supervisor of logistics and material handling at Getrag Ford Transmissions. "Production-line employees no longer need to leave their workstation to help search for parts or to help material control determine the correct part; all they have to do is push a WhereCall active RFID button, and the system notifies all the required parties-from the line side to the forklift driver to the internal warehouse-that more parts are needed. This 'intelligent' automated system supports our lean manufacturing processes as we benefit from real-time inventory consumption and can execute replenishment orders just in time."
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