When it comes to improving tracking and traceability, the food and drink business could learn many lessons from aerospace, says David Snelson from Waer Systems, a company that has a long history of implementing supply chain optimisation systems in the industrial sector.
“The recent horsemeat scandal has left many food & beverage companies in a vulnerable position and not having complete visibility of the supply chain can have devastating consequences. The aerospace industry, where tight schedules, quality control and traceability of parts are of paramount importance, has invested heavily in supply chain management, and many parallels can be seen in the issues faced by the food & drink sector today.
Supply chain management is hardly new – in the last few years, however, it has become a whole lot more sophisticated and with technologies such as RFID tagging, for example, now a much more affordable proposition, the opportunities for improved supply chain visibility and vastly improved management are there for the taking.
Waer’s RFID solution for logistics provider, Daher, allows the company to track and manage its complicated, valuable bespoke packing boxes for shipping high value aero engine parts across the world. The containers are available when and where they’re required, worldwide, in order to keep up with production schedules; they also need maintainance, however, so this is factored in, with set parameters programmed into the RFID tags embedded in the containers triggering automatic diversion to take them out of the production cycle and send them for maintenance.
Unlike barcodes, RFID tags store data in real time and have a huge capacity for information such as use-by date, location, price, maintenance schedules and replenishment information, for example.
All this is done via the Cloud and uses a combination of fixed gates, which the components pass through, and handheld scanners which are used around the factory, significantly speeding things up in the warehouse.
Like the aerospace industry, food and drink supply chains have thousands of critical points of data capture and real-time visibility is essential for fast, informed decision-making, so traceability solutions should offer paperless, real-time access to inventory, production and shipment histories.
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Aero Fastener is a long-established stock distributor to the aerospace industry, and Spirit Aerosystems is the world’s largest supplier of commercial aircraft assemblies and components.
Using Waer Systems’ sophisticated WAERlinx solution, Aero Fastener manages the flow of materials and can easily share end-to-end, real-time visibility and other information with Spirit, whose supply chain behaves as a result much more like a single, co-ordinated entity instead of a series of discrete ‘islands’ of activity. They now experience negligible shortages, optimised inventory levels and have real-time visibility and control in all global locations including India and the Far East.
Replenishment is automated, based on real-time, demand-driven ‘pull’ signals providing a more effective picking and shipping process for over 5,000 points of use.
While the needs of the food and drink sector are unique – in particular when it comes to controlling inventory and managing product quality, traceability and provenance – sophisticated supply chain management systems can include functions to quickly identify the origin – for example, by country, producer, distributor or brand – and exact current location of any batch, lot or serial-numbered product in real time, across an extensive supply network.
This functionality comes into its own in the case of a product recall, allowing the faulty batch to be accurately identified and removed immediately from the supply chain. Further, being able to clearly identify the current location and provenance of ‘good’ products can also help to eliminate unnecessary recalls.”
David Snelson, Sales Director
Tel: 01903 768010