Northern Apex Corporation

Case Study: Shipping the Right Product to the Right Customer

Jeff Garver - Thursday, January 11, 2018

Delivering the right product to the right customer is the lifeblood of any business-but especially so in the Third Party Logistics (3PL) industry. In this case study, we will detail a 3PL company that had the problem of shipping incorrect items of clothing from their warehouse to retail stores. They were dealing with a common problem in outbound order fulfillment: due to human error, the wrong sizes or colors of product were sometimes being shipped out to retailers.  The resulting chargebacks to the 3PL supplier drove up operating expenses and were potentially damaging their business relationships. 

A solution was urgently needed and they found that the data required to remedy this problem was already there waiting to be leveraged.

The original shipping process would begin when the retailer placed an order and the warehouse received it for fulfillment. A picker would then gather the items requested, box them and ship them to the retailer. Upon the shipments arrival errors were charged back to the warehouse by the retailer.

To correct this issue the 3PL supplier decided to leverage the RFID tag that the customer was already using on their product. That tag carried size and color information on it.  All that was necessary was to capture that information and compare it to the original order for accuracy.

The new shipping process, with the solution in place, begins as before with the retailer placing an order and the warehouse filling the order. The change occurs after the box is sealed and a shipping label is applied. The shipping label is scanned for the order destination information. The destination is then used to access the order details in the system. The contents of the box (which have already been RFID tagged by the customer) are then scanned with RFID and compared to the order confirming that the right sizes and colors of clothing are in-fact being shipped. If there are any errors the order is diverted to be corrected. This solution eliminated human error mistakes without adding ongoing expenses since the customer-supplied tags and order data were already there just waiting to be leveraged.


MFG Process Control: Cross-docking Solutions Explained

Jeff Garver - Thursday, January 11, 2018

Process control, sometimes referred to as industrial control, is the collection and presentation of data about specific operations in the manufacturing process. The purpose of these systems is to increase production, reduce errors and help eliminate “bottlenecks” in the process. 

A simple example is a cross-docking solution. A company moves a certain number of items per pallet to another facility. By simply adding an RFID label to each box during the production process it can be guaranteed that not only the right number of units were shipped, but that the right units themselves were shipped. 

There are 2 basic embodiments of this solution. The first is a situation where there are no mixed pallets. Each pallet contains only one SKU and based on that SKU there is a pre-determined number of items that should be on that pallet.  As each item is boxed at the end of assembly, an RFID label is attached to it using a print and apply system. RFID readers at the dock scan the SKU and then verifies it is a full pallet. If this process is confirmed, the fork truck driver is given a “green light” to proceed. If not, it generates an error so it can be corrected. All transactions are recorded in a database as well.

A slightly different solution would use mixed SKU pallets. In this case, the process is nearly identical except the “green light” process is skipped- unless it can be determined in advance what should be on a particular pallet. However, the transaction is still recorded in a database, allowing for confirmation of every item that was cross-docked without the need for the time-consuming process of hand counting.

How to Take Full Advantage of Tool Tracking Systems

Jeff Garver - Thursday, January 11, 2018

One aspect of getting full value when adopting Tool Tracking technology is tying a specific tool to its corresponding important data, such as calibration dates and expected life cycles. This makes the data visible and readily accessible by all stakeholders in the use and monitoring of these tools.

The challenge in this area is determining the best way to identify the tool itself. Barcode is one possible solution, but it somewhat limits the ability to take advantage of “smart factory” technology. Barcodes often require human interaction and direct line of sight to physically scan the barcodes and they can easily be rendered illegible by wear and tear or oil and dirt.  A far better option is to use RFID (Radio Frequency Identification). There are several types of RFID tags that can be attached to, or even embedded in tooling. This ties a specific tracking number to each tool throughout its lifecycle.

For example, a wood manufacturer needed to track their shaper bits. By embedding an RFID tag inside the tools they can not only track how many board feet have been produced with each tool and when it needs to be recalibrated but they can also ensure that the right tool was used at the beginning of the process, saving costly errors and waste. It is even possible to automate that process by simply adding a reader to the tool changer to verify tool choice. 

Now that we have established that the mechanical part of tracking a tool can be tackled, the next question is what do you do with this data? The goal of “smart factory” applications is to provide usable data. Since each RFID tag has a unique identifier, it is easy to tie other data to that tool. In addition to calibration and life cycle, you may wish to track things like date of purchase, supplier, and original cost to name a few.  All of this can be accomplished if you purchase the right system. 

Tool tracking is gaining in popularity. It increases productivity and makes financial sense

Northern Apex Innovation is Covered by Regional Publication

Jeff Garver - Thursday, July 20, 2017


American Woodmark APICS Award

Recently the latest Northern Apex Innovation was Covered by Regional Publication 'Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly'

The story relates Northern Apex's development of the IoT Tech Control Platform Modules which help Manufacturers 'Get up to Speed' by allowing them to update existing, legacy equipment to be part of the Industry 4.0, Internet of Things (IoT). The Northern Apex IoT Tech Control Platforms are solutions allowing the integration of connectivity and data collection for new or pre-existing devices without requiring a redesign of the product, device or equipment. They are designed to give control of IoT networks at the 'edge', i.e. putting some decision making into the hands of smart machinery allowing real-time data processing and saves on overall bandwidth. 


Read the full article from Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly

American Woodmark Corporation, Wins Innovation Award of Excellence at APICS 2015

Chris DePrisco - Monday, October 19, 2015


American Woodmark APICS Award

Northern Apex Corporation congratulates American Woodmark Corporation, on winning the Innovation Award of Excellence at APICS 2015. Northern Apex designed and integrated the enterprise wide, RFID solution that earned this award. APICS is the premier professional association for supply chain and operations management. The awards were awarded in Las Vegas.  

American Woodmark is a nationwide manufacturer of home cabinets that had the foresight in 2010 to begin their initial production implementation of Northern Apex’s CabineTRACK™ solution powered by Impinj’s Speedway Revolution™ fixed readers. At its core, CabineTrack™ is a component level tracking and information management system from Northern Apex to improve visibility into cabinet component movements. The system continues to deliver return on American Woodmark’s investment by having successfully reduced cycle count labor by nearly two-thirds and significantly increasing accuracy of those inventory counts. The Northern Apex solution leads to highly robust peak performance for the American Woodmark team. 

American Woodmark manufactures KCMA-certified cabinets under four major brands for remodeling and new home construction. A nationwide network of homebuilders, independent dealers and distributors as well as Lowe’s and Home Depot sell the cabinets. The company had over 136,000 key components at the base item level without any onboard identification. The items were identified by sight and manually entered into an ERP system per transaction. American Woodmark’s Senior Project Management Team knew that the inaccurate transactional activity and limited visibility within the manufacturing processes were resulting in component shortages, backorders, and inefficiencies.

Northern Apex understood the need for an RFID tagging solution to provide a component identification solution that was invisible to customers, not damaged or defaced by normal cabinet processing steps and automatically readable in key American Woodmark processes. After an extensive review process, American Woodmark chose Northern Apex and its CabineTRACK™ solution, designed specifically for cabinetmakers. The American Woodmark team expected the system to reduce cycle count labor and improve accuracy, decrease training hours for transactional activity and provide visibility to track doors throughout the manufacturing process. The team indicates that all of these objectives have been realized. 

The Northern Apex products used in the implementation leverage the Impinj technology. The implementation includes the Dorado 400 Visibility Station, Hercules 2400- Quality Base Unit, Portal Scanning Systems, and Cycle Counting Carts. The Speedway Revolution™ reader is a 900 MHz reader that offers Autopilot, which automatically configures and adapts to new and changing environments. 

American Woodmark has deployed the Northern Apex system in multiple of their own facilities in seven different states. The company’s deployment started with cabinet doors and expanded to drawer fronts, which at present run rates, utilize millions of SmarTrac Monza based inlays per year. The supply chain migrated to include several upstream vendors with factories in 5 US states, China, Mexico and Europe in 2016. Plans are in the works to continue into other areas of value within their production and supply chain operations.

Googling on mobile devices surpasses PCs in US for 1st time

John Lantz - Thursday, May 07, 2015

Googling on mobile devices surpasses PCs in US for 1st time

BY: MICHAEL LIEDTKE, AP Technology Writer for ECN Magazine

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Google's influential search engine has hit a tipping point in technology's shift to smartphones. More search requests are now being made on mobile devices than on personal computers in the U.S. and many other parts of the world.

The milestone announced at a digital advertising conference Tuesday serves as another reminder of how dramatically online behavior has changed since 2007. That's when Apple released the first iPhone, leading to a wave of similar devices that have made it easier for people to stay connected to the Internet wherever they go.

The upheaval has rocked PC makers and other tech companies such as Microsoft with businesses tied to sales of desktop and laptop computers. Google has been able to adapt better than most companies, partly because its search engine and other services are embedded in the popular Android mobile operating system, but it hasn't been totally unscathed.

Google's average ad prices have been declining for the past three-and-half years, partly because marketers so far have been unwilling to pay as much for the commercial message displayed on the smaller screens of smartphones. The company, though, says mobile ad prices have been steadily climbing and will continue to do so as marketers recognize the value of being able to connect with prospective customers at the precise moment that they are looking for someplace to eat, or comparing products on a smartphone while standing in a store.

"The future of mobile is now," says Jerry Dischler, a Google Inc. vice president in charge of the company's "AdWords" service for creating online marketing campaigns.

Besides in the U.S., Google's mobile search requests are outstripping requests in nine other countries. Japan is the only other country that Google is identifying.

The Mountain View, California, company isn't specifying just how many mobile search requests it is getting. Google processes more than 100 billion search requests worldwide each month, including queries on PCs.

As part of the mobile transition, Google last month overhauled its search-recommendation system to favor websites that are easier to read and load on smartphones. That change, known as "Mobilegeddon," prodded millions of websites to make changes to ensure they work well on smartphones to avoid being demoted in Google's search results.

Google also has been introducing advertising formats that tend to work better on mobile devices. For instance, rooms can now be booked within hotel ads, and car ads can now be swiped across a screen to make it easier to comparison shop.

In addition to announcing the milestone in mobile search, Google also introduced on Tuesday a service for comparing mortgage rates in the U.S. The mortgage product expands upon a similar service for auto insurance policies that Google unveiled in California in March. Google is adding three more states - Texas, Illinois and Pennsylvania - to the auto insurance service.


In this Dec. 10, 2013 file photo, a reporter uses his smartphone during a presentation for the new Google cultural institute in Paris. More Google search requests are now being made on mobile devices than personal computers in the U.S. and many other parts of the world. The milestone was announced at a digital advertising conference on Tuesday, May 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon, File)
In this Dec. 10, 2013 file photo, a reporter uses his smartphone during a presentation for the new Google cultural institute in Paris. More Google search requests are now being made on mobile devices than personal computers in the U.S. and many other parts of the world. The milestone was announced at a digital advertising conference on Tuesday, May 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon, File)
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Google's influential search engine has hit a tipping point in technology's shift to smartphones. More search requests are now being made on mobile devices than on personal computers in the U.S. and many other parts of the world.

The milestone announced at a digital advertising conference Tuesday serves as another reminder of how dramatically online behavior has changed since 2007. That's when Apple released the first iPhone, leading to a wave of similar devices that have made it easier for people to stay connected to the Internet wherever they go.

The upheaval has rocked PC makers and other tech companies such as Microsoft with businesses tied to sales of desktop and laptop computers. Google has been able to adapt better than most companies, partly because its search engine and other services are embedded in the popular Android mobile operating system, but it hasn't been totally unscathed.

Google's average ad prices have been declining for the past three-and-half years, partly because marketers so far have been unwilling to pay as much for the commercial message displayed on the smaller screens of smartphones. The company, though, says mobile ad prices have been steadily climbing and will continue to do so as marketers recognize the value of being able to connect with prospective customers at the precise moment that they are looking for someplace to eat, or comparing products on a smartphone while standing in a store.

"The future of mobile is now," says Jerry Dischler, a Google Inc. vice president in charge of the company's "AdWords" service for creating online marketing campaigns.

Besides in the U.S., Google's mobile search requests are outstripping requests in nine other countries. Japan is the only other country that Google is identifying.

The Mountain View, California, company isn't specifying just how many mobile search requests it is getting. Google processes more than 100 billion search requests worldwide each month, including queries on PCs.

As part of the mobile transition, Google last month overhauled its search-recommendation system to favor websites that are easier to read and load on smartphones. That change, known as "Mobilegeddon," prodded millions of websites to make changes to ensure they work well on smartphones to avoid being demoted in Google's search results.

Google also has been introducing advertising formats that tend to work better on mobile devices. For instance, rooms can now be booked within hotel ads, and car ads can now be swiped across a screen to make it easier to comparison shop.

In addition to announcing the milestone in mobile search, Google also introduced on Tuesday a service for comparing mortgage rates in the U.S. The mortgage product expands upon a similar service for auto insurance policies that Google unveiled in California in March. Google is adding three more states - Texas, Illinois and Pennsylvania - to the auto insurance service.

Omni-Channel Commerce Demands DC Automation

John Lantz - Monday, April 13, 2015

Omni-Channel Commerce Demands DC Automation

By Matt Pillar, editor-in-chief, Integrated Solutions For Retailers

March 2015 Integrated Solutions For Retailers

Pick/pack/ship operations have increasingly important implications on inventory accuracy, business efficiency, and ultimately, the customer experience.

As the transition of merchandise from “available” to “sold” goes, DCs and warehouses facilitate a critical step in the commerce engine. Pick/pack/ ship processes have implications on inventory accuracy, customer satisfaction, and business efficiency. How are modern software and automation improving the process? We caught up with Lance Reese, technical solutions director at distribution and fulfillment material handling solutions provider Intelligrated, to find out.

How important is the picking process to inventory visibility?

Reese: In respect to picking, regardless of whether items are being picked for store distribution or direct-to-consumer fulfillment, inventory accuracy is key. Retail DC software applications must rely on accurate inventory data to validate that an item is available to pick. If not, business efficiency and customer experience suffer.

Conversely, the complex sortation and preparation of inventory in omni-channel environments has its own impact on inventory visibility, accuracy, and availability. As such, retailers need to create rules prior to building their fulfillment processes, and their software must accommodate those rules. The process starts with determining how best to allocate to multiple sources of demand, and the answer to that question is business-specific. At the baseline, a determination must be made whether precedence is given to online order fulfillment or the reservation of inventory for stores. Many expectations are at stake — most importantly the delivery time and accuracy expectations of customers.

No matter the business strategy, omni-channel retailers need to implement picking operations that enable them to pick directly to stores and also execute batch picking of the same SKUs to pack stations, where DC staff can concurrently receive the inventory necessary to fill multiple orders.

Enabling that kind of sophistication is a matter of having as much information as possible prior to and throughout the picking process. Real-time feedback on fulfillment activity allows efficient use of resources. A good software solution provides confirmation to DC associates and management that they’re picking the proper items through SKU confirmation at the pick location.

How does automation aid the effort?

Reese: Automation significantly improves the ability to merge online orders or smaller profiled orders in with larger store orders, resulting in a more streamlined and efficient order processing effort. In an integrated, automated software environment, a retailer can see customer demand, whether those customers are stores or online consumers, and be able to batch together common orders to optimize operations. For any retailer trying to match the best of both worlds, this software functionality is critical.

What are the trends in pick/pack/fulfill software and infrastructure solutions?

Reese: A trend I see is put wall demand, which reflects growing e-commerce activity. Many omni-channel retailers are implementing, or in many cases re-implementing, goods-to-operator processes through shuttles in AS/RS (automated storage/retrieval system) environments. This trend is reflective of a push for added automation within the DC, which is fueled by the fear of many retailers and distribution networks that the labor force is dwindling. They’re looking to solve that problem with automation.

With AS/RS shuttle technology, motorized shuttles carry a small tote or quantity of SKUs through a series of pick modules to order fillers. On the front of those pick modules are very simple and straightforward technologies, such as pick-to-light.

What does the future hold for DC operations?

Reese: The increased desire for automation is driving distributors to evaluate new AS/RS methods, robotics systems, and automated palletizing. Those solutions are available now, but demand for them will likely increase. We’re also anticipating demand for improved analytics. It’s important to focus on what the facility’s challenges are. That’s best achieved through the analysis of labor, demand, and throughput metrics, which creates a baseline to improve upon. Then, once new systems are up and running, use realtime metrics to optimize them to adapt to the day’s order profiles. Without inventory visibility and metrics, you can’t do those things, because as the saying goes, you simply don’t know what you don’t know.




http://www.retailsolutionsonline.com/doc/omni-channel-commerce-demands-dc-automation-0001?sectionCode=Welcome&templateCode=Single&utm_source=et_6214150&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=ISRET_2015-04-13-M&utm_term=1B1627F7-7579-4B66-800D-A733C1316305&utm_content=Omni-Channel%252bCommerce%252bDemands%252bDC%252bAutomation

RFID is Becoming Common in Manufacturing and Retail...

John Lantz - Tuesday, March 24, 2015


According to an article in Consumer Goods Technology Magazine, RFID usage in manufacturing and retail is on the rise.

The results of a 2014 GS1 US Standards Usage Survey show that almost half (48.2%) of the manufacturers that responded are currently implementing RFID, 21.1% are planning on implementing RFID in the next 12 months, and another 18.4% plan on implementing RFID in 13 - 24 months. 

As for retailers, more than half (57%) say they are currently using or implementing RFID. Another 19.3% are planning on implementing RFID in the next 12 months, and yet another 10.5% of those polled say that they will implement RFID in 13 - 24 months. 

What does all of this mean? RFID technology is a successful technology that is here to stay! RFID decreases error prone processes, and increases production, warehousing, and shipping accuracy.

To read the entire Consumer Goods article, please click on the link below. If you are thinking about implementing RFID in your manufacturing or retail facility, contact Northern Apex Corporation. We have been working with RFID technology since 1998. We have the experience and the knowledge to help your company successfully integrate RFID.

www.northernapex.com - info@northernapex.com - 260.637.2739

http://consumergoods.edgl.com/news/Manufacturers-and-Retailers-Embrace-RFID99199

Wasting Time? - NOT with RFID

John Lantz - Wednesday, March 04, 2015


There have been multiple articles written about RFID uses for eliminating wasted resources, but the RFID post below gives a quick, accurate overview of what RFID can do to help eliminate waste in various types of companies. If you find your company has wasteful practices, why not give RFID a try? In most cases RFID's ROI is quick and the long-term benefits far outweigh the initial investment.

To read the RFID Journal blog post in full, please click on the link below. If you are looking to eliminate wasteful practices within your store or facility, please contact us. We have been working with RFID technology since 1998. We have the experience and the knowledge to help your company successfully integrate RFID.

www.northernapex.com - info@northernapex.com - 260.637.2739


http://www.rfidjournal.com/blogs/experts/entry?11293&utm_source=rfid+journal&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=5231735_Retail_Newsletter_011315&utm_content=$LINK_KEYWORD$&dm_i=1JOI,344TZ,9AOKJS,B61AE,1

RFID for the Apparel Industry - Almost to Tipping Point

John Lantz - Friday, February 27, 2015


According to the RFID Journal article below, the apparel industry is revving up to embrace an industry wide RFID adoption. According to Geoffrey Moore's technology adoption life-cycle, the following five criteria have to be met before RFID reaches mass adoption: 

1. It has to be a global technology standard

2. RFID has to address a problem that no other technology can solve

3. RFID has to be a 'whole' product

4. There has to be a company that's the technology 'gorilla' 

5. A critical mass of RFID users

Although RFID in retail apparel is not at the critical mass adoption phase yet, it is getting closer and closer with large chain retailers such as Kohl's using it in their stores.

To read the RFID Journal article in full, please click on the link below. If you are looking to adopt RFID within your store or facility, please contact us. We have been working with RFID technology since 1998. We have the experience and the knowledge to help your company successfully integrate RFID.

www.northernapex.com - info@northernapex.com - 260.637.2739


http://www.rfidjournal.com/articles/view?12566/