Cox mows down red tape

Cox mows down red tape

Manufacturing productivity doubled with bar coded parts.

Ride-on lawnmower manufacturer Cox Industries has improved the efficiency of its manufacturing and stock levels by bar coding every part in the Brisbane factory, and equipping the staff with wireless bar code reading computers.

Each Cox mower has over 2600 individual parts. Workers at Cox, which was formed in 1954, were spending approximately half of their time finding parts in the warehouse. It was so time consuming that production halted periodically as workers waited for parts to arrive from the warehouse or suppliers.

"The paper based delivery, dispatch and inventory picking system we had in place was detrimental to warehouse worker productivity, as well as causing inefficiencies within the manufacturing supply chain," said Bob Judge, CEO of Cox Industries. "It was a situation that kept compounding as we were growing. We were not operating anywhere near manufacturing capacity, and were carrying an excessive amount of inventory to try and overcome the problem," he said of the manual pick and pack parts ordering system. "A data capture system was required to track, monitor and report on inventory levels and required materials from suppliers," said David Ogilvie, principal of The Supply Chain Specialists, a company Cox brought in to solve the issue. Bar coding was the answer. Mr Ogilvie recommended bar coding every part, and introducing a data capture solution from Symbol with wireless capability. Symbol's PDT6840 hand held devices were adopted, along with its Spectrum24 wireless network technology to enable the devices to communicate with the Cox GEAC i2 manufacturing application.

Information is shared in real time between the GEAC application in the office and the wireless workers via Wavelink, a Symbol integration application. Wavelink enables the workers in the warehouse and on the factory floor to use an application on the hand held devices that has the same common look and feel as the desktop computers.

"The result was minimal staff re-training because while personnel were able to move about the warehouse or factory floors performing their respective job functions, the hand held terminals performed and looked like the main computer screens," said John Peacock, managing director of Bar Code Products. Bar Code Products helped Cox adopt a bar code working system.

Internal and supplied components at the factory are now labelled to comply with the EAN 128 Standard.

"Required inventory levels are now about 20 per cent of what they were previously. Importantly, our materials requirement planning has become much more accurate and we are able to provide suppliers in advance with a weekly, monthly, quarterly and even annual materials requirement reports, which in turn has lowered our supplier' inventory levels," said Mr Judge.

Data integrity has improved at the Brisbane plant because the bar codes provide the company with data conformity, from supply to inventory and to the finished product, according to Mr Ogilvie.

"The new point of activity bar code and data capture based network system has minimised all the previous problems of managing accurate inventory on hand, deliveries and lead times from suppliers, as well as accurate work in progress information," he said.

As a result, Cox claims its manufacturing process has improved beyond its expectations.

"We had budgeted for a 62 per cent manufacturing efficiency this year, but are currently running at 102 per cent. Additionally, staff productivity has increased dramatically and there have been no production line hold ups since the system was introduced," said Mr Judge.

One shift at the Cox factory now can produce the same number of mowers as two shifts under the old system. As a knock-on effect, Cox's suppliers have begun to adopt the EAN bar code solution to improve their inventory management, according to Mr Judge. "The end result is that our suppliers have substantially reduced their own inventory levels and they receive regular reports on supplies we require, enabling them to obtain greater efficiencies in their own manufacturing processes," he said.

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