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How to Address the Needs of Industrial Logistics

How to Address the Needs of Industrial Logistics
More and more industrial manufacturers are opting for warehouse management software (WMS) in addition to their ERP or MES in order to improve their industrial performance. (Credit: iStock)

More and more industrial manufacturers are opting for warehouse management software (WMS) in addition to their ERP or MES in order to improve their industrial performance. The advantages of WMS include better resource and space management, better product traceability, and better automation. French company Hardis Group has developed Reflex, a solution that addresses the needs of industrial logistics. It optimizes the movement of components and operators during industrial activity. French automaker Renault is in the process of deploying the solution in all of its sites worldwide.

Today, warehouse management software is an integral part of the logistics solutions used by everyone from industrial manufacturers, retailers, and e-tailers to logistics providers. 

In the factories, WMS can, for example, secure supplies and bring them to production lines at the right time. It offers better visibility of inventory in real-time and reduces logistics costs. It also improves quality thanks to better tracking and traceability of parts and components. 

Reflex, developed by French company Hardis Group, is one of the most utilized WMS solutions on the market. Initially developed for warehouses, it is now increasingly being used by new industrial players such as in the automotive sector.

For Fabrice Rousseau, Consultant in charge of Reflex WMS for Factory at Hardis Group, 

“Today, the objective of improving industrial performance requires WMS. Let’s take the example of packaging. WMS helps optimize the management of packaging and minimize losses. Annually, the loss of packaging is enormous. In factories 300,000 m² wide, when packaging is lost, it means that it has been manufactured and paid for nothing. So by using a WMS solution, manufacturers have the guarantee of knowing where their packaging is at all times and can therefore limit losses.”

How Does Reflex Work?

Reflex plays the role of a supervision tool fed by other systems and capable of compiling them to orchestrate logistics flows.

It all starts with a 3D map of the factory or warehouse. Different points of interest are determined in various locations so that Reflex can calculate distances. Each product has an identification number such as a QR code so that Reflex can recognize it. Each operator is registered in Reflex as are robots and AGVs.

When a product enters the factory (it can be a raw material, semi-finished product, or mechanical part manufactured by another factory), it is scanned by an operator, and the data is automatically integrated into Reflex. Reflex identifies the product, and knows how to store it and where it is needed. It can thus direct the product as close to the manufacturing area as possible. 

“All this is done in real-time. Reflex sends the right data to the right operator at the right time and he or she will know when to move which packages at the right time. In this way, forklift drivers will minimize travel time, empty trips, waiting time, and product losses. Stock will also be minimized because the expression of needs is known in advance and the manufacturer knows that they do not need to stock too many parts.”

Reflex also features a WCS system capable of translating any information it expresses for AGVs and robots so that they assimilate and interpret it and accomplish their mission.

“This can be, for example, for an AGV to go and get a part in a specific area of the factory. And once the mission is done, the AGV transmits the information to Reflex.”

Making the Supply Chain Greener

New indicators have also been incorporated into the solution to measure the carbon footprint before and after the implementation of Reflex. 

“For example, the loss of a package is a financial loss and also has a CSR impact. A lost package was manufactured for nothing and used energy, time, and materials for nothing. We can quantify the fact that no packages are lost.”

Reflex also includes functionalities to optimize the filling of trucks in order to use fewer of them. Upstream, it pilots the operator to go and get a specific product at a specific place and put it on a specific pallet in that direction. 

“The idea is to prepare pallets and put them one on top of the other in the truck and fill the truck to the maximum partition coefficient. Reflex can calculate the filling volume of a truck and is able to ensure that the preparation of each product is placed in a precise direction on each pallet and that each pallet is placed on top of another pallet in order to efficiently load the truck. So we can, for example, go from 10 to 8 trucks by loading the trucks better. By reducing the number of trucks in circulation, we reduce the carbon footprint.”

Reflex is the number one solution in France and is in the top 5 in Europe. Companies such as cosmetics firm l’Oréal, delivery company DHL and automaker Renault are all using Reflex in their warehouses. Renault is currently deploying the solution in all of its sites worldwide.

Why is Renault Choosing Reflex?

Ludovic Doudard is the General Manager of Process Engineering End to End for Supply Chain at Renault. He is responsible for the deployment of Reflex within the company.

“The digital transformation of the supply chain is a major challenge for Renault. In order to succeed, it has become necessary to digitize some of our processes and upgrade our warehouse management system.”

Before, the group used an in-house tool that reached its limits in terms of capabilities to meet today’s industrial performance requirements. 

“There was no shared data in real-time, no way to manage resources and space within our factories, and no automation possible because of obsolete technologies. With Reflex, we will be able to synchronize the different supply chains in our warehouses to be more reactive. We will be able to manage resources and space and improve our performance. Another key point is traceability. We need a level of technology that is high enough to allow traceability, which was not possible with our previous WMS and becomes a reality with Reflex. And finally, we will be able to automate more processes inside the warehouse.”

Traceability is an important challenge for the automotive industry, and its criticality will raise as autonomous cars become more and more predominant on our roads.

“With an autonomous car, there is stronger involvement of the manufacturer. So traceability must be better than before, especially in relation to the growing number of components. Up until now, when a vehicle had a part with a defect, all vehicles with the part in question had to be recalled. Now, with very strong traceability capacities, in case of a default, we can recall only the cars that have this specific batch of parts. This makes it possible to completely reduce the number of vehicles to recall.”

Renault wants to deploy the solution to all of its 30 sites across the world by 2024-2025. Five sites have already been fully equipped with Reflex. They expect to increase their performance by 10% in terms of resources and space.