May 2002 | Commentary | Supply Chain Technology

SupplyPro's Point-of-Use Inventory Management

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Not all supply chain solutions providers offer broad-based remote services. Some do a very good job on a more local level—though, often, their offerings can be hooked into a global web network. Some concentrate solely on the supply chain at point-of-use.

One such solutions provider is SupplyPro, based in San Diego, Calif. It has developed a suite of products that address point-of-use inventory management and optimization.

Getting to the Point

The objective of the SupplyPro system is to optimize inventory through a web-based information system that automates the procurement process, dispensing supplies and tracking inventory. It connects an organization with its suppliers and their point-of-use system. When an item is removed from inventory, the system automatically notifies the supplier and accomplishes replenishment. Benefits include elimination of critical stockouts, reduced SKUs, and cost savings.

SupplyPro offers inventory tracking through a range of devices, which can be used in various ways to monitor inventory usage and adjust for each inventory turn. Removal of inventory by an employee activates the system. In turn, the SupplyPro data center polls the dispensing units for inventory information. The data center sends the order to the supplier who delivers inventory to the client—all in a web- enabled environment.

SupplyPro's devices and solutions include:

  • SupplyPort, a customized portal with an intelligent GUI for employee information over the entire inventory management process in real time. It provides reports and usage patterns, and can reconfigure point-of-use devices. The portal delivers usage patterns using "Dynamic Par Leveling" software, which analyzes patterns and makes instant adjustments.
  • SupplyAgent is a see-through bin and divider storage system with Internet-enabled management that uses push-button technology and rapid access drawers for a variety of small-scale inventory items.
  • SupplyPod is a shelving inventory system that can deal with large and multiple items. "SupplyPod is designed to be fitted to existing shelving," explains Claude Hooton, executive vice president of marketing and corporate development for SupplyPro. "The pods move along tracks that are attached to the shelves." Attaching a pod is simple: it "snaps" into the track at the desired location underneath each item. The tracks are wired to a controller that communicates with SupplyAgent. "Basically, SupplyPod expands the capabilities of SupplyAgent to encompass managing large items outside the cabinet," Hooton says.
  • SupplyLocker consists of a single unit access-dispensing locker for high-security items and is designed for use with a tool crib or work cell among other centers. It integrates with SupplyPort and can collect point-of-use data for automatic recording, reporting, and usage tracking.
  • SupplyBay Plus is a single item dispensing system that gives complete control of inventory. It also offers the advantage of capturing usage data by work order, department, or cell number.
  • SupplyScanner is a solution for open inventory and over-sized inventory. It has standard "take" and "return" functions, as well as real-time capture in a wireless mode. It is able to find items through SupplyPort and report stock-outs.

Aside from Maintenance Repair Operations (MRO), SupplyPro is focusing on broadening its customer base in terms of application usage.

"The global market for SupplyPro's MRO solutions is more than $10 billion," Hooton says. "Consequently, we are focusing our attention a great deal in this area. We also have pilot sites that are using the SupplyPro technology for other applications, including airport security, service parts availability, and automated will-call, among others."

Targeting Users

Greater exposure has allowed SupplyPro to proactively identify companies that can benefit most from a point-of-use inventory management system.

"We have had very good success in targeting companies within corporate cultures that demand continuous improvement and that have formal initiatives in place to ensure excellence," notes Hooton. "We typically target companies that follow the methods of lean manufacturing, Six Sigma, SCOR, and similar models.

"As the market demand for our technology has grown, innovative suppliers are using it to develop competitive differentiation, based on providing new value," he adds. "They can now implement vendor managed inventory programs and effectively have the control needed for consignment programs."

Leveraging partnerships with the likes of Barnes Distributing and other supply chain providers will similarly enable SupplyPro to branch out into other corners of the marketplace.

For additional information about SupplyPro, visit the web site at www.supplypro.com.

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