One of Europe’s leading foam manufacturers wanted to improve the efficiency of its warehousing and distribution operation. An RFID system has enabled it to automate its processes, speed up deliveries and improve customer service.
Vitafoam manufactures 600-750 tonnes of foam and cushioning materials every week at its Manchester site. The converted mill complex includes 30,000m2 of warehousing space where it stores the huge blocks of foam, that could weigh as much as 270 kg, before they are dispatched to customers.
Managing storing and distribution relied on staff using assorted paper notes, and an inkjet printer. The manual, ad hoc system meant that the firm was not as efficient as it could have been in fulfilling orders.
Finished materials were sometimes not found in time to fulfil orders, and one-off products that were initially missed often could not be resold. The speed of dispatch was also hampered by having to search for finished products. Vitafoam recognised there was an opportunity to significantly enhance service levels and improve the bottom line.
– Jez Wadd, project manager, Vitafoam
Finding a solution
Vitafoam wanted an RFID system that would automatically identify foam blocks as they progressed from production to the warehouse and distribution. The company was already working with a software firm that provided its financial IT system and it wanted a solution that would seamlessly integrate with this. It selected CoreRFID as a supplier due to its knowledge, experience and consultative approach.
A reputation for innovation
Vitafoam has built a reputation as an innovator since 1949, when it became the first UK-based company to develop Combustion Modified Foam (CMF), a more flame retardant material. More recently the firm has also been at the forefront in developing memory foam.
Vitafoam’s Manchester facility supplies foam blocks to some of the UK’s biggest bed and furniture manufacturers. Its products are also used in DIY and other industries.
Automating inventory management
With the new system, RFID labels are attached to all finished foam blocks, which can be automatically detected by fixed readers or staff using handheld readers at various stages of production and storage.
Foam blocks exiting the production area (after curing) or entering or leaving the warehouse facilities can be identified quickly and easily. The information is uploaded directly into the computer system so staff can see the exact location of finished goods and materials within the large warehouses at any time.
Jez Wadd, a project manager who worked closely with CoreRFID on the installation, says the current solution has revolutionised logistics at the firm, increased the speed at which orders can be dispatched and improved customer service.
Jez and his colleagues point out that the RFID solution had significantly improved the number of deliveries made on time. On Time in Full (OTIF) distribution increased from 97.6% in 2020 to 99.4% in 2021. While the difference is less than 2%, it equates to approximately 30 more deliveries per month leaving on time – a significant improvement.
Richard Harrison, technical sales director at CoreRFID, says: ‘It’s not unusual to find advanced manufacturing firms that have streamlined processes in many areas of their operations, but are still relying on paper-based systems for tracking valuable items in production, storage or dispatch.
‘Our RFID systems have helped many different types of manufacturers to track materials from production to dispatch. RFID is a versatile and proven technology that delivers an almost immediate return on investment.’
- Faster, more accurate tracking of inventory
- Automating processes reduces errors and loss of data
- Quicker dispatch to clients
- Integrates with existing IT systems
- Excellent return on small investment