Baltimore Aircoil Company (BAC) manufactures evaporative cooling towers and thermal storage solutions. The American company is part of the Amsted Industries group. BAC employs more than 2,000 people in facilities around the world. Approximately 340 employees work in the Belgian branch in Heist-op-den-Berg, which is also BAC's European headquarters.
Since there were frequent problems in locating the correct finished products on the site, the company looked for a solution to track them.
Ward Lemmens (Production Engineer) explains:
"We produce (sections of) cooling towers, which are assembled on site. On a typical day, there are about 150 of these sections on our site, ready to be transported to the customer. Often, it is quite a job to find the right elements. That's why we looked at how we could get a better overview of the finished products to greatly reduce the search work."
BAC devised a system to divide the warehouse into zones. The location of the cooling towers was noted in a table, but keeping it up to date did not always go smoothly. Moreover, the available surface area is rather limited and in peak periods elements had to be moved.
This experiment showed that automation was necessary. The first requested providers proposed to equip the 150 or so elements with a GPS tracker. Efficient, but with a (too) high price tag.
When Baltimore Aircoil Company finally consulted All-Connects, a better alternative was soon on the table. The special thing about this track & trace solution is that it never leaves the BAC site. Each element that rolls off the production line receives a Bluetooth tracker. The eight forklift trucks are in turn equipped with a GPS tracker and a Bluetooth gateway.
"The system is ingenious in its simplicity. Every movement of the cooling tower activates the Bluetooth tracker and communicates with the tracker on the forklift truck. Thus, the exact location of the element on the site is always known. When loading the truck, the tracker is removed and reused for the next element," says Ward Lemmens.
Since it is a cloud-based solution, BAC carried out a data security risk assessment. Subsequently, the system was tested on location. A few adjustments were necessary, because the application differs somewhat from the standard product of All-Connects.
Ward looks back on the collaboration with satisfaction:
"We do not yet have concrete data to calculate the time and efficiency gains, but the employees involved clearly notice that everything is running better. We are also very enthusiastic about the possibility to link photos of cooling towers loaded on trucks to the system. That saves us a lot of unnecessary discussions afterwards. In short, All-Connects has certainly lived up to our expectations!"
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