Supply Chain Dynamics
Streamlining the Supply Chain
by Dino Lanno
The auto glass supply chain has been hit hard by ever-increasing fuel,
transportation, lease and labor expenses. We must consider ways to offset
these rising costs through productivity gains, operating efficiencies
and quality enhancements. Taking advantage of technology is essential
in reducing these expenses.
Today’s modern glass distribution facilities rely on Electronic Data Interchange
(EDI) when ordering and receiving glass. Purchase orders are transmitted
to the supplier electronically in a simple-to-read, flat file that can
be automatically uploaded into its order processing system. Immediate
confirmation of product availability can be shared along with the Advanced
Shipping Notice (ASN).
The use of electronic ordering and billing has several advantages. It:
• eliminates data entry and human error;
• reduces the time to process the order;
• creates a paperless environment; and
• provides instant documentation and confirmation.
Improvements in barcode scanning also have helped streamline the supply
chain once the glass enters the distribution center. Using Radio-Frequency
Identification (RFID), barcode scanning allows immediate receipt of goods,
which then are directed more accurately into the proper storage position
through state-of-the-art warehouse management systems. Those systems optimize
putting parts in the right place to improve efficiency of picking and
density for outbound shipments.
Today’s barcodes have come a long way. Within a distribution center environment,
most order fulfillment is picked on forklifts. Traditional barcode signage
is flat and requires the barcode reader to be almost perpendicular to
the sign. The barcode’s limited read angle causes a lot of wasted time
while the forklift operators maneuver back and forth to achieve the required
perpendicular position to the sign. Reflective barcode labels that can
be wrapped around 12-inch diameter barrels hung from the ceiling are now
available. The large, curved surface of the tube gives the forklift driver
many angles from which to read the barcode, significantly reducing the
time to scan.
New technologies also have improved the picking process by introducing
a hands-free capability. Voice picking directs the worker to each pick
position and prompts him to move to the next pick without having to scan
a barcode. In barcode applications, ring scanners allow workers to pick
glass with two hands while still reading the barcode for a more accurate
and safe selection.
“The continual addition
of new parts is very challenging, but technology helps us keep all the
The next phase of the distribution process is outbound shipping. One of
the biggest costs in distributing glass throughout the country is the
freight. Based on this, maximizing the amount of glass in the shipment
is critical. When you break it down to individual boxes, the number of
windshields you can fit inside the box is a focus. One way to increase
pack density, while not incurring breakage, is to pack windshields based
on curvature and size to allow for proper nesting of parts. This becomes
key when positioning windshields inside the distribution center for efficient
mixed pallet picking.
The continual addition of new parts is very challenging, but technology
helps us keep all the data current. A standardized part number makes this
Another consideration that technology supports is the tracking of Department
of Transportation codes, which are required in order to be compliant with
the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard (AGRSS®). This includes
recording batch codes, part numbers and expiration dates on adhesives,
which can now be done using smartphone devices. This certainly allows
distributors and retailers both to streamline the day-to-day business
of buying, selling and returns as well as recall efforts when needed.
While investing in technology can carry a high price tag, the benefits
are clear. It improves the accuracy and timeliness of a shipment while
lowering the risk of damage. It helps improve the work environment of
associates, keeping them safe, eliminating strain and improving productivity.
Dino Lanno is senior vice president of supply chain and manufacturing
for the Safelite Group in Columbus, Ohio.
© Copyright 2011 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved.
No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.