East Kansas Chemical has been a wholesale and retail agricultural chemical and seed supply company since 1972. The organization became overwhelmed by their paper-based system, and wanted to adopt barcode-based asset tracking system . They required the capability to track tankers, intermediate bulk containers (IBCs), that contained raw chemicals and seed products, in real-time using mobile, commercial handheld scanners.
“We want to track the movement of all our assets, the individual products that are stored and sold with these assets, and all maintenance activities over the life cycle of the assets,” says Weaver.
Monitoring the location, contents, and history of several thousand IBC containers was no easy task for East Kansas Chemical, especially when working with several suppliers throughout the mid-west region of the US. The variety of products and the different ways in which suppliers sent them to the company warehouse (bulk or packaged quantities) added to the challenge of tracking them. Further, the hazardous substance within some of the containers required great attention to how and when they needed to be maintained. Each of these factors added a layer of complication. Hence, they required a powerful and flexible system that could track tankers and containers the way they needed, at the scope that they wanted.
Each IBC the company owns is reusable and could be stationed at a customer location for several months. Thus, for logistical and operational purposes, it was important to know if the IBC was actively being used, as well as, whether it was located within the central warehouse or shipped out to a customer. Not knowing if a tanker was in transit would be a logistical nightmare; any time spent waiting would decrease productivity and have negative financial ramifications.
Also, it is crucial to know what was currently inside the IBC, as well as the history of the products that had been inside it. When tanker trucks arrived at a location with empty IBC’s to be replenished with new products, employees had to avoid mixing certain chemical contents or else there could have been dangerous health consequences. Without the ability to generate accurate and configurable reports for current and historical tanker information, employees would not have the visibility they require during replenishments, and the company would be vulnerable to costly mistakes.
“It is imperative that we maintain product integrity, as well as document proper cleanout procedures as needed,” says Weaver.
Particularly for East Kansas Chemical, which required integrity testing every 30 months, it had been difficult to keep tabs on all the maintenance and cleaning being performed on thousands of assets located at both company locations. It would be very crucial to find a system that could keep track of maintenance schedules and produce a maintenance history for each asset, in order to save them money on repairs and improve the accountability over the status of their assets.
For Weaver and his team to successfully meet prevailing challenges, they needed an easy-to-use, yet robust, asset management system that could cater to their operational needs and allow them to keep up with changes in the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations and the Department of Transportation (DOT) shipping laws.
As a depot for pesticides, hazardous substances, and active ingredients, East Kansas Chemical must follow EPA instructions with regard to the management of inventory and assets. They needed to register and file production reports with the EPA, as required under sections of environmental acts in place. To help them meet these requirements, a system must be able to store regulatory agency documents and information that link to certain assets in a centralized database. This would reduce administrative overhead and help support a standardized asset receiving and control protocol that can be easily integrated into daily workflow.
With the type of inventory and assets the company ships to customers, the team needed to abide by often-changed Department of Transportation laws. The DOT keeps track of the company shipping fleet size, purchase orders, drivers, mileage and other information in order to give consent on company shipping practices and assign a safety rating. A configurable system designed to track selected asset information categories such as these would help the company comply with federal regulations and avoid legal issues, and accompanied fines, that could arise due to negligent shipping practices.
“It is nice to be able to go to one program and have all our required information just a few mouse clicks away,” says Weaver.
East Kansas Chemical took advantage of the easy-to-use capabilities involved in ASAP Systems’ Passport. After initial training, management and warehouse employees could navigate fluently through the Passport interface to perform daily shipment transactions and view current asset data through categories that they configured. It allowed them to maintain organization of products from every supplier and locate all assets at multiple locations. The use of Motorola mobile scanners and durable barcode labels to conduct transactions and quickly enter data became second nature for employees.
Weaver says, “Our warehouse employees take the scanners with them to start their daily task of shipping products. They easily scan each asset to track where it is being shipped and what product is shipped.”
Passport provided the company with a system that could integrate with current warehouse procedures and improve their efficiency with regard to following regulatory guidelines. The system augmented daily operations with its ability to provide accurate inventory and asset information in real-time and generate configurable reports for targeted information. One of the most important procedures for which that ability and information lends itself, was how the company met EPA and state agencies standards.
“Passport has helped us to remain in compliance with our regulatory requirements, and do so without the added burden of a paper-based system, which would be overwhelming considering the amount of assets we have to track, ” says Weaver.
Agencies conduct on-site inspections to determine compliance with federal environmental laws. Inspectors check to ensure that hazardous materials are correctly labeled and handled, and that asset records are in order. The EPA also has the authority to assess civil penalties to organizations that violate asset control technical standards or fail to meet financial responsibility regulations. Thus, with Passport’s ability to take these inspections into account regarding data organization and asset labeling, the warehouse staff became better prepared.
“The reporting feature allows us to look at containers that are at a customer’s location so that we can plan for returning those containers when we are in the area. A quick glance at a movement report can give us a sense of shipping activity over a period of time, which is useful for planning,” says Weaver.
With Passport in place, warehouse activities could be verified and summarized through the reporting module. It gave Weaver and his team the power to organize consolidated, factual, and up-to-date information, which could be quickly put in the hands of operations decision-makers to plan for the short or long term. Also, since Passport allowed users to export reports as a PDF or excel file, the feature could be an effective means of communication within the organization by providing feedback to employees on individual or team performance, in readily available formats.
ASAP Systems’ inventory and asset tracking system, Passport, significantly reduced the time and stress involved in knowing the location and status of assets within the warehouse or being shipped to customers. The ease and accuracy of using barcodes made the company’s previous paper-based system obsolete in comparison. After quickly locating a selected tanker or shipping container, it could be filled with the appropriate product from the correct supplier and be issued out rapidly, in accordance with regulations. Ultimately, with the new software, the company could operate with a better version of business as usual by using one comprehensive system.
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