As the automotive supply chain becomes more complex, shipping labels have become a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to making sure the right parts get to the right location. Each customer has its own unique labeling requirements, and these labels also have to comply with various industry standards. This is true both in the aftermarket and in the OEM supply chain.
Supplier UGN, which sells parts to Honda, Toyota and other OEMs, struggled with its own product labeling until the company deployed a label design and management solution that integrates with its enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. The solution has improved compliance and reduced shipping errors.
UGN is a leading manufacturer of acoustic, interior trim, and thermal management products for cars, including dash inner insulators, trunk systems, interior trim, headliners and other products. The company operates seven sites in North America, including testing and manufacturing facilities in Michigan, Tennessee, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, and Mexico. UGN has 1,100 employees and generates $250 million in annual revenues.
UGN had complex labeling requirements that were difficult to manage manually. “We are required to label our outgoing shipments with Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG) and other mandatory formats,” says Eileen Cusack-Marvel, business systems manager at UGN. “We also have different internal label formats for our stock. All outgoing containers also needed container labels, and we produce additional labels for mixed pallets. There are also instances where we need smaller labels for individual parts.”
Label accuracy is critical for the company. Customers each have their own label requirements, and any inaccuracies can cause costly downtime for the customer and result in hefty fines for UGN.
The company decided to deploy a new labeling solution as it upgraded to the Oracle ERP system. UGN implemented the core functionality of the Oracle solution in 2013 and 2014, and opted to purchase the Loftware label solution because of its tight integration with Oracle.
Previously, UGN used different label solutions at each of its facilities. “We also didn’t have the ability to support modern label formats dictated by the AIAG or 2D compliant codes,” Cusack-Marvel says. The number of legacy systems across different sites made it difficult to design and update labels consistently, which led to compliance problems when it came to customer label requirements.
The inconsistent formatting in the different systems led to mistakes. In some cases, customers couldn’t scan the barcodes on the labels, and staff would have to spend time troubleshooting the issue to find out what had happened. The incompatible systems also led to incorrect label application, so left-hand and right-hand parts were sometimes switched.
“We wanted a solution that was certified with Oracle, and that could help automate manual label design processes so we could better meet our customer requirements,” Cusack-Marvel says.
The Loftware solution offered easy label creation features, as well as the ability to print customer information and optional Oracle data on the labels. It can print a variety of different barcode symbologies. “We can also trigger label creation via shop floor processes,” Cusack-Marvel says.
The solutions also provided centralized label template management (important, because of the need for consistency across locations) and it was scalable enough to accommodate a growing customer base.
Prior to deployment, UGN loaded all of its required label formats into the software and printed test labels that could be sent to customers for verification. “That took a little bit of effort, but it was not that difficult,” Cusack-Marvel says.
Labeling processes can follow business logic
Using the new system, UGN can also print internal labels used on the shop floor to identify finished product as it is moved into the warehouse. The labels meet all of the AIAG requirements as well. “We can print EDI information on the labels, and we can print 1D or 2D barcodes,” Cusack-Marvel says. “We can also print smaller individual part labels, as well as standard container labels.
“We don’t currently use RFID, but the Loftware system will accommodate that if we decide to go that route in the future,” Cusack-Marvel says.
Because the labeling solution is integrated with Oracle, UGN is able to use business logic to help create part numbers for the labels, and to include custom information on the label for specific customers. “We had to prove we could comply in order to be certified by Honda, for example” Cusack-Marvel says. “We are able to use custom logic to create different displays of data on the label based on different business rules associated with certain orders or products.”
The new label solution provides a single solution for all of the company’s labeling needs. It is now easier to deploy and design new formats, and the solution is fully configurable to meet specific customer requirements. “It also includes a number of canned automotive label formats, which made implementation much easier when we went live,” Cusack-Marvel says.
The solution also supports on-demand, one-off label printing, and enables system monitoring and troubleshooting as well as the ability to reprint any labels that may be incorrect.
In the future, UGN hopes to print labels for products at the time of manufacture. “That will require an additional 150 printers, but we’ll be able to leverage everything Loftware offers on the shop floor across all of our sites,” Cusack-Marvel says.
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