Developed in-house and built in this country, Pro-Pod’s RFID solution is considered the best of its type on the market and forms part of a suite of products that can be networked together, including Propeller’s lineside industrial vending machine, Pro-Vyda. ‘Access anywhere’ web-based software enables current stock levels to be viewed and interrogated remotely, making Pro-Pod ideal for large manufacturing or service sites, multi-plant operations and global enterprises. Installations of earlier versions have achieved 99.976% stock accuracy, 87% faster parts retrieval times and stock checks of 15,000 line items completed within 2 hours.
Developed over a four-year period to meet customer demand for greater control over stores facilities and improved inventory management information, the Pro-Pod series was launched in 2007 and has been installed at a number of client sites across the UK, notably in the automotive, electronics, engineering, food and pharmaceutical sectors. Attachable to any size of store, each portal incorporates the very latest RFID Generation 2 hardware that, unlike barcode readers, provides data capture at a distance, without line of sight or human intervention, and the capacity to read literally thousands of transponder tags simultaneously, enabling truly automated inventory tracking.
Industry-standard Squiggle inlays allow the RFID-enabled tagging of any asset, either incorporated in header cards, bags and cartons or embedded into products, making the technology suitable for tracking MRO (maintenance, repair and operation) consumables, engineering spares, PPE, electronic equipment, hospital supplies and pharmaceuticals, and all types of inventory held in controlled storage areas.
As part of an ongoing inventory procurement contract, Propeller provides the Pro-Pod and installs purpose-designed high density racking in the customer’s stores area, for optimum visibility of stock. It ‘bags and tags’ items in anti-static, food safe or other appropriate packaging and attaches RFID-enabled header cards to each, then subsequently replenishes the stock according to reports generated whenever transactions occur.
The latest of seven different Pro-Pod models, which variously feature rotary turnstiles, telescopic elevator-style doors and pass-through configurations to suit different footprints, the new model features a two-door ‘airlock’ arrangement and a fully enclosed Faraday cage to shield the interior from RFID signals within the main store. Thus, unlike other RFID systems that read more than just the required tagged parts, the patented Pro-Pod V7 reads only those items that have been picked, greatly accelerating transaction speeds and maximising data accuracy.
In operation, authorised users gain access by means of a proximity badge, swipe card or biometric reader, external status lights indicating whether it is free to enter. Inside the well-lit Pro-Pod portal, a touchscreen search facility enables users to rapidly locate and retrieve stock, with prompt menus aiding selection, parts locations flashing up on screen and picking lists printed out for multiple items.
Once stock has been located and removed from the racks, the user exits the stores area and Pro-Pod automatically captures the data held on each RFID tag and decrements the inventory levels, with stock reordering reports generated for customer approval. Once through the portal, the user accesses the spend allocation interface where, using a graphical plant layout, parts are allocated to the appropriate sector or cost centre, providing valuable data on spend and usage down to individual asset level. In addition, Pro-Pod is bi-directional, so that stock deliveries by Propeller or other approved supplier are automatically booked in, quickly and efficiently.
The system is highly secure and very cost-efficient, with RFID tags recycled and reprogrammed for further use, with scope for recoding up to 10,000 times. Stock movements are updated ‘live’ and reordering reports automatically generated, with parts deliveries scheduled accordingly; this results in improved ‘physical vs system’ stock accuracy, opportunities for cost savings through optimum purchasing, and the elimination of downtime relating to non-availability of parts.
Propeller’s bespoke web-based software, advanced ‘cloud computing’ technology and ISO 27001 certificated cluster of dedicated servers, enables customers to interrogate stock data remotely from a desktop PC or tablet, anywhere in the plant or indeed anywhere on the planet.
“Pro-Pod is a British-made and developed automated stores management system that is the most advanced of its kind in the world,” says Propeller’s CEO, Tony Goodwin. “It is capable of controlling an infinite number of stock items within a stock area of virtually any size, providing complete scalability. It restricts removal of inventory by unauthorised individuals and provides up-to-the minute management information via our unique web-based platform, reducing unnecessary travel time to verify inventory availability and enabling full stock checks in a matter of hours.”