Keeping the Lumber Industry Truckin' with Custom Software

Project Summary and Client Background

Rex Lumber needed a way to keep a closer eye on the exact log inventory coming into and going out of their manufacturing plants. Bit-Wizards developed a revolutionary way to track the inventory and speed up in/out processing operations.

 

The Challenge

Rex was continually experiencing inventory discrepancies due to the way they were in/out processing log deliveries. The process was manual and the log delivery truck drivers would state they brought in “X” number of logs, but Rex could not account for that same number in their inventory after the delivery was complete. This issue was causing lost time due to additional communication time between truck drivers and Rex Lumber employees and also lost revenue due to inaccurate inventory counts.
 
lumber trucks

The Solution

Bit-Wizards built a camera and scale integration software solution that snaps a picture of the truck when it detects scale movement created when a truck stops on the scale. The cameras take two pictures, one of the front and of one from the back of the truck load. This camera action occurs on both the truck’s arrival and departure from the lumber yard.
 
pole mounted camera

The camera images are tied to the ticket that the driver generates (via a kiosk stationed next to the scale) when his truck drives onto the scale. The driver now has a physical ticket that contains all of this information.

The quality control (QC) employee then visits the truck and uses a Nokia Lumia 920 running a custom Windows Phone app to scan in the barcode on the driver’s ticket; or he can press a button in the phone app to fetch the last ticket created via the kiosk.  The QC employee determines which logs the mill will accept and then staples an RFID tag to butt-end of the logs. The quality control employee uses a handheld RFID reader, to scan the associated tags. That information transfers via Bluetooth to the Windows Phone where he then inputs the kind of lumber that is on the truck. Now all the information associated with that delivery is accounted for and tied to that ticket. The QC employee can take additional pictures using the phone app and those pictures are automatically associated with the ticket as well.
 
App Barcode

When the information is transferred to the phone, it is also transferred via Wi-Fi to the network for storage and updating in the on-premises SQL inventory database.

A crane will then scoop the load off of the truck and store the logs in the wet-yard. The logs may sit in the wet-yard for a few hours to several months. The quality control employee can do periodic inventory checks by taking the handheld RFID reader out to the wet-yard and scanning the tags that are stapled to the logs. Scanned tags are immediately sent to the Windows Phone via Bluetooth. The Windows Phone then updates the inventory (on premise SQL database) accordingly (identifying the logs location and date last scanned) via the Wi-Fi connection. If the quality control employee is out of range of the Wi-Fi, the records are stored on the phone until he comes back into Wi-Fi range.
 
windows phone app

Finally as the logs are needed for processing a front loader scoops up a load of logs from the wet yard, and then hauls them over to the de-barker machine. The de-barker machine now has an RFID reader attached to it which can read RFID tags up to twenty feet away. As the logs go into the de-barker, the RFID reader scans the logs and at that point those logs are marked "consumed" in the inventory database.
 
rfid tag

The Result

Since the deployment of the Bit-Wizards’ solution, Rex Lumber’s in/out truck processing time has decreased from 10 minutes to a speedy one minute total time. Rex is also now about to meet any log supply demand. The new hardware and software solution gives Rex Lumber a potential for 400% revenue growth.
Client Name: Rex Lumber
Year: 2014
Industry: Manufacturing
Rex Lumber is a 4th generation, family-owned business dating back to the early 1900’s. With high volume sawmills in Bristol and Graceville, Florida and Brookhaven, Mississippi, Rex Lumber produces southern yellow pine lumber in a variety of sizes and grades. Rex Lumber and the McRae family continue their tradition of innovation, modernization and continuous improvement. Rex Lumber is a leader in the softwood lumber industry manufacturing for over four decades and has established a name for the highest quality timber and lumber products.
  • ASP Web Service
  • Bluetooth
  • C#
  • Entity Framework
  • RFID (Radio Frequency Identifier)
  • Site-to-Site VPN
  • SQL CE
  • SQL Server 2008
  • WCF Web Service
  • Windows Phone

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