Application Development of Lumber Scales Management System

Project Summary

Rex Lumber, one of Florida’s oldest lumber mills, turns to Bit-Wizards to improve weigh station processing resulting in record breaking performances and reduced man hours.

The Challenge

Rex Lumber operates high volume sawmills in three locations where raw lumber is processed into construction materials. During this process, trucks deliver the raw materials and haul away the waste products moving through the company’s weigh stations.

The scale house system Rex uses to weigh freight trucks loaded with raw lumber was creating a bottleneck in their operations. The software application used for the weighing process was antiquated. Having been developed back in the 1990’s using COBOL, it required the user to go in and out of multiple screens to fetch the needed data to complete a ticket.

The time it took for trucks to be weighed and recorded was extremely long and cumbersome — typically resulting in continual long lines of trucks waiting to be weighed. Adding to the delays was the system’s inability to service more than one scale at a time. Additionally, none of their sites were connected to each other requiring manual batch reporting and uploading of the data to a central AS400 server.

This was not only costing Rex time and money, but also the truck drivers waiting to process through the weigh stations. Furthermore, any solution to be developed would need to interface with three different types of Toledo scales, all of which utilize different software versions.

The Solution

Bit-Wizards software engineers first created a link to all the sites using a Windows Data Synchronization Service. Using C# and Visual Studio 2010, engineers re-wrote the scale service application from scratch on a .NET 4 platform with Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Express and SQL Server 2005 back ends. The new application was written with new features to enable more automation and a single screen user interface with auto-populating fields to further enhance productivity.
 
welcome page  ticket

A new kiosk was introduced that produces a barcoded ticket that drivers present at the scale house to be scanned. The new user interface developed by Bit-Wizards enables the end user to simply scan the bar code which then verifies 3 key pieces of data. A new automated scale proxy service was added to interface with the existing scales using serial port connectivity. This opened the data to Rex’s multiple locations and presorted the weight to the scale house application which now automatically determines if the weight reported by the proxy service is the gross weight or the net weight.
 
nonwaste ticket  waste ticket

The scale house application, via the data sync services, communicates directly with the AS400 DB2 database. This eliminated the old system requirement of manually exporting batch files and then importing them into the AS400 DB2 system and vice versa. The sync services now reduces the chance of human error corrupting the data.
 
automatic report

Bit-Wizards then set out to accomodate Rex’s need for inspector mobility by employing Panasonic Touchscreen Toughbooks. Inspectors can now wirelessly inspect loads and record findings directly into the scales application. Even if the inspector takes the Toughbook out of the network’s range, the application stores the data locally and automatically synchronizes the data when back in range of the network signal. Additionally, the new user interface makes manual input quicker by auto-populating fields with most commonly used data.

The Result

Trucks now sail through Rex Lumber weighing stations with little or no wait time. Processing time has improved 75% from before the Bit-Wizards solution was implemented and a 100%+ improvement in regards to creating tickets and manipulating data. And in early 2011, a new one day record of 162 trucks processed was set.

Running reports has resulted in many hours saved in manually processing data and with less downtime as data can now be made available to all users without taking the system offline. Less maintenance is now required freeing up Rex’s staff to perform other tasks as the synch service eliminated the need for manual batch process.

Overall, the new system has increased Rex Lumber’s productivity keeping them competitive in their century old business.
Client Name: Rex Lumber
Year: 2011
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.
  • ADO.NET
  • ASP.NET
  • Barcode 3 of 9
  • C#
  • SQL Server 2005
  • SQL Server 2008
  • Synchronization Services for ADO.NET

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