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Subaru-Isuzu simplifies receiving with 2-D bar codes.

Shipments to the automaker now carry 2-D bar codes that condense receiving time from as long as 45 minutes to less than 1 minute.

Every day the Subaru-Isuzu plant in Lafayette, Ind., receives about 30 truck loads of automotive parts. And until 6 months ago, there was no sure-fire system used to check receipts from suppliers.

Today, Subaru is completing a pilot program that uses two-dimensional bar codes on shipping containers and electronic data interchange (EDI) in standard formats to confirm the accuracy of receipts.

"Since the start of this pilot 6 months ago with two of our leading suppliers, we haven't had to reconcile any of their shipments," says Joe Spate, manager of systems development at Subaru. In addition, receiving, time for each container has dropped to less than a minute from as many as 45 minutes.

Improved inventory accuracy is the first step in a program to reduce inventory levels throughout the plant. "We want to have only 1 shift of parts on hand," says Spate. "Now we have up to one week's worth of inventory," he adds.

The current receiving system relies on printed packing lists that arrive with each shipment and advance ship notices (ASN) sent electronically by a significant portion of suppliers.

Whenever possible, the printed list and ASN are matched against each other in the receiving department. Many times the shipment arrives before the ASN. If there is a discrepancy between the two or no ASN at all, the information on the packing list is accepted.

Receiving generally takes 15-45 minutes per container. However, data input may not be completed for several hours. This means parts can be in the plant but unavailable to the production line because they are not logged into the inventory database.

No physical check is made of the shipment, in any case. "We're too lean to spend time doing that. But then we never really know that what we ordered is actually what came in the door," says Darrell Thompson, project leader for the receiving group.

The new system replaces the packing list with a 2-D bar code label using the PDF-417 symbology. Seven pieces of information are encoded: supplier code, delivery order number, part number, quantity, engineering change level, sequence number, and ASN number.

When the supplier fills a container with parts, one of two labels is printed with that data. It is called a master label if all parts in the container are the same. A mixed load label is for containers with up to three different types of parts.

All shipments to Subaru are handled by various transport companies. Drivers carry hand-held terminals used to scan the 2-D bar code on each container at pickup.

When the truck load arrives at the dock in Lafayette, the driver brings the terminal to the receiving office. The data is downloaded and compared to the ASN.

The chart on this page details the steps taken to complete receiving and reconcile any differences between the ASN and 2-D bar code. As with the packing list, the 2-D bar code data is always considered to be accurate. The total receiving operation now takes about 40 seconds per container.

The pilot with suppliers Moriden of America and KYB Industries is a success, says Spate. As a result, Subaru is rolling out the use of 2-D bar codes and EDI to its 130 top suppliers.

During the last week in July, the automaker invited those suppliers to its Lafayette plant to hear about the program. Spate adds, "we hope to have all of them participating by the end of this year."

How Subaru-Isuzu handles receiving data


RELATED ARTICLE: For more info...

Portable terminals with 2-D bar code scanners:

Symbol Technologies

Circle 80 or call 516-563-2400

Labeling software:


Circle 81 or call 888-384-7328

2-D bar code label printers:


Circle 82 or call 408-745-1300

Standard Register

Circle 83 or call 513-443-1000


Circle 84 or call 630-892-2232

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Title Annotation:Scan Tech News; Subaru-Isuzu Automotive Inc.
Author:Forger, Gary
Publication:Modern Materials Handling
Date:Sep 1, 1997
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