KBA now offering detailed inventory management and batch-tracking via smartphone

KBA Rapida Live App.
KBA Rapida Live App.

German press manufacturer Koenig & Bauer’s KBA Rapida LiveApp with its info panel and maintenance manager functionalities, which has been on the market for about a year, has now expanded with a ProductionApp as “an indispensable assistant in the production environment.” In releasing the new application, the OEM pointed out that certain situations inevitably arise at some point in every printing operation. For example, a necessary consumable such as an anti-foaming agent or washing solvent has run out. In-house supplies are empty because someone on a previous shift took the last bottle or container, but neglected to mention this to anyone on the next shift. “Koenig & Bauer has taken up the challenge of avoiding such annoying circumstances and has developed the ProductionApp as a powerful inventory management and batch-tracking tool for use on mobile Android devices,” the company stressed. Only three prerequisites must be met in order to use the ProductionApp:

  • One or more Android smartphones with the Rapida ProductionApp
  • LogoTronic Professional as the production management system
  • A wireless network in your printing company

The basis for the new app is the NFC function that’s integrated into many smartphones. Use of this technology renders data acquisition in the production chain both simple and reliable. The ProductionApp workflow begins in the storage locations for the various consumables – such as inks, coatings, blankets or powder – where they’re provided with an NFC tag. Within the app, subsequently, storage location tags can be assigned to any chosen article. The app then saves these assignments. During an inventory check or after receiving a new consignment, the relevant article data is displayed for an individual storage location. The person in charge can then compare the displayed quantities with those actually present. In the case of any differences, the numbers can be corrected quickly and simply. The quantities of new, incoming supplies are recorded. For any given article, therefore, current stock levels are reconciled and updated automatically (i.e. via inventory management). This process is realized with the aid of the NFC function. As soon as the smartphone detects a storage tag, the display and input forms are opened automatically. And the app doesn’t need to be launched beforehand.

Batch tracking through to the printing press. At the press, assignments relate to the point of consumption (i.e. a particular printing unit) and are again controlled by way of NFC tags. The individual locations are assigned via the NFC set-up. All relevant information about an article (colour, remaining quantity, etc.) is displayed on the smartphone directly at the place of consumption. The operator selects the quantity that’s been topped-up or refilled, and scans the batch code of the consumable concerned. The camera is activated automatically to scan the code, and the code itself is then displayed as soon as it’s successfully detected. The operator can also view further useful information – such as when the article concerned must be refilled again, or how much ink is required for a current job.

The quantity refilled and the scanned batch number are saved in a database on a job-by-job basis, and the remaining stock levels are reduced accordingly. If the quantity in stock falls below a defined threshold, a corresponding e-mail is automatically sent to the supervisor responsible or to the purchasing department. The e-mail recipient can be set individually for each article. In this way, the necessary reordering process can be automated. An interface to a webshop is possible and is also planned for the future, said KBA. The problematic and often troublesome monitoring of shop-floor stocks and downtimes due to missing consumables, therefore, “become a thing of the past.”

Besides batch-tracking for inks, coatings and the like, it’s also possible to monitor consumables such as blankets or blades. For example, the app provides exact information on the number of impressions reached by the currently-mounted blankets. Target-actual service-life comparisons are another possibility. If the blankets have exceeded their planned service life, this can be reported and visualized. In this way, tasks such as blanket changing or the refilling of powder and washing solvents can be indicated and planned well in advance. Also, if consumption changes significantly, the precise cause(s) can be investigated. Any number of storage locations and their stocks, even at different or distributed locations, can also be summarized. A shop can therefore maintain an exact overview of all stock levels at all times. In addition to the consumables for sheetfed offset presses, further products can also be integrated, such as the adhesive for a folder-gluer. Inventory management is greatly simplified with the ProductionApp, because it even remembers the order of the shelf areas for each defined storage location.

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Tony Curcio is the editor of Graphic Arts Magazine.