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Capespan Ltd

Capespan UK Ltd is a £105 million turnover company which is part of the Capespan Group. The company delivers globally sourced fruit, salads and vegetables to top UK retailers, processors, wholesale and caterers throughout the year. Capespan is a leader in the Global Marketing of Fruit and a provider of Supply Chain Service Solutions.

Capespan’s principal location is in the port of Sheerness on a dedicated quay with cutting-edge cold storage and pre-packing facilities.

The Business Need

Capespan recognised the business benefits that could be gained from adopting an integrated IT strategy. It had already deployed solutions for business management and reporting. The skilled in-house IT team had also developed a QC application which was used to record all QC test data. However this relied heavily on paper-based and manual data input procedures which were both time consuming and error-prone.

Capespan needed to extend access to these business critical systems to remote workers. These were working in holds of ships or in vast cold storage facilities. Capespan concluded that it needed real time mobile data capture applications to help them to manage stock movements more effectively. However, they were experiencing difficulties in deploying such solutions on to mobile devices.

The overall requirement was to improve stock management and reduce the number of movements by providing the QC team with real time information.

As Kevin Cracknell, UK MIS Manager for Capespan, explains, “Due to the nature of our business, QC testing is performed on produce at every stage of its journey through our facility. We needed a method of rapidly recording and evaluating all of our test data so that we could provide live information on stock quality to key departments. Our current paper-based methods with manual data entry were inefficient and time consuming. As our business grew, these were becoming impractical.”

Capespan had identified a number of requirements that had to be met by a new solution:

  • To provide real time quality control information on stock items.

  • To facilitate the centralisation and sharing of all quality control data.

  • To provide a solution that is accessible from any location where stock is stored.

These to include both global and locally positioned warehouses, ports and growers premises,

  • To provide an automatic test failure notification facility to supervising personnel.

  • To synchronise recorded test data with existing back office solutions.

  • To reduce or eliminate of the volume of paperwork required to record QC activities.

  • To incorporate flexibility that enables rapid adoption of changes in business practices.

  • To facilitate the provision of accurate and timely management information on QC activities.

  • To provide a future-proofed solution capable of growing with the business.

  • To provide a platform that enabled in-house IT resources to develop and support the application.

The Selection Process

“We evaluated a number of technologies as part of our selection process” explained Kevin Cracknell. “This included the expansion of our existing back office solution. However, it was clear that the Microsoft .NET Framework based applications from Anglia had a significant technical advantage. The concepts were already proven and deployed with a number of similar fresh produce organisations and its potential could be clearly seen”.

Anglia carried out a solution scoping exercise designed to identify the deliverables of the project. The complete solution was implemented by Anglia’s team of Microsoft .NET and Infrastructure specialists working closely with Capespan’s own existing skilled in-house IT, QC and management personnel.

The Solution

Modules from Anglia’s award winning LINKFresh mobile applications were deployed on Windows Mobile based ruggedized hand-held scanning devices. The selected LINKFresh modules included; Mobile QC, Quality Check Intake, Stock take, Pallet Tracking, RAG Testing and the Positive Release modules.

The LINKFresh solution was configured to reflect Capespan’s existing proven QC operating practices. To verify the information recorded on the mobile devices, the workflow was seamlessly linked to a subset of Capespan’s existing QC master SQL database.

The applications were originally developed as part of Anglia’s Microsoft Dynamics NAV based LINKFresh ERP solution for the fresh produce industry. However, the mobile technology proved flexible enough to operate with other business management solutions. By using Anglia’s unique DataMaker tool set, the software development team rapidly created .NET data tables on mobile devices to synchronise with corresponding back office tables.

Anglia’s LINKFresh Mobile QC application is ideally suited to a pack-house or field environment. It works by presenting the correct test procedure workflow to the user against which the QC parameters are checked. These include; picked from location, country of origin, customer destination, description of product, label colour, best before date, display until date, product count, class, miss/max weight, product notes, packaging, red tractor, UK Flag or Green Leaf Mark. The number and order of test is configurable by product or destination customer.

If the product clears all required tests, the stock is “released” to continue to its destination. However, if a fail result is returned key personnel are immediately notified via SMS or email. The failure alert message details the product involved, the customer, the hand held user, the location where the test was carried out and the reason for the failure.

The user experience

To commence a QC test procedure, users can easily log themselves on using a unique barcode. This enables any user to pick up and use any handheld device at any location.

Using Anglia’s Drizzle Technology, the mobile device periodically synchronises with the back-end database as and when a data connection is available. The store and forward configuration enables the QC operation to continue even when a data connection with the back end database is lost, e.g. when working is cold storage or holds of ships. After every 10 synchronisations the clock on the mobile devices is re-set to ensure that the time recorded for when each test is performed is accurate.

Fig 1. The User Log-in Screen.

 

 

On logging on, the user is presented with a main menu containing 5 module options; Inspections, Stock Adjustment, Dump, Pack-House or Damage.

 

 

Fig 2: Main Menu Screen

 

 

Inspections Module – The pallet barcode is scanned. The user is then asked to confirm the data held on the back-office solution for that pallet. This includes checks on Vessel Name, PO Number, Product & Variety, Country of Origin, Pack size, Quantity and Grower.

The workflow application then directs the user to the main test criteria for that pallet. The user enters numeric values for various QC parameters such as number of bags, decay, bruising, cold damage or freezing damage. The sequence and number of tests, and the acceptable parameters for the test result are all pre-configured dependent on the product or customer.

The user can also access a screen where they can capture (type) additional comments regarding the pallet i.e. “pallet is damaged”. Typing in heavy gloves can be difficult. To assist, the application is pre-loaded with a number of frequently used “quick terms”, which can be selected, e.g. incorrect, missing, label, pallet, etc. Optional reason codes can be added to the test summary and photographs can be attached to the record for explanation if required. The test data is saved and the inspection test is complete.



Fig 3. Inspection module data screen, with tabs to move through main tests, optional tests and comments.

 



Stock Adjustment Module – Stock adjustments are carried out remotely via the hand held devices. Once the pallet barcode is scanned, the user enters values for number of containers, the reason for the adjustment and who requested it.







Fig 4. Stock Adjustment Screen
 

 


 

Dumping Module – dumping a product can also be recorded. The barcode on the pallet is scanned and the percentage dumped captured together with the reason. A photograph can also be taken which accompanies the record.






Fig 5. Dumping Module Screen.

 

Damage Reporting Module – After scanning the barcode to identify the consignment, the user can enter values to indicate: pallet damage, carton damage, quantity, colour code or damage code. Freeform comments and a photograph can also be attached.






Fig 6. Pallet Damage Screen

 

 

 

The Benefits

The LINKFresh mobility solution provides Capespan with a vital tool in reducing stock movements and improving inventory management. Storage space at the “pick-face” is optimised as only stock that has passed the QC procedure is released for picking.

It has resulted in a significant reduction in the time taken and paperwork involved to complete the QC testing process. This has greatly improved productivity throughout the QA department. As Mark Bilborough explained, “Instead of carrying sheaves of paper that could get wet or lost, we carry a single handheld device. These have been configured to work the way we do. The QC information is captured in seconds and automatically transferred. It has really speeded up the whole QC process while getting rid of the paperwork. The major reduction in the amount of paper we use is also an important environmental benefit for us”.

From an administrative viewpoint, the system has already proven to have tremendous advantages over the older paperwork systems. As administrator Tracy Sunderland explained “the office team were always 24 hours behind in their work while they waited to receive and collate the paper based QC reports. Once received, we had to double enter them on to two separate systems. We also had to file the paperwork which was very labour intensive. Now we have the information on our system within two minutes of completion of the QC test. It has saved a massive amount of time while improving our efficiency”.

Kevin Cracknell comments, “The ability to provide a live data on product quality to staff in our sales, production and despatch departments has greatly assisted the decision making process for stock allocation or re-allocation. This means that our business runs much more smoothly. We can instantly assess the quality levels available from our entire inventory to enable us to react to changing customer requirements. That is a huge advantage for us.”

“The flexibility of the technology deployed means that the solution can be rapidly re-configured, either by Anglia or Capespan, to meet the changing needs of the business or to react to customer requests. In that respect, we are now masters of our own destiny. The electronic collection and update of up to the minute QC data now provides a wealth of management information. This assists in highlighting any product or operational issues before they have an impact. We are now supplying an all round better product.”

Kevin Cracknell continues, “Overall the LINKFresh mobility solution from Anglia is a state of the art flexible solution that meets all of our initial project requirements. To date, it has exceeded our expectations. The solution provides a significant productivity advantage in a highly competitive marketplace. The system has already paid for itself.”
 

The Hardware & Software

 

Hardware

- Windows Mobile based ruggedised hand-held scanning and recording devices
 

Operating System

- Windows Server 2003
- SQL Server 2005


Development Environment

- .NET Compact Framework
- Visual Studio 2008


Anglia Components

- LINKFresh® Mobility
- DataMaker Tool
- Drizzle Communications Module
- E-mail Alert Service
- SMS Text Alerts
- Foreign Language Pack
- Mobile QC Module
- Quality Check Intake Module
- Stock Take Module
- Pallet Tracking Module
- RAG Testing Module
- Positive Release Module

 

Services

- Mobility Tools Developers Training Course
- LINKFresh workflow configuration
- Mobility Applications Development
- On-Site Acceptance testing
- Go-Live Support
- Site Roll-Out
- Microsoft SQL Reporting Services
- Consultancy


For further information contact:

Anglia Business Solutions Ltd
Harston Mill
Harston
Cambridge
CB22 7GG

Tel: 0123 873400
Fax: 01223 873401

Email: linkfresh@angliabs.com



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