Understanding what is important


Material provision employees spend a lot of time at work carrying out non-value-added activities. They read orders, find materials and travel long distances. Fraunhofer IPA is currently working on an app that provides them with the right information in the right place at the right time. Now, Fraunhofer IPA is on the hunt for companies to collaborate on the further development of “Info@Need”. They will present this innovative solution on 15 March in a forum at LogiMAT in Stuttgart.

Communication is often still paper-based in the field of material provision. Employees use dockets to find out which parts they must deliver to which machine. Fraunhofer IPA researcher Silke Hartleif: «Often, they cover great distances between orders. It is not uncommon for them to discover once they get to the store that the required material is not in stock or that there aren’t any trolleys free. This costs the company a lot of time and money

Attributes determine information requirement

Info@Need provides material provision staff with information when needed. Fraunhofer IPA researchers have defined various attributes for this that decide what information is important for specific cases. Silke Hartleif explains: «This includes the location, time and quality of the information». With the “time” attribute, an employee can mark that they have dealt with an order. This means that the system knows that the employee is available again and can take on another order. The “location” attribute is calculated with the aid of iBeacon transmitters covering the entire production area. When both values have been detected, Info@Need matches location and time to pass the closest follow-up order on to the employee via the app. This means that there is no need to collect new job tickets, filter through information or cover unnecessarily long distances.

The “quality” attribute ensures that the information is shown in the correct form. For example, the app gives an overview of all relevant information, such as material quantity, delivery address or container type all in one place. The service also checks whether necessary equipment such as forklift trucks or trolleys are nearby and available. Another advantage is that the app is cost-effective. The iBeacons cost around EUR 35 per unit, while a smartphone or tablet comes to somewhere between EUR 150 and EUR 300. However, Info@Need can only be used if there is an adequate IT infrastructure. Silke Hartleif adds: »If a company hasn’t quite got there yet, we are happy to help them to implement a solution.«

Looking for application partners

Fraunhofer IPA researchers have already created a demo version of Info@Need. Now they are looking for companies who would like to further develop the service within collaborative projects. Silke Hartleif: » We still need specifications, particularly for the quality attribute. Partners would have to let us know what information they are still missing.« This application is ideal for all companies covering large distances in material provision. Development is scheduled to be completed in June 2018. Fraunhofer IPA researchers will present Info@Need at 11:00 a.m. on 15 March as part of the “Digital tools for logistics” forum at LogiMAT 2018.