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Inventory management system

Customer : Sapporo Breweries Ltd.

As forklift terminals in the face of vibration. Efficient distribution that’s free from trouble.

Aiming to achieve efficient in-plant distribution, Sapporo Breweries, known for producing products of excellence in taste and quality, uses the Toughbook CF-18 as the terminals in its proprietary SAFLOS inventory management system. Covering broad use, ranging from forklift terminals to terminals for truck entry and exit, they help Sapporo Breweries to achieve efficient distribution.

Information system introduced to increase distribution efficiency

The Toughbook was selected in view of vibrations on the forklift and the environment of the warehouse.

Under the motto “A life of enjoyment and abundance for our customers”, Sapporo Breweries Ltd. has, since its inception, been striving for ever better product quality and customer satisfaction. With popular brands such as Black Label and Yebisu, and with with Happoshu (low malt beer) such as Hokkaido Namashibori Migakimugi and new genres such as Draft One and Mugi To Hops, it brews and markets a wide variety of alcoholic beverages. While seeking excellence in taste, the company focuses on creating products that excel in both safety and consumer confidence, through such means as procuring the basic ingredients, namely malt and hops, from producers under cooperative agreement.
Aiming to increase in-plant distribution efficiency, in 2000, Sapporo Breweries developed and introduced a new system called SAFLOS (Sapporo Factory Logistics System). The terminal in use at the Chiba Plant for this system is the rugged 10.4” Toughbook CF-18.

Choosing the Toughbook CF-18 as an alternative to embedded-type PCs

Striving to streamline distribution, Mr. Shimazaki has been working hard to implement SAFLOS.

Mr. Aoyagi states, “There have been no problems since we introduced the Toughbook.”

Since the cutting of delay times that occur in the plant translates directly to cost reduction, it was deemed necessary to make inventory management in the warehouse adjoining the plant more efficient.
SAFLOS is an information system that works in tandem with the backbone physical distribution system, uniformly managing everything including inventory, loading and unloading, comparison, picking, organizing, and even vehicle guidance. Standard warehouse operations all go through and are carried out by SAFLOS, including guidance of truck loading, instructions to operators, keeping of work records, and inventory verification. The result is that operations such as loading are made more efficient and delay times are reduced.
Since 2000, SAFLOS has been introduced successively into the plants of each region. At the largest production base, the Chiba Plant, the system, integrating with the automatic inventory equipment, was introduced in January, 2009.
“With SAFLOS, we were able to standardize work operations and achieve greater efficiency. Also, it became possible to grasp in real time what work was taking place and the status of inventory.” (Mr. Keisuke Shimazaki, Manager, System Group, Supply Chain Management Division, SCM Headquarters)
In plants that introduced SAFLOS before the Chiba Plant, embedded-type PCs were used as onboard forklift terminals; however, at the Chiba plant they introduced the rugged Toughbook CF-18 instead.

Toughbook’s ruggedness and portability allow it to withstand mounting on a forklift

On the frontline, Mr. Takahashi played an important role in building the system.

The embedded-type PCs used in the other plants suffered when it came to using them as terminals that could provide work instructions to forklift operators, allow inventory verification, and keep records of completed jobs.
An embedded-type PC includes the CPU unit, the display, and a voltage converter to take power from the forklift battery. All three of these devices had to be installed on the forklift, which, ultimately, constitutes the installation of “heavy equipment”. Also, problems often arose with the voltage converter.
Enough terminals are required for all forklifts in operation. Unfortunately, once installed on a forklift, a problem arose when attempting to transfer and divert use of already-installed embedded-type PCs over to other forklifts.
In the warehouse, it became a huge problem not being able to transfer and divert the use of terminals in accordance with the increase or decrease of forklifts in operation due to fluctuations in shipping amounts. In response, non-embedded-type terminals were considered and as a result, the Toughbook was singled out.

Installation is as easy as attaching a computer stand.

The touch-panel has gained a great reputation for ease of use.

<Reasons for choosing the Toughbook CF-18>

(1) Ruggedness, vibration-resistance and dust-resistance
Forklifts are designed to absorb vibrations in the driver’s seat, but other parts are subject to heavy shock and vibration depending on the load being lifted and the driving conditions. Also, warehouses are exposed to outside air, so dirt and dust cannot be avoided.
For this reason, a PC installed on a forklift must be able to withstand shock and vibration, and furthermore, should be designed so that dirt and dust can’t get in easily. Given these conditions, the Toughbook is perfect.
Furthermore, Sapporo Breweries chose the SSD model that, because it uses flash memory instead of a hard disk as the storage media, is even further able to withstand shock.
(2) Compactness
 Compared to embedded-type PCs, the body of the Toughbook is compact. The CPU unit and display are integrated and the direction and angle of the touch panel display can be changed freely. Also, forklift mounting is easy and space-saving, because only a computer stand needs to be installed. And, of course, long battery life means that one does not have to worry about power.
(3) Portability
With the Toughbook, installation and removal are a breeze. They can be flexibly transferred and diverted for use on other forklifts in accordance with job conditions. Also, they can be placed and used in non-forklift applications.

No problems since introducing them
Expanding use to other plants, as well

During intervals between driving, tasks such as verification of instructions and job record keeping take place quickly and efficiently.

Toughbook on board a hand lifter, a machine used for picking (selectively removing a product listed in an order or shipping instruction from the warehouse).

Toughbook is used as the terminal that truck drivers operate at the exit gate.

At the warehouse of the Chiba Plant, a total of 34 Toughbook CF-18 PCs are in use beginning with those used as forklift terminals. A wireless LAN was constructed to connect them all. (As of April, 2009)
Trucks continually enter the loading and unloading area. On the Toughbook screens, work instructions are displayed indicating how much of what product is loaded on which truck. Upon verifying that information, the forklift operator skillfully loads the organized products. After the products are loaded, the operator touches a button displayed on the screen to log that the task has been completed.
“Operation is easy, because all you have to do is touch the screen with your finger. Ease of use has given this system a great reputation.” (Mr. Takayuki Takahashi, Section Sub-manager, Shipping Division, Tokyo Branch Co. No. 1, Sapporo Logistics System Co., Ltd.)
Another positive result is the increased availability.
"When something goes wrong with the terminals, it's the warehouse that suffers. We are so thankful for the Toughbook CF-18, for it has been trouble-free since its introduction.” (Mr. Hisashi Aoyagi, Deputy Section Manager, System Group, Supply Chain Management Division, SCM Headquarters)
Other than in the forklift, Toughbooks are also used as terminals in hand lifters that are used for picking and as terminals for checking the entry and exiting of truck drivers.
“Before SAFLOS, almost all work instructions and work logs were paper based. Now, work efficiency has greatly improved and the number of mistakes has decreased. The Toughbook has blended in so well that it’s as if they’ve been with us all along. They have become indispensable to our work.” (Mr. Shimazaki)
“Using the know-how gained at the Chiba Plant, we are thinking of introducing the Toughbook to other plants when it comes time for replacement.” (Mr. Aoyagi)
“I want to perfect our logistics in order to facilitate the delivery of fresh products to our customers and to also further increase the accuracy of tractability. In this regard, we are striving toward a more far reaching and further improved implementation of SAFLOS.” (Mr. Shimazaki)
At the forefront of distribution, we anticipate that the Toughbook, thanks to its high reliability and ruggedness, will continue to play a greater and greater role.

Sapporo Breweries Ltd.
Headquarters: 20-1, Ebisu 4-chome, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Chiba plant: 2 Takase-cho, Funahashi-shi, Chiba-ken, Japan
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