The Alaska Railroad Corporation

The Alaska Railroad Corporation is a full-service freight and passenger railroad that needed an inventory management solution for their supply warehouse.

Primarily running as a regularly scheduled public transportation service, ARRC connects major cities such as Fairbanks and Anchorage with remote locations. With more than 500,000 passengers annually, ARRC routes across miles of wild landscape connecting metropolitan areas. Alaska Railroad freight operations transport materials both within Alaska and to/from the Lower 48. With complex internal operations meeting a variety of business demands, ARRC needed an inventory management solution for their supply warehouse to improve warehouse operations. Using strict metrics, ARRC chose RF-SMART.

Having implemented JD Edwards the previous year, ARRC was seeking a solution that would easily and seamlessly integrate into JD Edwards. As RF-SMART uses native JDE API and does not keep any data outside of JD Edwards, the ARRC selection team knew they had found the best solution to meet their needs.

“The architecture of how RF-SMART works with JD Edwards is really bullet proof,” said Information Technology Project Manager Paul Willman. “Not only is there no delay or gaps in our data, but we didn’t have to make any custom modifications.”

Operating Above the Curve

ARRC uses RF-SMART in its warehouse to serve internal customers and different departments. The warehouse is a vital component for their railroad crew. Previously, maintaining an accurate inventory in the warehouse was almost impossible. Warehouse Supervisor, Ron Lewis notes that at times, it would be a week before data was entered from pick slips into JD Edwards. Relying heavily on paper process was time-consuming and error-laden. Now re-order/review is accurate and up to date.

“It keeps us above the curve,” said Lewis. Utilizing the built-in logic of RF-SMART, ARRC has reorganized its warehouse to follow RF-SMART; this one change alone has accounted for over 20% increase in inventory accuracy.

With RF-SMART, ARRC is better able to maintain accurate inventory of its critical components, such as air-brake valves and bearings. Lewis knows he can now monitor daily usage and assure that critical items will be available when needed, taking manufacturer lead times and other logistical considerations into account. Having accurate information at all times allows them to identify demand, better respond to internal customers’ needs and keep its trains - and revenue - on schedule.  

Benefits of Automation

Lewis has seen numerous benefits of the ease of RF-SMART transactions being completed on a handheld. Their warehouse crew is accurately charging items to the correct accounts and departments. Anything from location changes to printing out item labels, the warehouse crew is completing on the handheld immediately.

Previously, the crew would be required to remember to log in to a computer terminal to complete such tasks, whether at the end of the day or the following week. At times, there would be a week or more delay before information was entered. Warehouse crew would make several trips to verify and re-verify item numbers and find correct locations, and much was getting lost in this paper shuffle, according to Lewis. As Lewis states, “We now can do soup to nuts right there, standing in front of the materials.”

In addition, ARRC was previously only able to complete one cycle count per year; this has more than tripled since implementing RF-SMART.

“An Unqualified Success”

In the past, Willman managed the interface of data between JD Edwards and additional systems. There is no need for this with RF-SMART. “The administration tools and integration with hardware are fantastic. From an IT side, there have been no problems.” Willman said. “The RF-SMART team was very helpful with getting us online and in a way that made sense for us.”

With the automation of inventory data input through RF-SMART, ARRC has experienced improved efficiency and accuracy in its warehouse, so much that they immediately began sharing their successful experiences.

“We’ve definitely been recommending RF-SMART.” said Lewis. “The real-time picture of accurate inventory has boosted productivity and saves us time. By saving time, we ultimately improve service to our internal customers. The project was, in my opinion, an unqualified success.”

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