Northern Apex Corporation

Read Our Cutting Tool Engineering Magazine Article About ROI of Tool and Tooling Tracking

Jeff Garver - Tuesday, August 14, 2018


Proven ROI in the tracking of tools, production tooling and fixtures

For a business owner or manager it’s a frustrating and difficult task to track, manage and keep records on the hand-held tools, production tooling and fixtures, dies and castings that are the lifeblood of your operation.

Each category of tool has specific tracking and accounting issues that when addressed have been proven to show a significant return on investment.

Challenges addressed with improved tool tracking:

  • Personnel and contractor accountability for an item
  • History and traceability of calibration data
  • Awareness of shelf life and expiration date issues
  • Visibility into the repair and maintenance cycle for parts that are regularly changed
  • Enables labor tracking to a specific project or work order
Click here to read our full article in Cutting Tool Engineering Magazine


Returnable Transport Items

Jeff Garver - Thursday, February 01, 2018

In manufacturing, parts are commonly transported from suppliers (both internal and external) to assembly lines in totes, bins or other forms of returnable transport containers. To work efficiently it is vital that the location of these containers is monitored and tracked.  This task often proves too labor-intensive to do manually. 

Using an RFID solution manufacturers can achieve increased performance and eliminate confusion and downtime.  RFID allows you to automatically track a returnable transport container throughout its cycle- from the time it arrives into your facility, as it moves through your processes, and when it ships back to your supplier. This automated tracking provides accurate management of mission-critical parts- keeping your work flowing.

Property Asset Tracking

Jeff Garver - Thursday, February 01, 2018


Maintaining accurate records of fixed assets can be a time consuming and expensive task for any company. Items like IT equipment, office equipment, and tools all have value. Tracking these items can increase bottom line profits. Rather than wasting time searching for and replacing lost assets, you can keep track of all your valuable assets with a convenient, easy to use complete asset tracking system that is regularly managed. Often, solutions in this field are integrated into larger ERP systems, but they can be stand-alone solutions too. 

The bulk of assets that are tracked can generally be tagged with a barcode or RFID label. In some cases, pictures can be used to track assets that cannot be tagged with other methods. This is viable if your software choice supports that option. 

The software that you choose to drive property asset tracking will require you to consider how the application will be used. Do you have a need to not only track the asset but its last known location?  Was it a piece of property assigned to a person and how is that transaction recorded? 

Spending time at the beginning of the process to answer questions will allow you to make the best decision on what your solution needs to provide.

Brand Protection and Security

Jeff Garver - Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Protecting your brand after your item ships from your facility is key to many manufacturers. There are many ways to accomplish this task- but for that task to be efficient, it takes the right mix of hardware, software, and methods of identifying your product.

For product identification, there are several factors to take into consideration.  Do you need to identify a specific product through serialization or just verify it is not a “knock-off”?  What technology would work best for your application?  Many choose barcodes but some find RFID has a better overall return on investment. 

Tying this identification into your manufacturing process will require hardware and software.  Those choices are driven entirely by your specific needs. The solution can be as simple as a bar code reader or perhaps a more complex solution like an RFID tunnel to scan many items very quickly.  All of this information can easily be fed back into your data systems for long-term tracking of warranty and manufacturing data. 

MFG Process Control: Cross-docking Solutions Explained

Jeff Garver - Thursday, January 11, 2018

Process control, sometimes referred to as industrial control, is the collection and presentation of data about specific operations in the manufacturing process. The purpose of these systems is to increase production, reduce errors and help eliminate “bottlenecks” in the process. 

A simple example is a cross-docking solution. A company moves a certain number of items per pallet to another facility. By simply adding an RFID label to each box during the production process it can be guaranteed that not only the right number of units were shipped, but that the right units themselves were shipped. 

There are 2 basic embodiments of this solution. The first is a situation where there are no mixed pallets. Each pallet contains only one SKU and based on that SKU there is a pre-determined number of items that should be on that pallet.  As each item is boxed at the end of assembly, an RFID label is attached to it using a print and apply system. RFID readers at the dock scan the SKU and then verifies it is a full pallet. If this process is confirmed, the fork truck driver is given a “green light” to proceed. If not, it generates an error so it can be corrected. All transactions are recorded in a database as well.

A slightly different solution would use mixed SKU pallets. In this case, the process is nearly identical except the “green light” process is skipped- unless it can be determined in advance what should be on a particular pallet. However, the transaction is still recorded in a database, allowing for confirmation of every item that was cross-docked without the need for the time-consuming process of hand counting.

How to Take Full Advantage of Tool Tracking Systems

Jeff Garver - Thursday, January 11, 2018

One aspect of getting full value when adopting Tool Tracking technology is tying a specific tool to its corresponding important data, such as calibration dates and expected life cycles. This makes the data visible and readily accessible by all stakeholders in the use and monitoring of these tools.

The challenge in this area is determining the best way to identify the tool itself. Barcode is one possible solution, but it somewhat limits the ability to take advantage of “smart factory” technology. Barcodes often require human interaction and direct line of sight to physically scan the barcodes and they can easily be rendered illegible by wear and tear or oil and dirt.  A far better option is to use RFID (Radio Frequency Identification). There are several types of RFID tags that can be attached to, or even embedded in tooling. This ties a specific tracking number to each tool throughout its lifecycle.

For example, a wood manufacturer needed to track their shaper bits. By embedding an RFID tag inside the tools they can not only track how many board feet have been produced with each tool and when it needs to be recalibrated but they can also ensure that the right tool was used at the beginning of the process, saving costly errors and waste. It is even possible to automate that process by simply adding a reader to the tool changer to verify tool choice. 

Now that we have established that the mechanical part of tracking a tool can be tackled, the next question is what do you do with this data? The goal of “smart factory” applications is to provide usable data. Since each RFID tag has a unique identifier, it is easy to tie other data to that tool. In addition to calibration and life cycle, you may wish to track things like date of purchase, supplier, and original cost to name a few.  All of this can be accomplished if you purchase the right system. 

Tool tracking is gaining in popularity. It increases productivity and makes financial sense

Case Study: Shipping the Right Product to the Right Customer

Jeff Garver - Thursday, January 11, 2018

Delivering the right product to the right customer is the lifeblood of any business-but especially so in the Third Party Logistics (3PL) industry. In this case study, we will detail a 3PL company that had the problem of shipping incorrect items of clothing from their warehouse to retail stores. They were dealing with a common problem in outbound order fulfillment: due to human error, the wrong sizes or colors of product were sometimes being shipped out to retailers.  The resulting chargebacks to the 3PL supplier drove up operating expenses and were potentially damaging their business relationships. 

A solution was urgently needed and they found that the data required to remedy this problem was already there waiting to be leveraged.

The original shipping process would begin when the retailer placed an order and the warehouse received it for fulfillment. A picker would then gather the items requested, box them and ship them to the retailer. Upon the shipments arrival errors were charged back to the warehouse by the retailer.

To correct this issue the 3PL supplier decided to leverage the RFID tag that the customer was already using on their product. That tag carried size and color information on it.  All that was necessary was to capture that information and compare it to the original order for accuracy.

The new shipping process, with the solution in place, begins as before with the retailer placing an order and the warehouse filling the order. The change occurs after the box is sealed and a shipping label is applied. The shipping label is scanned for the order destination information. The destination is then used to access the order details in the system. The contents of the box (which have already been RFID tagged by the customer) are then scanned with RFID and compared to the order confirming that the right sizes and colors of clothing are in-fact being shipped. If there are any errors the order is diverted to be corrected. This solution eliminated human error mistakes without adding ongoing expenses since the customer-supplied tags and order data were already there just waiting to be leveraged.

Call Northern Apex today to discuss reducing or eliminating errors in your shipping department.

Call Kevin Knuth, Sales and Business Development, at 260.637.2739.

Northern Apex Innovation is Covered by Regional Publication

Jeff Garver - Thursday, July 20, 2017


American Woodmark APICS Award

Recently the latest Northern Apex Innovation was Covered by Regional Publication 'Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly'

The story relates Northern Apex's development of the IoT Tech Control Platform Modules which help Manufacturers 'Get up to Speed' by allowing them to update existing, legacy equipment to be part of the Industry 4.0, Internet of Things (IoT). The Northern Apex IoT Tech Control Platforms are solutions allowing the integration of connectivity and data collection for new or pre-existing devices without requiring a redesign of the product, device or equipment. They are designed to give control of IoT networks at the 'edge', i.e. putting some decision making into the hands of smart machinery allowing real-time data processing and saves on overall bandwidth. 


Read the full article from Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly

American Woodmark Corporation, Wins Innovation Award of Excellence at APICS 2015

Chris DePrisco - Monday, October 19, 2015


American Woodmark APICS Award

Northern Apex Corporation congratulates American Woodmark Corporation, on winning the Innovation Award of Excellence at APICS 2015. Northern Apex designed and integrated the enterprise wide, RFID solution that earned this award. APICS is the premier professional association for supply chain and operations management. The awards were awarded in Las Vegas.  

American Woodmark is a nationwide manufacturer of home cabinets that had the foresight in 2010 to begin their initial production implementation of Northern Apex’s CabineTRACK™ solution powered by Impinj’s Speedway Revolution™ fixed readers. At its core, CabineTrack™ is a component level tracking and information management system from Northern Apex to improve visibility into cabinet component movements. The system continues to deliver return on American Woodmark’s investment by having successfully reduced cycle count labor by nearly two-thirds and significantly increasing accuracy of those inventory counts. The Northern Apex solution leads to highly robust peak performance for the American Woodmark team. 

American Woodmark manufactures KCMA-certified cabinets under four major brands for remodeling and new home construction. A nationwide network of homebuilders, independent dealers and distributors as well as Lowe’s and Home Depot sell the cabinets. The company had over 136,000 key components at the base item level without any onboard identification. The items were identified by sight and manually entered into an ERP system per transaction. American Woodmark’s Senior Project Management Team knew that the inaccurate transactional activity and limited visibility within the manufacturing processes were resulting in component shortages, backorders, and inefficiencies.

Northern Apex understood the need for an RFID tagging solution to provide a component identification solution that was invisible to customers, not damaged or defaced by normal cabinet processing steps and automatically readable in key American Woodmark processes. After an extensive review process, American Woodmark chose Northern Apex and its CabineTRACK™ solution, designed specifically for cabinetmakers. The American Woodmark team expected the system to reduce cycle count labor and improve accuracy, decrease training hours for transactional activity and provide visibility to track doors throughout the manufacturing process. The team indicates that all of these objectives have been realized. 

The Northern Apex products used in the implementation leverage the Impinj technology. The implementation includes the Dorado 400 Visibility Station, Hercules 2400- Quality Base Unit, Portal Scanning Systems, and Cycle Counting Carts. The Speedway Revolution™ reader is a 900 MHz reader that offers Autopilot, which automatically configures and adapts to new and changing environments. 

American Woodmark has deployed the Northern Apex system in multiple of their own facilities in seven different states. The company’s deployment started with cabinet doors and expanded to drawer fronts, which at present run rates, utilize millions of SmarTrac Monza based inlays per year. The supply chain migrated to include several upstream vendors with factories in 5 US states, China, Mexico and Europe in 2016. Plans are in the works to continue into other areas of value within their production and supply chain operations.

Googling on mobile devices surpasses PCs in US for 1st time

John Lantz - Thursday, May 07, 2015

Googling on mobile devices surpasses PCs in US for 1st time

BY: MICHAEL LIEDTKE, AP Technology Writer for ECN Magazine

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Google's influential search engine has hit a tipping point in technology's shift to smartphones. More search requests are now being made on mobile devices than on personal computers in the U.S. and many other parts of the world.

The milestone announced at a digital advertising conference Tuesday serves as another reminder of how dramatically online behavior has changed since 2007. That's when Apple released the first iPhone, leading to a wave of similar devices that have made it easier for people to stay connected to the Internet wherever they go.

The upheaval has rocked PC makers and other tech companies such as Microsoft with businesses tied to sales of desktop and laptop computers. Google has been able to adapt better than most companies, partly because its search engine and other services are embedded in the popular Android mobile operating system, but it hasn't been totally unscathed.

Google's average ad prices have been declining for the past three-and-half years, partly because marketers so far have been unwilling to pay as much for the commercial message displayed on the smaller screens of smartphones. The company, though, says mobile ad prices have been steadily climbing and will continue to do so as marketers recognize the value of being able to connect with prospective customers at the precise moment that they are looking for someplace to eat, or comparing products on a smartphone while standing in a store.

"The future of mobile is now," says Jerry Dischler, a Google Inc. vice president in charge of the company's "AdWords" service for creating online marketing campaigns.

Besides in the U.S., Google's mobile search requests are outstripping requests in nine other countries. Japan is the only other country that Google is identifying.

The Mountain View, California, company isn't specifying just how many mobile search requests it is getting. Google processes more than 100 billion search requests worldwide each month, including queries on PCs.

As part of the mobile transition, Google last month overhauled its search-recommendation system to favor websites that are easier to read and load on smartphones. That change, known as "Mobilegeddon," prodded millions of websites to make changes to ensure they work well on smartphones to avoid being demoted in Google's search results.

Google also has been introducing advertising formats that tend to work better on mobile devices. For instance, rooms can now be booked within hotel ads, and car ads can now be swiped across a screen to make it easier to comparison shop.

In addition to announcing the milestone in mobile search, Google also introduced on Tuesday a service for comparing mortgage rates in the U.S. The mortgage product expands upon a similar service for auto insurance policies that Google unveiled in California in March. Google is adding three more states - Texas, Illinois and Pennsylvania - to the auto insurance service.


In this Dec. 10, 2013 file photo, a reporter uses his smartphone during a presentation for the new Google cultural institute in Paris. More Google search requests are now being made on mobile devices than personal computers in the U.S. and many other parts of the world. The milestone was announced at a digital advertising conference on Tuesday, May 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon, File)
In this Dec. 10, 2013 file photo, a reporter uses his smartphone during a presentation for the new Google cultural institute in Paris. More Google search requests are now being made on mobile devices than personal computers in the U.S. and many other parts of the world. The milestone was announced at a digital advertising conference on Tuesday, May 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon, File)
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Google's influential search engine has hit a tipping point in technology's shift to smartphones. More search requests are now being made on mobile devices than on personal computers in the U.S. and many other parts of the world.

The milestone announced at a digital advertising conference Tuesday serves as another reminder of how dramatically online behavior has changed since 2007. That's when Apple released the first iPhone, leading to a wave of similar devices that have made it easier for people to stay connected to the Internet wherever they go.

The upheaval has rocked PC makers and other tech companies such as Microsoft with businesses tied to sales of desktop and laptop computers. Google has been able to adapt better than most companies, partly because its search engine and other services are embedded in the popular Android mobile operating system, but it hasn't been totally unscathed.

Google's average ad prices have been declining for the past three-and-half years, partly because marketers so far have been unwilling to pay as much for the commercial message displayed on the smaller screens of smartphones. The company, though, says mobile ad prices have been steadily climbing and will continue to do so as marketers recognize the value of being able to connect with prospective customers at the precise moment that they are looking for someplace to eat, or comparing products on a smartphone while standing in a store.

"The future of mobile is now," says Jerry Dischler, a Google Inc. vice president in charge of the company's "AdWords" service for creating online marketing campaigns.

Besides in the U.S., Google's mobile search requests are outstripping requests in nine other countries. Japan is the only other country that Google is identifying.

The Mountain View, California, company isn't specifying just how many mobile search requests it is getting. Google processes more than 100 billion search requests worldwide each month, including queries on PCs.

As part of the mobile transition, Google last month overhauled its search-recommendation system to favor websites that are easier to read and load on smartphones. That change, known as "Mobilegeddon," prodded millions of websites to make changes to ensure they work well on smartphones to avoid being demoted in Google's search results.

Google also has been introducing advertising formats that tend to work better on mobile devices. For instance, rooms can now be booked within hotel ads, and car ads can now be swiped across a screen to make it easier to comparison shop.

In addition to announcing the milestone in mobile search, Google also introduced on Tuesday a service for comparing mortgage rates in the U.S. The mortgage product expands upon a similar service for auto insurance policies that Google unveiled in California in March. Google is adding three more states - Texas, Illinois and Pennsylvania - to the auto insurance service.