Ashley Furniture boosts productivity and efficiency with UST's IoT asset management platform
Founded in Anchorage in 1997 and now headquartered in Brandon, FL, Ashley Furniture is North America's largest home furniture retailer. With over 2,000 corporate-owned and franchised locations worldwide, the company employs approximately 4,000 people and generates $5 billion in revenue annually.
Needed open-source technologies to enhance and accelerate processes and productivity
The IT team at Ashley Furniture wanted to streamline processes and improve productivity in its manufacturing facilities and warehouses by implementing low-cost, open-source technologies.
Deployed innovative IoT platform to resolve specific pain points
UST helped the IT team at Ashley Furniture design and implement an Internet of Things (IoT) dashboard to manage assets proactively. The IoT dashboard enabled these innovative technologies and capabilities:
- 2D digital twins to maintain machinery-Since 3D models are expensive to purchase, UST recommended a less expensive option using alias SVG images to represent Ashley Furniture’s industrial assets. Using an SVG editor to customize the images, the IoT asset management platform automatically updates the digital twin images in real-time based on actual equipment data. This allows shop floor personnel to maintain physical machinery much more efficiently.
- Robotic arm to automate repetitive tasks-Controlled via a web page integrated into the IoT platform, the robotic arm picks and places objects, drives screws into position, and completes other recurring functions.
- Tiny cad customizations to identify hardware changes-UST customized open-source code using pixelmatch JS to automatically highlight shop floor schematic changes, enabling personnel to identify and execute hardware changes easily.
- ProGlove Android app integration to transmit inventory data-By integrating the ProGlove scanner glove with Helix SAP, users pair the glove with a tablet via Bluetooth or QR code, scan product labels, and automatically transfer data to the Helix platform. The warehouse employee receives instructions on the ProGlove scanner display window to manage the inventory.
- Warehouse navigation system to guide forklift drivers-The solution uses sensor fusion accelerometer technologies to automatically guide drivers of powered industrial vehicles (PIVs), such as forklifts, to racks to pick inventory items. Drivers receive turn-by-turn directions using text-to-speech functionality, and directional QR codes on the warehouse floor ensure PIVs follow the correct path. Once PIV operators arrive at the rack, they use the ProGlove Android app to confirm they are at the correct wrack and pick the right items.
- Smart locker application to manage movable devices-The client wanted a low-cost asset management solution that didn’t require wireless protocols to keep track of movable assets. UST recommended a smart locker solution using a custom printed circuit board (PCB) and RS-485 communications. By equipping the smart locker with a barcode reader, employees scan their ID badge and the asset barcode to check out and return assets, like a ProGlove scanner.
Improved processes and productivity help Ashley Furniture maintain its competitive edge
With a 4-year track record of successful UST projects, Ashley Furniture’s IT team resolved process and productivity points of friction in its manufacturing and warehouse facilities. The asset management IoT solutions have enabled the company to:
- Improve staff productivity-by automating manual production and inventory management tasks
- Proactively manage production equipment-to eliminate unexpected downtime and increase throughput
- Replace repetitive human tasks-with robotics solutions
- Increase the efficiency and accuracy of warehouse operations-with integrated solutions to locate, identify, and pick products for distribution
- Improve movable device asset management-with a streamlined process for employees to check out and return ProGlove scanners, tablets, and other small equipment