Volume 11, Number 16 -- May 3, 2011

Kubota Turns Retail Scanner Into Parts Kiosk

Published: May 3, 2011

by Alex Woodie

The folks at Motorola Solutions device that retailers commonly use as a price scanner store into a fixed kiosk-based scanner that plays a key role in the tractor company's Kanban inventory control system.

Since IMCORP installed the RF system at Kubota's U.S. manufacturing facility in northern Georgia year ago, the vendor had a lot of familiarity with Kubota's technology and processes, which includes IBM i applications and servers. So when Kubota began inquiring as to a solution that could streamline the restocking procedures for small parts and miscellaneous hardware, the vendor was well-prepared to suggest a solution.

Previously, when supplies of small or miscellaneous parts got low, Kubota workers would scan a Kanban card that triggered a reorder, as part of the manufacturer's just-in-time inventory system. However, the system was not ideal, because it relied on mobile or tethered scanners that were easy to misplace, the vendor said in a press announcement last week. Instead, the company wanted a fixed device that that would allow the workers to walk up to the device to scan Kanban cards.

IMCORP recommended that the company look at the Motorola MK590 Micro Kiosk, which is typically used in retail settings for tasks like verifying prices, looking up inventory, and checking gift card balances. IMCORP, which worked with Motorola Solutions reseller BlueStar on the implementation, says the MK590 was a great option because "it's affordable and compact enough to be mounted just about anywhere." It's also flexible enough to handle all types of scanning, and connects to wireless and wired LANs.

What's more, the fact that the MK590 could communicate with Kubota's IBM i applications through the Wavelink TN5250 emulator meant that Kubota's IBM i developers could use their existing skills to write a new program in support of the new restocking procedure.

Initial feedback from Kubota has been positive, IMCORP owner Bob Lehman says. "They had a need, and based on what we know of their environment, we took a product that is typically used as a price checker and turned it into a fixed-mount scanner for doing barcode lookups in a Kanban system," Lehman says. "We verified the functionality of the system in our labs and then delivered a product that allowed Kubota to build a customized solution at a lower cost and in a shorter timeframe."

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