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Going digital helped mailbox maker supersize its product

Eric Dynowski
By Eric Dynowski Chief Technology Officer, ServerCentral Turing Group

Cloud technology presents manufacturers with opportunities to improve the flexibility, scalability and efficiency of their operations. Realizing these benefits will require more than simply doing a one-to-one transfer of current technology to cloud-based servers.

Here’s how Florence Corp. took advantage of the digital transformation the cloud offers by embracing technology and training employees, thus preparing for larger industry shifts.

Florence built its name on manufacturing metal mailboxes. With the rise of online shipping, the firm developed a locker system for package delivery in large residential buildings. That system required more than just welding and bending sheet metal: To track packages and send customers access codes to get to their deliveries, Florence had to have software and fully integrated systems.

Because software development wasn’t among its strengths, Florence found a partner to help with the software’s creation, and the system worked well—until Florence saw an opportunity to grow.

Retailers, colleges and corporations came to Florence asking for a version of its delivery lockers. Serving these customers, however, would present two problems for Florence’s existing solution:

  1. In its current state, it couldn’t easily be integrated with the other systems these new customers would want to tie into the lockers (bar codes and order management in retail and student management at universities, for example), and
  2. Updating the software was a manual process for each unit. If Florence significantly expanded its footprint, it would have to find a way to introduce more automation.

Both of those could be solved by turning to the cloud, which operates on principles of automation first, scriptability and repeatability.

Florence turned to ServerCentral Turing Group for help. We helped the firm rewrite the software that managed the actual delivery lockers so that it could better integrate with other systems and develop a system that would let the firm manage its locker software automatically.

With the new software, Florence can run scripts to configure, set up and provision its systems automatically.

One feature of the new software is the ability for users to share a screen with a Florence employee if they’re having trouble. This highlights the second component manufacturers must consider as they incorporate cloud technology into their operations: training employees to handle new or altered tasks.

Manufacturing processes had to change. Florence opted to apply the cloud-based principle of automation to its factory processes—using the DevOps mindset and methodology to transform their thinking and operations. Now, when a customer order is submitted, a barcode, stickers and configuration parameters are generated automatically and associated with the customer’s information so that service is streamlined throughout the life of the product.
Further, the company’s various systems now communicate. So if the inventory system shows too little sheet metal based on current order volume, it can send an alert to accounts payable to order more.

Florence’s digital transformation shows that the cloud is here. More important, though, is that the capabilities the cloud brings are truly transforming the manufacturing space.

Consider Tesla’s goal of producing 5,000 cars a week via a fully automated factory. While the firm didn’t meet the goal in its proposed timeframe, the moonshot idea illuminates the industry’s direction. As cloud-based tech enables the automation of factory-floor tasks, software updates and intra-factory communication, manufacturers will become more efficient.

People are still necessary to manufacturing processes. But cloud-based tech can make them more productive. That increased productivity will have a ripple effect on the economy as retailers expect more just-in-time product delivery and increased price competition.

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