Improve inventory traceability in real time

Photo of Jean-François Dufresne
Written by

Jean-François Dufresne


13 July 2023

Case study with Preverco

PREVERCO is a Quebec-based manufacturer of high-end parquet flooring. CEO Jean-François Dufresne explains how automated inventory management greatly improved the company’s inventory traceability in real time.

Case study: PREVERCO, Canada, Québec


Just having reliable inventory is no longer enough

We were already very good, but we wanted to be even better

We had an accounting system that managed orders and our finished goods inventory in dollars only, as well as a multitude of Excel files by product and batch. The quality of the information was very good, but the update time was way too long. We were always systematically 24 hours behind where we actually were in real time.

There are a number of stages in the production of PREVERCO flooring. Stages are generally carried out one a time at the rate of one per day. So, in most cases, a 24-hour delay wasn’t really a problem. Now sometimes, of course, there are rush or special orders that we need to get out more quickly and this changes the production timing of the stages and this can create some strange situations. On the production side, for example, the inventory will indicate that we’re behind schedule or that production is only at Stage 1, when in fact, the finished product is already loaded on the truck and being shipped. All because the four production stages were completed on the same day. The inventory hadn’t kept pace...

We needed to improve how we anticipated customer needs

It was also very complicated when it came to anticipating volume deviations in the event of quality problems, wood downgrades, or machine breakdowns. An order for 10,000 square feet could get reduced to 9200 square feet during production without even being noticed before shipment. Suddenly we had to deal with the last-minute stress of not being able to fulfill an order. 

Shipments are very often just-in-time because customers only want them when they begin scheduled work on a site. If they don’t get their product in the quantities and qualities expected, we put them in a bad situation. Our capacity to deliver on time is absolutely critical. We must know at every stage of production if we are on target, and if not, we need to be able to adapt, first by notifying the customer, and then by modifying production.

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EFFECTO OnSite serialized inventory management has prevented 95% of the problems we were having in this area and greatly improved communications between departments in the plant and with our customers.

We keep it simple for our operators

RFID is everywhere

Serialized inventory involves affixing labels to every batch, at every stage of processing, to ensure traceability. EFFECTO provides two options: RFID tags or barcodes on labels. We chose RFID to make it easier since barcodes need to be scanned. Batch material consumption is now a piece of cake. Simply drop the label in specially designed trash bins, and the transaction is automatically inventoried. No muss. No fuss.

We do a quick check at the end of the day. We display a report of the labels consumed and compare them with the number of labels in the connected trash bins. We can take immediate action if there’s any discrepancy.

RFID is also very useful for tracking and automating transactions. In fact, we have portals in the plant that detect all batch movements. If a batch goes from Plant A to Plant B, the inventory is adjusted automatically without any human intervention. That eliminates a lot of manual steps.

Taking inventory is superfast

We’ve already deployed Phase 1. We simply enter the warehouse with an RFID-sensor-equipped beam and take inventory automatically. The system records every batch it detects. This saves an enormous amount of time when it comes to annual stock-taking.

Locating batches in the plant

In addition to automatic inventory management thanks to our smart trash bins and portals, we wanted to improve our ability in locating exactly where batches are in the plant. Our RFID-sensor-equipped beam makes it easy to locate any batches we’re looking for in the warehouse. In Phase 2, our goal is to be able to geolocate them to get the information needed for the EFFECTO OnSite system without having to leave the office.

gate with RFID sensor and tag with RFID chip

Key points from our project

The technology was adapted to suit our setup

PREVERCO, has an extensive line of different finished products and the IT system had to be adaptable so it could take them all into account. It also had to have the flexibility to manage a multi-site plant and interface with our financial and inventory valuation system.

We’re currently using EFFECTO OnSite for inventory management from purchasing to unfinished (unvarnished) products, including production planning. All information is automatically transferred to our accounting system in real time. In the months ahead, we plan on also integrating orders and invoicing into EFFECTO OnSite.

Our initial investment

We invested heavily in installing RFID, not only in sensors and smart trash bins, but also in the procurement of consumables (with chip-equipped labels). It’s well worth it, since the system not only provides excellent internal service between departments, but it also enables better planning and improves our customer service.

Evolving with our business needs

Before we managed all our business the old way. Now we have a superb system handling our inventory at the batch level. What this means is that in the event of a discrepancy, we need to know which batch is the problem. While the traceability is totally reliable, correcting errors is more complicated. It’s not just a matter of discovering that you have X square feet instead of the Y square feet anticipated. To generate reliable data at the end of the chain, you must have reliable data at the input in all stages of the production process.

What I recommend 

For anyone thinking of embarking on an inventory automation project, it’s important to keep in mind that even though it is technology, it’s not going to happen by itself. You have to be aware of the effort you must make to get the project going in the right direction. Identify the person or persons who will have the time to collect, evaluate, and provide the information that the supplier with you during the installation process will need to succeed.

About the author: After graduating from McGill University, Jean-François Dufresne began his career at Accenture, where he worked for eleven years. He joined Preverco twenty years ago as general manager of the Boisbriand plant, becoming managing director of the Preverco Group in 2010 and CEO in 2016.

About PREVERCO : For over thirty-five years, Preverco has been one of North America’s leading manufacturers of engineered hardwood flooring. Based in Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures, near Quebec City, the company operates three plants in the southwest of the province. Preverco products are sold mainly in Canada, the US, and Mexico.

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