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If you’ve received a product from RLE, it’s been hand packed by Josh Perry.  Josh is our Production Lead.  He orders, schedules, builds, packs, and ships.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Josh is a coordinator, facilitator, and often times a ringmaster in our crazy circus.  Thank goodness we have Josh to keep our manufacturing operations running smoothly and our customers happy!


Data center and facility monitoring equipment aren’t “traditional” holiday gifts. Even so, do you see an increase in orders throughout the holiday season?

Yes!  The end of the year is usually very busy.  As a matter of fact, November 2016 was one of our busiest months ever.  Production was maxed out, and we had so many shipping pickups.

We know it’s important for customers to receive their orders quickly.  We want to get your product to you every bit as much as you want to receive it.  We’re very mindful of holiday shipping schedules.  We have great relationships with our shipping partners.  While we never hear anyone say there’s not room on a truck this time of year for our shipping pickup, we are mindful that shipping may take longer simply because the trucks make more stops during their daily delivery routes this time of year.  Lead times may extend because of the extra pressure that’s added to the shipping system this time of year.


What time of year is the busiest for shipping and inventory management at RLE Technologies?

The end of the year is definitely our busiest time.  As far as orders go, we see people who are now able to spend the remainder of their yearly budgets which causes an uptick in sales.

As far as inventory goes, I’m prepping for our annual audit. We tighten up our inventory in preparation for the audit, and since our annual audit happens right after the first of the year, inventory numbers get tighter at the end of the year.


What steps do you take during these busy periods to help ensure that orders remain filled in a timely fashion?

There are a lot of things we do within our manufacturing framework to ensure our customers do not see an interruption in product delivery during the busier times of the year.

I pay very close attention to inventory control, and leverage our ERP system and Smartsheets for planning.  This involves frequent communication with sales to track outstanding quotes and pending sales.  Production planning and sales forecasting are crucial. If I have a clear view of what’s coming in, I can ensure we have the right materials and components on hand to fulfill incoming orders.  When inventory gets tighter and orders spike, clear communication between manufacturing and sales is critical.

I also have flexibility to rework our headcount in manufacturing.  Our products are made in the USA, and they are all either built or assembled in our Fort Collins, CO manufacturing facility.  This means each product that goes out the door has a set number of manhours attached to it.  If our schedule of manhours for the week is greater than the amount of employees we have on hand in manufacturing, I can pull employees from other departments to help fulfill orders.  We’ve focused on cross training over the past several years, and that gives us the flexibility to switch roles to meet our production schedules.  Our sales staff and front office staff are also happy to help whenever we ask.


Have you seen different trends in the use of monitoring technology that have affected how you manage the orders at RLE?

In the past year, we’ve had multiple customers OEM our F200 monitoring system. Each OEM version we manufacture requires us to stock more parts. We review our historical usage of these parts along with forecasting to determine what levels of inventory we should carry.


How often do inventory discrepancies arise and how do you reconcile them?

We have 97%-98% inventory accuracy. Most of the discrepancies we see are in consumable items – things like pems, screws, terminal blocks. We use a weekly cycle count to compare our actual physical count to inventory numbers and then make any necessary reconciliations. We work to determine the root cause of any discrepancies and create an action plan to tackle the problem. This plan usually consists of corrective actions or necessary changes in process. Our discrepancies are usually transactional in nature – like someone forgot to do an assembly build. So resolution is usually quick.


As 2016 is starting to come to an end, how do you begin to plan and forecast inventory for the next year?

We’ll work with sales to determine any product sales and stocking increases, so we can adjust our ERP and build parts accordingly. This is a continuous process, though, not just something we do once a year. If you try to do this only at the end of the year, your inventory isn’t agile enough to cater to the natural trends of your business. At the very least, you need to do this once a quarter. But ideally, your sales and manufacturing departments will stay in close contact like ours do, so your weekly and monthly forecasting is accurate.

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