Advanced sensor technology and a passion for problem-solving combine to make Surgere an industry treasure
It all started at a kitchen table in North Canton, Ohio, as Bill Wappler and other packaging industry experts sought ways to reliably track assets and add desperately needed visibility to materials handling supply chains. That was in 2004. Surgere, the company Wappler founded, is now in its 15th year of innovating sensor-based asset technology, delivering advanced asset visibility, data analytics, and control through even the most complex supply chains.
Over time, the company’s focus shifted from packaging towards the complexities of the automotive industry, where they currently place the lion’s share of their market emphasis. Surgere’s pioneering solution delivers 99.98% accuracy, setting the highest standards for increasing productivity and cost controls while increasing supply chain visibility in the sector — or for that matter, in any industry.
“Our sensor-based science and proprietary software solve visibility issues along the supply chain. We are able to track small containers, large containers, individual parts, vehicles — anything in the supply chain from beginning to end that a supplier, OEM, or any kind of manufacturing operation would need to locate,” explained Surgere CTO Charles Dressler.
Surgere’s unsurpassed data accuracy sets them apart from other providers in the field. “It’s necessary to have that level of accuracy to be able to achieve the results that multiple industries require,” Dressler stressed. “Any levels lower than that only solve part of the problem. Knowing where assets are some of the time does not serve the purpose. That's a differentiation that has skyrocketed the interest other customers have in our technology.” As Wappler is fond of saying, Surgere is building a base of “raving fans.”
Surgere’s solutions are comprised of multiple products that work together to fulfill its mission of “solving global visibility.”
- Their proprietary cloud-based software, COS, uses RFID sensors to gather activity data, which is used to track returnable containers through each link of the supply chain.
- Initially created to track the location and movement of vehicles, Surgere’s HAWKEYE™ system now tracks finished outdoor assets in multiple industries using patented technology.
- The company remains planted in the packaging industry with its USPEC™ cloud-based packaging specification management and approval module that eliminates the manual work and redundancy associated with spec and approval management.
Putting a cap on capex spending is just the beginning
Tracking parts and components across multiple automotive OEMs and Tier 1 and 2 suppliers with shared containers has long been problematic. To alleviate these pain points, Surgere formed a community with multiple OEMs to share visibility in containers on the move. “The sharing of container information allows for return on investment in as little as six months, which has been very helpful in the ever-cost-conscious automotive industry,” Dressler added.
Front-loading the capital expenditures often required to invest in groundbreaking tech is one of the biggest hurdles for companies to leap, particularly in today’s automotive industry. Surgere’s Accelerate program gives customers access to their solutions without the burden of a capex spend.
The program covers all-in-one hardware, software, and engineering expertise for a monthly service fee, making it easier for companies to get a valuable head start on adoption.
“Our customers told us that money was an issue, so we solved it with the Accelerate program. We do the same thing on the technology side by developing strategic solutions.” Surgere recently started working with a waste management company to help them determine the fill level of their containers. Other technologies the company is working with include drones as well as techniques to gather temperature and humidity readings, as well as container orientation. “We pride ourselves on creating unique solutions that address our customer’s needs — based on our ability to listen and apply our technical expertise,” Dressler said.
Microsoft, in particular, took notice of Surgere’s ability to collect highly accurate data. Surgere solutions are built on Microsoft’s Azure platform to ensure scalability and reliability, and plans are in the works to integrate with Azure IoT Hub for bi-directional sensor communication.
That’s not a surprise, considering that Surgere has 20 million-plus RFID tags in circulation, an approach that increases productivity for their clients as much as 15%, with an average ROI of six months — all with no capital investment.
Welcome to AutoSphere
In a massive collaboration with the biggest names in the auto business — Honda, Toyota, Fiat Chrysler, Nissan, and GM — in 2017 Surgere launched its AutoSphere container management/reusable packaging program. AutoSphere employs a set of common processes and transactions and a shared database to provide unprecedented visibility across OEMs, suppliers, and logistics providers, collecting non-competitive data to track containers and associated components so they can be returned to their proper location. Loss control is a $3.2 billion automaker problem, so it’s easy to see why industry leaders were motivated to find a partner that could help them minimize it.
“Cost reduction opportunities include packaging and part loss mitigation, reduction of expedites, reduction in the use of corrugated packaging, increasing reusable packaging availability, granular part location, labor reduction, reduced production interruptions, and transportation optimization,” the company confirmed.
Sharing the same issue, 65% of the automotive industry decision makers have come together at Surgere’s kitchen table. AutoSphere represents an important inroad in cooperation amongst fierce competitors to improve overall industry performance. For Surgere, that’s what problem solving is all about — blending science and sensors with the ability to listen, create, and rise to any challenge.
Since 2004, Surgere has been reinventing how packaging assets influence profitability. While raising the bar on packaging supply chain standards, Surgere developed a wide variety of visibility and control technologies to increase data accuracy and manage assets (packaging, parts, tools, finished vehicles) moving through manufacturing, supply chain and logistics verticals. Transcending industries such as Automotive, Steel, Retail and Aerospace, Surgere strategically enhances OEM and Supplier abilities with cutting-edge technology, analytics and integration.
AutoSphere™, which includes representatives from Honda North America, Nissan North America, Toyota, Fiat Chrysler and General Motors, recently selected Surgere to provide the shared integration and analytics platform (COS™) for digitizing returnable containers, parts and their journey as they move through the automotive supply chain. This standard is a historic step toward fully realizing the benefits of Industry 4.0 and the Surgere AutoSphere™ is the first competitor-created community of a shared supply base. The digital future of logistics optimization has arrived.