On a crisp October morning, you pass through a tollbooth and merge onto I-190.  Almost immediately, familiar green signage of the interstate gives way to the blue wayfinders of O’Hare International Airport.  Slowing down as you drive over rumble strips on the roadway, you make your way to the main parking facility.  As you retrieve your parking ticket from the spitter, the gate opens smoothly, letting you into the covered garage.  From here, you will take an elevator, escalators, and walk through a series of clean, brightly-lit hallways to get to the terminal.  Boarding pass in hand, you’ll walk to your gate, guided by the lighted wayfinder signs, perhaps enjoying the beautiful morning view through the airport’s floor-to-ceiling windows.

Making this possible at O’Hare – one of the world’s busiest airports, handling over 200,000 passengers and over 2400 flights a day – is a small army of tradespeople: electricians, plumbers, technicians, and maintenance personnel, keeping in working order the airport’s parking gates, escalators, signage lights, and thousands of other hardware installations.  From its automated interterminal trains to bathroom faucets, tradespeople at O’Hare perform over a thousand work orders every week.  Keeping an inventory of specialized spare parts and materials for all this work is challenging and labor-intensive.  With pen and paper, inventory is time-consuming and up-to-the-minute accuracy impossible.

But lack of accuracy and real-time visibility carries its own costs: inaccurate records result in lost staff productivity searching for items that are misplaced – or gone.  If materials are unavailable, repairs are delayed, resulting in inconvenience to passengers and a bad impression on travelers.  Too much inventory, on the other hand, increases storage costs and restricts cash flow.

To help steer clear of this problem, O’Hare turned to Motorola and Azteca Systems, bringing real-time inventory management to its materials warehouse with the help of Motorola’s rugged handheld computers running INVision software from Miles Technologies, with Azteca’s Cityworks and Storeroom software on the back end.  Now, when a tradesperson comes to the materials warehouse, the Cityworks software knows what materials will be necessary to complete the task and ensures that they are available.  Using the warehouse’s Wi-Fi network, the picklist of necessary materials is sent to Motorola’s MC9090 handheld computer, where INVision software connects directly with Cityworks Storeroom.  As an item is picked, its bar code is scanned, instantly confirming the right selection and updating the warehouse inventory.  Every item can be traced to a specific work order and tradesperson, allowing real-time visibility and verification of material use – and reducing loss through shrinkage.

“Using Storeroom in a wireless environment makes inventory almost automatic,” says Kevin Faul, Manager of Warehouse Operations.  “Knowing that we won’t run short lets us keep smaller quantities on hand, freeing up cash.  Budgets have been cut back, so that really helps.”  Warehouse staff also like the new system, which reduces paperwork and complaints.

High-tech devices always face challenges in a warehouse environment: dust, humidity, and the occasional drop to a concrete floor.  Here, too, Motorola devices prove worthy.  Dust-tight and protected against water, the MC9090 can survive multiple falls to concrete from a height of six feet.

The integration of Motorola’s mobile technology with the power and versatility of Cityworks and Storeroom has allowed O’Hare Airport’s Maintenance and Operations crew to focus on the job, instead of worrying about inventory.  A traveler may never think twice about the well-lit hallways and smoothly operating amenities they see on their way through or the warehouse of materials required to keep them running.  But that’s just fine with Kevin Faul and his crew.

By Jeff Cegielski, CMMS Product Manager, and Anatoly Delm, Product Marketing Manager, Motorola