Surgere provides end-to-end supply chain visibility to clients through AutoSphere.

By Alan Dorich, Senior Editor at Knighthouse Publishing

If there is a single problem that is common across the supply chains of various industries, it is visibility. Companies need the ability to track where their goods and materials are. Green, Ohio-based Surgere gives its customers that knowledge, Dana McBrien says.

“Ultimately, Surgere specializes in solving visibility issues, which in return reduces costs and increases productivity,” he explains. “Also, it’s about the collection of data that eventually helps make decisions related to the movement of goods.”Surgere info box

McBrien serves as the guiding architect for AutoSphere, a massive automotive based community formed by Surgere, which leverages multiple forms of sensor-based technology to collect data for its clients. The data is then used to solve visibility issues and transmitted to Surgere’s proprietary cloud network, where it is analyzed and used to optimize its clients’ supply chains. The true value lies in the community approach.

For example, its flagship product, COS, tracks returnable containers by leveraging hardware – such as portals and handhelds – throughout a facility to track RFID tags on them. Surgere’s applications also include AERIS, which is used to track trucks, and HAWKEYE, which is used for finished vehicles.

McBrien notes that the company’s technology can be applied to nearly any industry. “Regardless of the storage solution or what you are tracking, the Surgere solution can be expanded to fit each use case,” he says.

Surgere’s primary application is focused on returnable containers. However, “We are integrated into other parts of the supply chain and intend to continue to develop future applications that align with our clients’ strategic goals,” McBrien says.

A Seasoned Veteran

McBrien carries more than 30 years of practical experience in the supply chain, which has included various roles in purchasing and logistics. These have provided him with a deep view “into virtually all aspects of supply chain,” he says.

“Being a part of and leading the development of supply chain solutions and processes in response to growing business complexity was the best experience possible,” he says, noting that he recently served as the associate chief advisor for Honda of America (HoA).

McBrien was able to help HoA with blind spots in its supply chain, which is a common problem among large automotive OEMs.

“All OEMs have worked hard to close these gaps but all still struggle in their own ways … especially when it comes to returnable containers,” he says.

Today, at Surgere, he serves as one of its main change agents. “My current role is to apply that knowledge to expand the use of the base data being created and the returnable container best practices into the rest of the supply chain,” he says.

A Common Goal

Surgere serves as the technology hub for AutoSphere, a community program of automotive OEMs and suppliers who use processes and data transactions to effectively manage their packaging and parts supply chain transactions. In 2017, Surgere, five OEMs and a group of suppliers and logistics providers partnered to create the method for managing the location and distribution of reusable packaging and parts.

Today, AutoSphere uses a common set of processes and transactions with a singular shared database to provide visibility and control to over 1,550 automotive manufacturing sites. “Our customers rely on us to be efficient, precise and trustworthy,” Surgere CEO Bill Wappler says.

“That trust is what makes AutoSphere possible,” he continues. “By having an open dialogue with competitors around supply chain challenges and innovation, the company – and ultimately, the consumer – wins.”

McBrien adds that the community aspect makes AutoSphere successful. “We can’t stress it enough,” he says, adding that membership benefits of the program include R&D, access to experts and of course, the ability to track your assets as they move through your locations and suppliers.

“What has been established is a solid platform for data collection involving parts and containers,” he says, noting that it has helped create common practices among the common suppliers. “It is also a platform which the tier-one suppliers can easily adopt to manage their supply chain and become more efficient suppliers.”

The Next Steps

The AutoSphere community is enjoying rapid growth. This year, more than 1,551 tier-one suppliers and a number of tier-two suppliers are set to deploy the application. Next year, that number is expected to triple while adding more OEMs and tier-one suppliers who are beginning to deploy to tier-twos.

But Surgere plans to solve more issues for its clients through AutoSphere. “The next application I see for AutoSphere is to address the visibility desires of OEMs, using the part-to-container and container-to-trip assignments spelled out in the established best practices,” McBrien predicts.

“Ultimately, Surgere will provide clients with end-to-end supply chain visibility,” he continues, adding that new areas for AutoSphere could include transportation and yard management as well as quality systems.

“If all OEMs we are currently in negotiation with come on board, our projected growth is six OEMs and over 7,000-plus tier-one suppliers by 2024,” he says. “Surgere will be integrated throughout the supply chain, providing for complete visibility.”