Cheese Maker Boosts Warehouse Accuracy by Double Digits With Voice System

By Jessica Binns, Contributing Editor — May 31, 2012

Vocollect, a business unit of Intermec, Inc. and a provider of voice-centric solutions for mobile workers, says Irish-based International Total Solution Partner Heavey RF Group has delivered double-digit productivity gains and accuracy improvements with a voice solution for customer Glanbia plc, an international nutritional solutions and cheese group. The solution uses Vocollect Voice not only for picking, but wall-to-wall across Glanbia's facilities for receiving, replenishment, cycle-counting and loading workflows.

"From the beginning of the analysis and development phases of this project, Heavey RF was able to collaborate with Glanbia in such a way that led to the discovery of their particular needs and creation of specialized solutions, ultimately resulting in streamlined processes and significant ROI across the board"

Using voice as a multi-workflow solution has addressed many key business challenges for Glanbia. Credit claims have been reduced by 45 percent, reducing costs and improving service levels to Glanbia's customers.

Established in 1997 from the merger of two of Ireland's leading publicly traded dairy food companies, Avonmore Foods and Waterford Foods plc, Glanbia plc is an international nutritional solutions and cheese group with over 4,300 employees in 14 countries. Headquartered in Kilkenny, Ireland, the company is organized into four segments: US Cheese and Global Nutritionals, Dairy Ireland, Joint Ventures & Associates, and Other Business.

Several years ago, Glanbia's distribution operation decided to undertake a major review of its processes and costs. Glanbia quickly recognized that its manual paper method for processing orders was creating challenges in verifying credit claims, reducing stock losses and improving overall accuracy.

The need to improve operational efficiencies and address these business challenges drove Glanbia's decision to implement more advanced technology in its warehouse and to automate distribution workflows with voice.

Working closely with Glanbia from initial concept through installation, rollout and support, the Heavey RF Group provided a complete voice-enabled solution that addressed the different tasks carried out at the four facilities, including manufacturing and distribution. The result was one streamlined solution that addresses the requirements of all of the processes including receiving, replenishment, picking, transfers and loading. The solution is also easily expandable to encompass other workflow processes such as stock-checking and cycle-counting.

Major process improvements through voice

Before the deployment of Vocollect Voice by Heavey RF, the company was challenged with spending significant time proving orders arrived correctly at the warehouse. Using voice, warehouse workers speak the carrier numbers on the incoming load into the headset and the voice system directs them to the area where the goods should be stored. Additionally, at the point of receiving the goods the worker can change the storage location as required.

Voice is also used for the truck-loading and loading-out processes for independent agents. The hands-free/eyes-free nature of the voice system allows workers to keep the trolleys moving to the right areas without pausing to check screens or push buttons. Employees log on to the loading function with voice and are directed to the loading area, asked for the delivery docket number, and then confirm the number back to the system.

Before the voice rollout, one Glanbia warehouse was limited to processing 160 cases per hour. By using voice throughout the warehouse, Glanbia now runs a balanced system where selection speeds match the speed of the outbound loading operation. A continuous flow of goods now moves through the warehouse, which has improved its output from 160 cases originally to 260 cases per hour today. Picking productivity improvements have ranged from 60 percent in one facility to 95 percent in another, and accuracy has improved by 75 percent.

Prior to the implementation of voice, Glanbia workers were faced with spending significant time looking for the right form or walking back and forth to the office simply to pick up the next order. Now they enjoy a streamlined workflow that keeps them and the products they are responsible for flowing efficiently.

Another area of improvement is in worker flexibility. With paper, most workers could only perform one warehouse function, making it challenging to support peak periods. With the ability to interleave tasks through voice, today there is rarely any workflow downtime. Also, to cope with seasonality in the business, workers can work across multiple warehouses.

"Beyond the considerable bottom-line impact of improved labor management and better work processes with Vocollect Voice, the greatest benefit from the Heavey RF voice solution has been increased credibility with customers. Today we can quickly produce records of a customer's order content and processing history whenever a question arises. Our customers know that orders will arrive accurately and on a timely basis. I can't imagine where we would be today without voice," said John Mee, supply chain manager, Glanbia plc.

"From the beginning of the analysis and development phases of this project, Heavey RF was able to collaborate with Glanbia in such a way that led to the discovery of their particular needs and creation of specialized solutions, ultimately resulting in streamlined processes and significant ROI across the board," said Ronan Clinton, chief executive of Heavey RF Group.

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