Voice system quadruples pick rate for music distributor

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Faber Music Distribution – one of Europe’s largest music distributors and a subsidiary of music publisher Faber Music Ltd – has implemented a voice picking system from Zetes at its Essex-based distribution centre, to help it deal with the 46,000 order lines it handles each month.

The company, which stocks more than 100,000 titles, each with its own unique SKU, and ships more than 3,500 orders for sheet music and related products, needed to find ways to cut costs and boost efficiency in its distribution centre. The fact that voice picking can offer a short-term return on investment, reduce pick times by at least 25 per cent, while slashing picking errors, made it a no-brainer for Faber.

The system is the final stage of a warehouse management system, provided by Solarsoft Business Systems, which included installing a wireless network, handheld terminals and truck-mounted terminals within the distribution centre. 

After its eight pickers had used the voice system for one week, Faber saw an instant increase in picking rates compared with its previous paper-based system. A single picker can now complete up to 200 order lines per hour compared to a previous average of 50 to 70 order lines per hour. Pickers can also simultaneously pick ten orders at a time as a result of a multi pick solution, helping boost productivity further.

John Hepworth, managing director of Faber Music Distribution, says: “The new voice system has had to be very flexible to make our rather complex business work, with orders being split into three parts: general stock orders; bulk picking; and archive items, which are manufactured on demand. But after careful design, implementation and testing, the system really works well for us.

“The other important issue in the current climate is efficiency and switching to voice is even more significant, helping us to create a leaner machine. It means we can get orders out to customers more quickly, ship stock faster into stores and be in a position to take re-orders more quickly too. Looking ahead, the voice system will also make the warehouse more efficient, enabling us to reduce overtime costs during the year and operate a more flexible workforce to meet our busiest trading periods.”
The picking system has proved popular with Faber’s employees, and has been customised to identify order lines according to their format – “copy” for printed music, “CD”, “DVD” or “Set” for music sets and orchestral scores.

The system also switches from descriptive identifiers, such as the abbreviated title for the majority of mainstream and English language publications to item number identifiers, used for foreign language publications and more obscure, international composers. 

Faber is using Vocollect Talkman wireless headset and belt pack devices with the 3iV voice recognition software supplied by Zetes. The system is integrated directly into Solarsoft’s integrated ERP and warehouse management system.

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