Fast food gets even faster

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Keystone Distribution UK has bumped up picking productivity at its new Hemel Hempstead depot by 15 per cent since bringing in a voice picking system from Zetes.

The company, whose former Hemel Hempstead depot was destroyed by fire after the 2005 Buncefield fuel depot disaster, wanted to ensure its new site was automated and equipped with technology that could help it deal with the increasing supply chain demands of its principal customer – MacDonalds.

Keystone manages the incoming supply, storage and outward transport of product lines – from ketchup and fries to napkins and party bags – sourced from its suppliers. It must ensure that all suppliers deliver on time according to demand forecasts and then manage the picking and distribution of stock replenishments into MacDonald’s 1,200 UK outlets.

Based on Vocollect technology, the voice picking system implemented by Zetes integrates into its existing Manhattan Associates warehouse management system. Keystone also implemented an RF infrastructure within the facility to give its warehouse operators real-time access to stock information, improving inventory management.

Voice-directed working has replaced traditional picking lists, with warehouse operators receiving spoken instructions in their native language about what items to pick. Voice systems are both hands and eyes-free, which helps improve user dexterity and efficiency and reduce health and safety issues. 

The system has helped the company improve accuracy; ensuring unnecessary or incorrect deliveries are reduced and enabling the MacDonalds outlets to operate based on just-in-time stock management principles. 

Simon Savage, logistics development manager, Keystone, says: “Voice technology gives us much greater control over our performance and has delivered an immediate return on investment. We now also have much better traceability because Zetes has integrated the voice system directly into our WMS and better pick and stock accuracy.”

In addition, voice directed working has improved resource management. “Because picking rates are so much faster we can manage entirely with our core, permanent workforce which reduces overheads and error rates,” says Savage.

The system implemented by  Zetes is based on Vocollect VoiceDirect application software and 85 Vocollect T5 Talkman devices integrated with the WMS.

Keystone’s chilled foods area within the Hemel depot went live in October 2008, shortly followed by the frozen section in November of the same year. The remaining ambient areas went live with voice in February 2009.



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