Voice-controlled picking halves errors

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Picking errors have been cut by 50% at Whitbread Supply Chain’s depot in Reading following the introduction of wireless voice-controlled order picking and radio data terminals operating with warehouse management systems from Chess Logistics Technology. Whitbread says it has also reduced costs significantly, eliminated vast amounts of paper from the picking process and improved allocation of resources.

The solution implemented by Chess uses its Empirica Task-RF software to provide an interface between the new wireless facilities and an upgraded version of the WMS system it supplied to Whitbread in the 1990s.

Jonathan Friedlander, operations support manager at Whitbread Supply Chain, says: “We have reduced errors by half. This has resulted in improved service to customers because fewer items are lost or delivered erroneously. We have also moved to real-time operations so we know exactly where we are, have an instant view of productivity, and can manage and allocate tasks more effectively.”

Whitbread Supply Chain’s in-house logistics operation distributes food items to Whitbread Group brands including TGI Friday’s, Beefeater, Brewers Fayre, Brewsters, Marriott Hotels, Travel Inn and Costa Coffee. It serves more than 1,800 outlets from multi-temperature depots in Reading and Salford. More than 24 million chilled, frozen, ambient and fresh food items drawn from 4,000 lines are delivered each year.

Chess devised a proposal based around its Empirica Task-RF software with provision for 45 wireless Vocollect voice kits plus ten hand-held and eight truck-mounted RDTs from Psion-Teklogix. All equipment is ‘freezer spec’ so that it can be used anywhere in the depot.

“RDTs are better for managing pallets and receipts because they can handle more information simultaneously,” says Friedlander. “Using them for incoming items guarantees the accuracy required to get the most out of voice picking. But they do not leave your hands free so voice is a better option for picking.”

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