CJ Lang & Son, the retailing and distribution company, serves over 45 per cent of Scotland’s independent market from its dedicated RDC in Dundee. The site operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week and stocks 6,500 lines of ambient, frozen and chilled goods across its three warehouses. The ambient warehouse, alone, employs 100 workers to handle over 130 deliveries a day to retailers.
In August 2002, Lang decided to go ahead with the implementation of BCP’s Accord, voice warehouse management system to control all aspects of operation in its RDC. BCP’s voice directed WMS, including the specialist voice tasks, uses Vocollect Voice.
BCP initially conducted a trial of the system in a pilot area within the warehouse which allowed it to show how, by using voice, the WMS could be updated in real time, providing full visibility and an accurate audit trail into all aspects of warehouse operations. It also demonstrated to Lang the increases in speed and accuracy that could be achieved. Once the pilot was completed, the project was implemented in phases, starting with the installation of a Symbol Technology Spread Spectrum 24 RF network as the cornerstone for the voice system.
The next step was to introduce voice functionality into goods receiving. This enabled workers to receive instructions by voice and then enter the data directly onto the Accord WMS using a combination of barcode scanning and voice verification.
As voice is used to check all aspects of the delivery from quantity to batch number, any discrepancies are identified and addressed immediately rather than filtering into the warehouse to be resolved later on. This ensures the data on the system is accurate from the start.
The next voice module Lang installed was put-away. The voice distribution system instructs the forklift truck drivers of the location in the warehouse where the goods need to go, and the drivers then verbally confirm the delivery.
Once the put-away phase was up and running, voice recognition functionality was introduced into order picking.
The system is designed so that the workers are directed by voice to the location in the warehouse where a product needs to be picked and told the quantity for selection. One of the benefits of voice is that its real time interaction means that pick faces can be replenished as soon as they drop below a minimum level – the system automatically generates instructions to the forklift truck drivers to get a full pallet from bulk storage when this predetermined level is reached.
The final phase of the project was to voice-enable perpetual inventory.
The biggest benefit has come from improved picking accuracy. Since implementing voice picking, errors have been virtually eradicated and Lang has been able to achieve accuracy levels of 99.99 per cent. In addition, overall, picking rates are up by around 10 per cent with some pickers consistently exceeding that figure.”