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Dematic logistics automation provide voice picking packing and conveying solution for Chain Reaction Cycles

When the world’s largest bike store wanted a voice picking solution to improve picking efficiency, it came to Dematic and got much more.

Dematic is supplying Chain Reaction Cycles, the World’s Largest Online Bike Store, with a solution for voice picking, packing and conveying as well as a tailored warehouse management system in a scheme that will deliver a 50% improvement in order picking efficiency.

Chain Reaction Cycles sells bicycles, spare parts and accessories online, direct to the customer. Recently the company also expanded into winter sports goods and now offers an amazing 84,000 different products from its 150,000 sq ft purpose-built facility in Ballyclare, just outside Belfast in Northern Ireland. Celebrating 25 years of business in 2010 this family-owned company became an online business 10 years ago and is currently experiencing a staggering 40% year on year growth.

Realising they needed to improve their picking process to accommodate this growth and being aware of the benefits that voice picking could deliver, CRC sought out voice solutions and providers at the Logistics Link North Show, held in Doncaster during October 2009. Seeing a voice system being demonstrated on Dematic’s stand they stopped and talked.

Dematic subsequently spent 3 days on site at CRC conducting a study and setting up a live demonstration to convey the concept to those on the CRC board less familiar with voice technology.

During the consultation process the focus was solely on voice picking together with a packing solution. However, Dematic’s concept differed from other companies bidding for the contract and caught CRC’s interest, as Stuart Stables, Head of Dematic’s Product Division, explains:

"We were able to identify issues with CRC’s in-house developed ERP system that, like other ERP systems, is built around general business processes and lacks the specialist warehouse capabilities of Dematic’s own Warehouse Management System (WMS), which we could tailor to suit CRC’s particular requirements. Competitive bidders could only offer proprietary software that could not compete on specification."

Dematic won the contract but now it was no longer for just voice picking and a
packing system but also Dematic’s full WMS to cover all warehousing aspects for CRC including goods receipts, putaway, replenishment, pick and pack, stock counting, cycle counting and kitting, where CRC build bicycle wheels according to customer requests.

While working closely with CRC during the development of the WMS, Dematic identified significant possible improvements from feeding orders to the packing area on an automated conveyor system. Packing cartons will be erected automatically and fed to packers while conveyors transport picked orders from the zones directly to the packers to reduce walking distance for the pickers. CRC liked it and signed the contract for this further solution.

With a tight timeline for its deployment Dematic split the scheme into two phases. Phase 1 comprises the voice pick system, which includes 35 Vocollect Talkman terminals, and the packing and dispatch system, which features 20 packing terminals. Each packing station comprises Dematic’s touch screen, barcode scanners and label and document printers for each packing station. CRC has just gone live with Phase 1 and is currently ramping up throughput into full flow.

Phase 2 involves the deployment of the full WMS, including the goods in, stock management and the replenishment modules and features handheld Radio Data Terminals (RDTs) for goods receiving and directed putaway. This phase will be completed later this year after the packing conveyors have been installed.

Dematic’s scheme will give CRC realtime management information at its fingertips, with full visibility of all items and order status. It will also deliver an overall picking efficiency improvement of up to 50%.

This is thanks to orders being split into single-line and multi-line type, following Dematic’s review of CRC’s picking operations, and the voice technology prompting users around the warehouse. Stuart Stables, Head of Product Solutions at Dematic said: "The simple, intuitive voice system helps speed operations as it only tells pickers the location, the item to pick and then to confirm they have the right item. Together with its multilingual ability, this simplicity also makes it easy to get people up to speed, picking quickly. Furthermore the system will provide CRC’s management with constant monitoring and accurate information about true picking performance."

Barry Dunn, Operations Manager at CRC explains, "As we have come to realise the potential of our own supply chain for gaining competitive advantage, I was charged with the responsibility of speeding the flow of goods through the warehouse in an efficient a way as possible. Maintaining inventories at optimum levels and raising customer service performance have become key priorities. But keeping the customer satisfied requires a fast and efficient service with the right product being delivered, in perfect condition, on time. Our warehouse can no longer afford to be regarded as a dusty building for holding stock, it now has to perform productively so that goods are received, processed and dispatched with the minimum of errors. Mistakes that occur in picking are costly, both in terms of pickup/delivery costs and repackaging, as well as through penalties that come from customer dissatisfaction and loss of business."

"After lots of research into various picking technologies, case studies, site visits and sales pitches we decided with a lot of help from Dematic to deploy voice picking to our warehouse operation, allowing picking staff to listen and respond to instructions through a headset and leaving their hands free to pick efficiently. Pickers in the warehouses can receive voice instructions, ask questions and report back without having to carry paper with them or to keep returning to a picking desk. They do not have to un-holster and operate a device with a keyboard whilst looking at the display; they can keep their eyes on what they are doing at all times. Dematic’s approach to help us improve our picking and packing operation was very refreshing. Having sat through lots of sales pitches from various companies offering varied solutions it was great when Stuart and Gabriel arrived with the voice hardware in a suitcase and a very practical approach to finding what suited our business needs best. I’m looking forward to the next phase of implementation and believe with the help and support of Dematic we will continue to be not only the biggest but the best online cycle superstore in the world."

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