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Dematic supply and install pick to voice system to J D Williams & Company transport and warehousing division

J D Williams & Company Limited has awarded Dematic, a global leading provider of an impressive range of intelligent logistics and materials handling solutions, with a major contract to supply and install a pick to voice system. Comprising 80 voice terminals for pickers, the system will significantly improve pick accuracy at the UK’s leading direct home shopping company.

Operating over 20 successful catalogue brands, J D Williams’ catalogues offers a huge selection of clothing and other products for all ages and sizes and the company specialises in larger size womenswear.

The company’s transport and warehousing division, Fulfilment Logistics, operates two main sites at Shaw, near Oldham, and at Hadfield, near Glossop in Derbyshire. Occupying over 1.5million sq ft and employing over 1,000 people, these warehouses are the centre of its global supply chain and fulfilment operations.

The voice system Dematic is to install at Shaw will, as results from a trial have already demonstrated, significantly improve pick accuracy – a key advantage in a business where it’s critical that customers receive the correct goods.

The Shaw facility occupies 500,000 sq ft across two buildings – both mid-19th century mills with four floors – joined by a bridge. Items are picked on all eight floors to go onto a sortation machine for onward delivery. The pre-voice label-based picking system has been retained as the label is vital for sorter identification but the pickers are now directed to the pick location by voice where they verbally verify unique check digits on the item being picked, which makes it extremely difficult to pick the wrong item, thereby greatly increasing previous accuracy levels.

Dematic is implementing a full Vocollect solution into the Shaw site comprising Talkman® hardware and customised VoiceLink® software, which interfaces with the J D Williams mainframe system. Dematic is also implementing its own custom software, which facilitates the splitting of picks into manageable assignments, and a dashboard, which provides screen-based reporting of the whole pick operation to give J D Williams valuable pick progress information that was previously unavailable. During picking, staff need only respond by speaking the figures ‘0-9’ for most of the time, which makes it very simple irrespective of the picker’s language.

The implementation follows a voice-pick trial, which immediately showed increases in accuracy. While the trial convinced J D Williams of the technology’s merits, Dematic nevertheless went through an intensive 6 month long competitive procurement process to win the business.

For David Reece-Pinchin, Head of Management Information, the key benefit from installing a voice system is simple: "Accuracy," he said. "We wanted to improve the quality of our picked product to customers and, having market tested different alternatives, voice came out as a clear winner – we were convinced by the results of the trial. After going through a competitive tendering process, Dematic came out to be the most competitive supplier. Their voice system will deliver a 65 per cent reduction in picking errors, which cost justifies the implementation of the project."

During the trial one of the key challenges for Dematic was integrating voice with Fulfilment Logistics’ in-house developed WMS. "They did that admirably," David Reece-Pinchin added.

John Harper, Sales Application Manager at Dematic, said: "We are very pleased to have won JD Williams’s business against strong competition. The Voice solution enables J D Williams to provide an improved customer service. It also allows them to better manage their workforce by providing an up to date view of picking progress in each zone."

With the full implementation under way the Dematic voice system at J D Williams will become fully operational in July 2010.

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