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Businesses Look to Voice to Gain Advantage in the Downturn

Improvements in order performance yields 35% efficiency gains for some of the UK's biggest retailers and supply chain businesses

WH Smiths, Sainsbury's, Co-op, Next, DSV and 3663 report substantial cost savings using Vocollect Voice directed work within their warehouse.

With the economic outlook becoming more challenging, businesses across the globe are looking for ways to cut costs and maintain profitability.

None more so than in the retail sector, where some businesses are being hit hard by the slowdown in consumer spending. However, UK retailers, distributors and supply chain logistics companies that have invested in voice driven technology from Vocollect are reaping the rewards and are seeing efficiency gains of up to 35% and ROI in less than 12 months, helping them remain competitive throughout the downturn.

Voice in the warehouse has become mainstream, businesses are acknowledging the value of the technology and despite difficult times are realising that improvements in order fulfilment directly affect profitability metrics and quickly demonstrate returns on the technology investment.

A recent example is Morrisons, one of the largest grocery retailers in the UK, who reported immediate improvements in accuracy and efficiency during a recent pilot of Vocollect's voice directed work solution. This pilot led to a £6m deal sold with Zetes a major Vocollect reseller to install voice within its UK distribution centres, despite difficult times for the retail sector.

Retailer WH Smiths has seen improvements right across the supply chain, according to Jim McCafferty, WHSmith distribution general manager; “There are benefits of Vocollect Voice the whole way down the supply chain. In addition to accuracy and productivity increases there have been significant improvements in quality control, replenishment and store shrink rates, but it is the productivity increases that I have been most impressed with – and the almost immediate return on investment.”

Jim McCafferty continued; “The CEO of WHSmiths does not invest in technology unless a very real ROI is delivered within a year. She signed off the initial project and has signed off subsequent invoices.”

Vocollect Voice replaces traditional paper and pen picking lists or barcode scanning technologies. The wearable computer and headset combined with Vocollect's voice recognition software provide warehouse workers with an easy-to-use, reliable way to work. Unlike paper or hand-held scanner based processes the Vocollect Talkman solution is completely hands and eyes free, enhancing user dexterity and efficiency and eliminating certain health and safety issues. As a result, warehouse performance is increased and errors are all but eliminated because the warehouse worker is not able to move to the next task until the current task is completed accurately.

According to Nigel Devenish, commercial director at global logistics company, DSV; “The most important thing for any successful warehouse is accuracy. You have to have the right items to the right customer at the right time.”

Liam Quinn of Movianto, the parent company of Cahill May Roberts, distributor to pharmacies and hospitals in Ireland said; “Our stock value is considerable so in our business margins for error are practically non-existent and our warehouse systems must be accurate, up-to-date and reliable. We needed a system that could be tailored to continually meet the demands of a customer base that includes 1,100 pharmacy shops and 200 hospitals in Ireland. We are continually impressed with the Vocollect Voice solution provided by Heavey RF.”

Gary Glessner, managing director at Vocollect explained; “As competition gets yet tougher on the high street in 2009 so the supply chain will need to tighten up its service levels if retailers are to survive. The average cost of managing the return of a misdirected order is £250, not considering the loss of potential sales. With the sophisticated warehouse management systems and customisable Voice directed work solutions available to businesses, and the proven results seen by companies such as retailer WHSmiths and logistics specialist DSV, there's no excuse for errors at the point of order fulfilment.”

The immediate business benefits delivered by Voice picking include;

– Immediate supply chain cost savings

– ROI in less than 12 months – meeting the board requirements of blue chips and major brands

– Quicker and more accurate stock delivery to shops

– Elimination of returns process and issuing of credit notes

– Optimised warehouse resourcing reducing operational costs

– Improved quality of service to stores ensuring contract longevity

– Dramatic decreases in order pick error rates – average improvements between 98% and 315%

– Employee productivity increases of up to 35%

– Improved employee job satisfaction leading by default to improved performance

– Management time and cost savings resulting from employee self-management

– Access to multi-lingual workforce –

Pick-by-Voice (PSV) systems can be set up to work in over 20 languages and to understand accents and regional dialects

Fast Facts about multi-lingual Voice Picking from Vocollect

1. Warehouse pickers wear a belt mounted computer called a T5 and wireless headset leaving them hands-free to carryout their work

2. Vocollect Voice is available in over 20 languages

3. Voice directed picking is used in warehouses and distribution centres in over 40 countries, 30 of which are in EMEA

4. Using Vocollect Voice, warehouse employees, including casual workers, can be trained in less than an hour and be working productively in under a day

5. Employees can set the computer to recognise individual accents and regional dialects

6. Employees can “train” the software to understand their chosen vocabulary and to understand preferred colloquialisms

7. Familiar two-way communication using natural language patterns improves efficiency and creates job satisfaction for manual workers

8. Increased efficiency and measurable results enables the introduction of performance related bonus's, encouraging employee retention and increased profitability

9. Warehouse employees are typically transitory and staff turnover is high – Vocollect Voice minimises training costs and time

10. Increasingly, particularly with the opening of the EU, warehouse employees come from a wider employment pool and English is not always their first language

11. Many warehouses and distribution centres are located in areas where there is a significant regional dialect or accent e.g. Glasgow, Newcastle or Dublin

12. Retail distribution it typically seasonal requiring high levels of temporary staff often not available from the local workforce

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