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Pharma giant Merck improves multiple warehouse operations with just 8 voice pickers

To optimise time consuming warehouse processes and ensure compliance with system safety requirements, Merck has implemented Zetes’ 3i Voice solution (3iV). After voice enabling just 8 operators, important business improvements have been seen including increased productivity, improved operator satisfaction, reduced error rate and improved planning.

Merck is a gobal healthcare company with 40,000 employees in 64 countries. Its busy Portuguese warehouse carries out approximately 9,000 warehousing operations on a total of 30,000 lines each month. Four types of merchandise come into the warehouse: Merck Group goods (via other Merck distribution centres or laboratories), goods from partners for whom the company manages inventory, promotional materials and pharmaceutical products requiring refrigeration.

Merck’s original warehouse processes based on barcode scanning were time consuming and the equipment used no longer complied with the company’s systems safety requirements. In 2010, they implemented a 3i Voice solution to improve process efficiency. "We had already worked with Zetes in the past, and we were aware that they implemented voice picking systems. During a site visit to an existing installation, we saw first hand the advantages of adopting this technology", explains Luis Azevedo, Merck’s IT Manager. Zetes’ impressive track record of successful voice implementations both in Portugal and internationally played an important role in Merck’s decision to choose the company as its partner.

3iV has been integrated with Merck’s existing SAP warehouse management (WM) module. It optimises four warehousing procedures: goods receiving, put-away, replenishment and stock picking.

So far, 8 operators have been equipped with voice terminals. Even with this limited number of voice users, improvements have been impressive in terms of greater productivity, accuracy and ergonomics.

Luis Azevedo: "Constant use of the barcode reader slowed down our picking processes. By implementating voice technology, we have seen immediate returns through optimised workflow, increased productivity, improved operator satisfaction, reduced error rates and improved planning."

Alain Wirtz, CEO of Zetes concludes: "The pharmaceutical industry is under growing pressure to improve product traceability but at the same time, companies need to optimise processes to maintain their competitive advantage. Zetes’ auto-ID solutions allow them to do both. Our 3i Voice solution has already benefitted many retailers in terms of reduced error rates and increased productivity. We are now experiencing market growth in pharmaceutical logistics, where accurate, timely deliveries are key."

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