“We have reduced our warehouse staffing requirements by the equivalent of three full-time jobs and improved the efficiency of our picking process through the use of a voice-directed picking solution (Pick-by-Voice included in Astro WMS®) from Consafe Logistics,” explains logistics consultant Jøran Larssen at TINE Meierier Øst (TMØ) at Kaldbakken.

TMØ’s Kaldbakken facility has invested approximately NOK 1.2 million in the solution. “With fewer employees and less manual work, the solution has already paid for itself,” confirms Larssen.

Smoother workflow in picking process

Consafe Logistics has so far implemented its voice-directed picking solution in 10 or so of TINE’s production and warehousing operations. Soon all TINE facilities in Norway will be using the same solution, as the old WMS system is replaced in a project being run with Consafe Logistics. TMØ’s Sem operation piloted the introduction of voice-directed picking. Picking errors at Sem have been reduced to zero.

Manual routines have been replaced by an electronic, voice-directed pick list, which is transmitted from the ERP/WMS system to the picker’s headset. The system tells the picker which goods to pick and where they are located in the warehouse,” explains Larssen. He emphasises that the voice-directed solution has helped regularise workflow in the picking process and has improved employees’ working conditions. With the correct location number and check-digit, the right goods are picked from the right place.

Rapid ROI

Our warehouse staffing requirements are down by the equivalent of three full-time jobs and the training period for new employees has been cut from a week to a single day. Labelling traceability and identity have improved significantly,” says Larssen. He adds that the warehouse has become better organised with fewer breakages as a result. “The tasks of confirming picks and reporting missing items have been transferred to the picker, while the shift manager is responsible for organising assignments. This has freed up management time that can be used for personnel follow-up. We only have positive feedback regarding our use of the system.

Minor challenges

Integration with the ERP system is working well. We have defined special rule sets in connection with the order picking, as well as post-picking rules for containers. The system has a short response time and the technical challenges have been minor,” says Larssen. He adds that the voice-directed picking solution was designed jointly by Consafe Logistics and TINE’s ICT division.

As pilot, TMØ’s Sem facility took care of the testing process. We were handed a finished product that has worked extremely well. Training for users both with and without prior ICT experience has gone smoothly, since the system is self-explanatory and simply structured.”

Self-explanatory system

Tine, worker are pickingThe picker receives information about the order on his/her headset. This includes the customer, route, estimated number of lines ordered and containers. The system asks the picker to specify the number of labels, which normally corresponds to the number of containers. Once these have been printed out, the picker is instructed to go to the first location. Once the check-digit has been supplied, the item is picked. Then the picker hears the next location number. At each location the picker can request additional information including everything from the item number or order information to talkman assistance,” says Larssen. He adds that some non-Norwegian-speaking employees read words, sentences and numerals in their own languages into the system. “This has been enormously helpful for them and has helped make our working processes more efficient.

Electronic orders

Orders come in via our Web shop or EDI and are registered at our sales office. Every route has a departure time and a pick-release time. A dedicated warehouse administration programme controls the voice-directed solution and determines when the route should be released. We allocate complete routes to one or more pickers and not just according to who is free first. Every customer order is sorted so that it reaches the right vehicle for the right customer. The shift manager decides who should pick what at the warehouse.”

Adapted for hearing-impaired employees

Larssen explains that TMØ’s Kalbakken operation has, in partnership with Consafe, adapted the voice-directed solution for use by deaf employees. “The goal is to avoid them having to use paper in the picking process. Instead of listening and speaking, these employees use a touch panel on a PDA.”

New warehouse with cutting-edge picking

TMØ will soon begin construction of a new warehouse at Kaldbakken. This will also use automated picking with WMS and Pick-by-Voice. Pickers will have their own picking trucks, which will be ergonomically adapted to their needs,” says Larssen. He explains that Consafe Logistics will have a key role in developing the WMS solution for the new warehouse.

Improving control over the warehouse

We started working with the TINE group on the Pick-by-Voice project in autumn 2008. The system was first put into operation in spring 2009. Thereafter the solution was rolled out at Kalbakken and 10 other locations. In the course of this summer, a further four locations will be connected,” says Ali Zeybek, Consafe Logistics’ head of sales for Warehouse Management. He thinks the Pick-by-Voice project has helped optimise the picking process. Picking has become more efficient because the pickers have both hands free. Reporting takes place online by voice to the warehouse administration system, allowing warehouse managers full control over the flow of goods and processes.

All transactions are logged so that Tine can measure and compare different facilities’ efficiency. For us these system deployments are extremely important. Our personnel work closely with the roll-out team and the climate of co-operation has so far been extremely good,” he concludes.