C J Lang extends Accord Voice WMS to frozen and chilled operations

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CJ Lang & Son has extended use of BCPs Accord Voice WMS to its frozen and chilled operations with the opening of a brand new frozen and chilled warehouse facility in January 2009.

As a result, warehouse operations at the companys RDC in Dundee are now entirely based on Voice, with over 110 warehouse staff using the technology. In the few weeks since implementation the improvements in frozen and chilled are already matching those achieved in the ambient warehouse with picking errors eliminated and stock accuracy greatly improved.

Scotlands largest independent retailing and distribution company and SPAR wholesaler for the country, CJ Lang services over 45 per cent of Scotlands independent retailers from its dedicated retail distribution centre (DC) in Dundee. Always seeking ways to increase efficiency and enhance its service to retailers and customers, the company was the first SPAR RDC to adopt Voice technology in the warehouse, transforming its ambient warehouse at Longtown Road from a predominantly paper-based operation to one entirely based on Voice several years ago. 

Expectations exceeded

Resulting in productivity improvements in the order of 10 per cent and more on already high pick rates, together with the virtual elimination of picking errors, the Accord Voice implementation exceeded CJ Langs expectations in all areas and is widely regarded within the company as the best thing weve ever done. It had always been the intention to extend the technology to frozen and chilled operations, but while these were located at a separate facility several miles away this simply wasnt feasible. Therefore, the implementation of Voice was planned to coincide with the opening of a new extension to its Longtown Road DC and the transfer of frozen and chilled operations to this new facility.

Having worked closely with solutions partner BCP on the initial Voice implementation, CJ Lang felt confident to handle the roll out to frozen and chilled themselves. The success of the project reflects CJ Langs carefully planned approach and the close liaison between IT staff, warehouse operators and warehouse management. As soon as work on the new 30,000 sq ft building started in September 2008, weekly meetings began to plan and progress the project. At the same time a training cycle was initiated, with frozen and chilled operators across all warehouse roles spending time with their counterparts in the ambient warehouse to gain valuable hands-on experience of the Voice system. The IT team also worked closely with the building contractors, timing their cabling and wiring installations, for example, to coincide with the installation of general power facilities.

On 17 January 2009 the company closed its old frozen and chilled facility and moved to the new one, continuing its 24-hours-a-day, 6-days-a-week, 3-shift operation without any break other than the usual Sunday off. CJ Lang started operating with Voice immediately, using the system, in the first instance, to put away stock moved across from the old warehouse. Goods Receiving was the next operation to use Voice, checking in new deliveries from day one. Operators were then given a couple of weeks to become familiar with the new warehouse environment before introducing Voice picking, which was phased in over a period of five days. In less than three weeks the new facility was operating purely on Voice, handling around 1000 chilled and 300 frozen lines and some 250 chilled and frozen orders per day. 

Further improvements expected

Benefits have come through quickly and are already matching some of those achieved in the ambient warehouse with pick accuracy at 99.99 per cent and stock accuracy, resulting from the real-time nature of Voice, at 99 per cent. Administration and stationery savings equating to two to three man-days per week are allowing administrative staff to be redeployed to more productive areas of the business while productivity improvements are already matching the 10 per cent average achieved in the ambient warehouse. Improvements are expected to increase further as operators benefit from the hands-free nature of Voice and no longer have to cope with labels in the thick gloves they must wear to handle frozen goods. 

Graham Murdoch, CJ Lang IT director, concluded: Voice is again fulfilling our expectations and delivering dramatic improvements. Its good to finally use Accord Voice technology across our entire operations and achieve the productivity and service goals that we aspire to for our customers.

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