No compromise on warehouse logistics at Netto thanks to topSPEECH-Lydia
Jul 19, 2010 Comments (0)
With its reputation for good value and high-quality foods and other consumable goods, Netto, the Denmark-based discount supermarket chain has been quickly making inroads across the UK since the first store opened in Leeds in 1990. Netto is quite popular with shoppers in the UK, having been voted 'Discounter of the Year 2009' by a leading market research consultancy.
Netto is the fastest growing supermarket in the U.K., with around 200 stores and plans to expand by at least 20 stores each year over the next several years. Given such a rapid growth in the UK, it is natural that logistics and warehousing would have to keep pace. Netto operates two warehouses for serving all of its UK stores, with one in Daventry, Northamptonshire, and a larger facility in South Elmsall, in West Yorkshire. Pick volumes average 140,000 cases per day at South Elmsall and Daventry combined.
Keeping pace with rapid growth
For such a large operation to be successful, a firm grip on logistics management is needed. Warehousing and product flow are of particular importance when considering the time-sensitive nature of perishable food items. Additionally, given the tight margins in the grocery business, any area where inefficient practices or waste can be eliminated helps contribute to a supermarket's bottom line. For a supermarket to be profitable and successful it must have, among many other factors, an efficient and error-free warehousing and logistics system.
Netto had formerly used paper lists for its picking operations at both the South Elmsall and Daventry locations. In order to make their order picking and warehouse logistics more efficient, and to eliminate errors, Netto UK investigated and opted for a pick-by-voice solution. The use of voice technology has become common in food and beverage warehouses around the world. The voice solution that first came to mind was topSPEECH-Lydia from topVOX. The topVOX Corporation is a premium partner of the German company topsystem, the European market leader in voice technology. topSPEECH-Lydia is the most prominent Voice Picking system in Europe.
Pick-by-voice solutions from topVOX
Having seen topSPEECH-Lydia from topVOX in action at Netto warehouses on the continent, Martin Upton, Daventry warehouse manager and member of the decision-making team, felt strongly that topSPEECH-Lydia would bring about the desired efficiency and error reduction results. Indeed, topSPEECH-Lydia was highly recommended by the Netto warehousing and logistics professionals who use it in Netto warehouses in Denmark and Germany. As Mr. Upton points out, "Our goal was to cut down on the picking errors and increase the picking efficiency. We had already seen the 'Lydia' system in use in Germany, and felt that it was exactly what we needed to achieve our goal."
topSPEECH-Lydia is the first hardware-independent solution available on the market, thus the system is designed for use with PDAs and speech-clients of various manufacturers. Additionally, solutions from topVOX feature an open standards architecture, thus allowing them to integrate directly with standard warehouse management systems (WMS), including SAP. Mobile units using topSPEECH-Lydia are easily linked to the WMS as they require no middleware. Furthermore, topSPEECH-Lydia is the only speech-based system capable of working 100% online in cooperation with SAP.
Since it is a speech-based system, topSPEECH-Lydia frees pickers from unnecessary work steps, like handling picking lists or barcode scanners. Rather than having written instructions on paper or a monitor, spoken work instructions and picker responses take place via a headset. The normal data input is not done by means of a keyboard or a scanner, but by an integrated microphone receiving the worker's spoken words.
"Lydia" the friendly voice in pick-by-voice
The complete process takes place in a continual speech input and output dialogue which requires the employee to confirm every step with the system. Since every step is confirmed through this dialogue, picking errors are eliminated right at the source. On completion of a successful picking procedure the employee has the option to choose to finish the process by saying "End" or "Finished".
When asked their opinion about topSPEECH-Lydia, many pickers express complete satisfaction with the system, especially in terms of its ease of use. Another element they enjoy is the dialogue with "Lydia's" friendly voice certainly more enjoyable than a sterile paper list or monitor.
A feature that distinguishes topSPEECH-Lydia from other pick-by-voice systems is that it offers speaker-independent speech recognition. This eliminates the need for new workers to "train" the system to their voices and greatly reduces the amount of time it takes for the system to recognise the workers' voices. Furthermore, for employees with strong accents or dialects whose voice inputs are not adequately recognised, topSPEECH-Lydia can optimize the speech system by means of a simple speech test. The topVOX solution directly takes the individual speech idiosyncrasies of the picker into account.
The results for Netto in implementing topSPEECH-Lydia in its warehouse management system have been quite satisfactory. "We're very happy with 'Lydia'", says Mr. Upton. "We have found that our goals related to picking efficiency and error elimination were met." Indeed, it is not just warehouse management that is satisfied with the topSPEECH-Lydia pick-by-voice solution, but also the pickers.
top-VOX is a specialist in speech-based logistics applications (Pick by Voice) and manufacturer of the VOXter hardware system for speech recognition. With topSpeech-Lydia, the company has designed a sophisticated speech-controlled picking system which outperforms any common MDE or paper-based system by significantly increasing both efficiency and quality. topSpeech-Lydia focuses on a client-based speech recognition and the use of common hardware (LXE, Motorola, Intermec and many more). Top-VOX offers a complete scope of services from concept design, realisation, provision of hard- and software up to installation, training and maintenance.