Pick by Line with Voice at Somerfield Stores

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Somerfield operates over 800 stores across the UK with nine out of 10 located in town centre or neighbourhood locations. The supermarket employs over 42,000 colleagues and has more than nine million customer visits every week.

Somerfield was a UK pioneer in voice-directed logistics, having deployed Voxware software for store-picking operations back in 2003. Under the leadership of Andrew Hubbard, Head of Distribution Support and Service, Somerfield monitored and reviewed the results being produced by their Voxware system, and devised a way to extend the use of voice to realise even further benefits.

Hubbard's team created an ambitious plan for deploying voice into their fresh products area to voice-enable a Pick-by-Line operation. The solution would need to be integrated with Somerfield's Infor (EXE) WMS package to operate in a real time fashion.

The Pick-by-Line solution was delivered by Voxware 3, the configurable voice software product from Voxware.

"We designed a way to significantly improve worker productivity using Voxware 3, and we are achieving what we set out to do," said Andrew Hubbard. "We've been Voxware customers for a long time, and took advantage of this project to move to their latest software platform, Voxware 3, which is now integrated with our Infor WMS and gives us the benefits of a packaged software product, openness, and flexibility for the future."

"Results have beaten our business case, so we are very pleased. Productivity is up by a higher factor than what we needed, and errors have been reduced to virtually nil."

The project was an outstanding example of close cooperation between Somerfield, Voxware, and Wincanton who operate the large Somerfield distribution centres. One facility where Pick-by-Line is in action is located at Cardinal Business Park near Huntingdon.

"We employ over 100 people, ship to more than 220 Somerfield stores, and our operation is highly tuned for maximum efficiency," said Sue Stammers, General Manager of the Cardinal site. "Although we were already achieving a high standard, the Voxware system has enabled our people to do even better. The overwhelming majority of our workers are not native English-speakers, but they have adapted to Voxware 3 without any major problems; our productivity is up while errors and wasted time are down."

Pick assignments are downloaded from the Infor WMS in real time, and individual pick results are relayed back to Infor as they occur. Workers are directed to place products into specific locations, and all tasks are managed and verified through Voxware's voice recognition software.

Somerfield uses LXE HX1 terminals for the Pick-by-Line operation. These terminals are optimised and dedicated to voice applications, and they are fully ruggedised for continual use in chilled areas such as the Huntingdon facility.

"At the end of the day, it's all about providing a cost-efficient yet excellent service to our loyal customers, who have grown accustomed to finding the high quality products they need, when they need them, in any of our stores," says Hubbard. "Our plan to leverage Voxware software has paid off, and we couldn't be happier."

Quick Facts

Reduce cost through increases in productivity

Improve accuracy of store shipments

Leverage real-time integration with Infor WMS

Implemented 4 locations, 400+ workers

Productivity increased by 8%

Accuracy improved to 99.97%

Business Value
Cost savings realized through productivity increases

Customer satisfaction supported through highly accurate shipments to retail locations

Real-time activity leverage via interaction between Voxware 3 and Infor WMS

Non-English speaking workforce is well-served and highly effective
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