Faber Music Distribution has been selected for a special Warehouse Innovation Award by Zetes for Outstanding Business Improvement. The award was made in recognition of the company's approach to warehouse optimisation and the contribution this has made to enable profitable growth of Faber Music's trade and consumer revenues. Vocollect has sponsored this initiative.
Faber sought to need to reduce variable costs and create a more efficient distribution centre to support its expanding multichannel sales operation. A key part of the company's strategy included implementing Voice directed working, enabling Faber to conduct 'wave picks' and cost effectively process for small orders typical of e-commerce sales. The result of this investment has helped Faber Music create a highly successful multichannel business which today sells over 120,000 music publications globally through music and book retailers, online booksellers (such as Amazon) and direct to end users with its online music bookstore, fabermusicstore.com. Zetes, the auto ID solution specialist developed and implemented Faber Music's Voice picking solution, which is based on Vocollect Talkman T5 devices and speech recognition engine. It is the first time a UK company has been directly recognised for its achievements by Zetes and Vocollect.
John Hepworth, Managing Director of Faber Music Distribution says: "Without using Voice we could not have adapted so easily to suit the different order profiles required for multichannel sales without significantly increasing our costs. Switching to Voice has created a much leaner operation ready for further growth as the economy improves. We are thrilled to be recognized for our hard work and it's a huge pat on the back for everyone in the team".
Since implementing the solution, Faber has cut the time required to pick stock for all orders by at least 25% and virtually eliminated any picking errors, which means the right goods are reaching customers more quickly and for less cost. The company has also reduced annual labour costs and with new staff fully productive in just minutes, Faber can operate a more flexible workforce to satisfy peak trading demands. For instance, following the implementation of voice, a single picker can complete up to 150 order lines per hour compared with a previous hourly average of 50 to 70 order lines using the old paper based system. Additionally, pickers now also have the capability to simultaneously pick 18 orders at a time (wave picking), which is essential for a profitable e-commerce business.
"Many companies have implemented Voice picking but we believe Faber Music's system is innovative and noteworthy for two reasons," said Simon Jones, Sales Manager at Zetes. "First, they have proved it is a viable option for a warehouse with less than 10 pickers, since previously Voice technology had only been adopted by much larger businesses. Secondly, they have clearly shown how Voice can create a more adaptable warehouse for a multichannel business model, and this is important for so many brand owners today."
Jones continued: "Flexibility has always been a key decision factor in deciding to choose Voice as opposed to other systems, and this is especially the case with small- to medium-sized enterprises. For SMEs it's more important to get value from what you invest in. And we are now seeing rapid uptake in this SME space. The benefits of Voice and the speed of ROI is compelling. And it's particularly suited as a technology to the multi-channel business. And we're seeing that e-commerce for SMEs is a very key channel for giving access to new customers and to gain market share in their existing space Voice is a technology that makes e-commerce viable commercially. Faber is a good example of an SME that has proven the business case for Voice."
Matt Gregory, business development manager for the UK and Ireland at Vocollect, commented: "For the music industry, Faber Music's use of voice technology in the warehouse marks an industry first and we are delighted their business has seen such exceptional results with a full return on capital employed 5 months earlier than planned."
Steve Binder, senior director of sales & marketing at Zetes, added: "The industry often hears about the larger installations and multiple plant roll-outs of Voice applications. However, Faber has proved that it's equally important to understand the benefits of Voice in smaller operations. The success at Faber is testament to John Hepworth and his vision to appreciate how you can take these benefits and make them applicable to smaller businesses."
Faber wanted to overcome a number of challenges when implementing its Voice picking system, which has been adapted by Zetes for their complex business processes. Orders were required to be split into three parts to cater for three different scenarios: general stock orders, bulk picking and a digital printing for items that are only manufactured on demand.
From the outset, their warehouse operators were involved in the project and have been enthusiastic about the new picking system, which has been customised to identify order lines according to specific format and thus helps avoid ambiguities. For instance, the system was adapted to specify 'copy' for printed music and 'CD', 'DVD' or 'Set' for orchestral sets. The system also switches from descriptive identifiers, such as the abbreviated title for the majority of mainstream and English language publications, to item number identifiers, used for foreign language publications and international composers that are not easy to identify in English!
"The warehouse staff really like the new system and they were very keen to start using it," says John Hepworth. "It is human nature to avoid change and at the start we had a few within the team who were quite apprehensive. However, once they started working with voice, all their concerns were allayed straight away and have said they wouldn't want to go back to a paper based system."
Faber Music Distribution is using Vocollect Talkman T5 wireless headsets and belt pack devices with 3iV Voice application software supplied and implemented by Zetes. Zetes were also responsible for integrating the Voice picking system with Solarsoft's integrated ERP solution and Warehouse Management System and provide ongoing system support.