Multi-modal Voice system at Pallas Foods drives operational efficiency

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Pallas Foods, the Irish foodservice distributor, will introduce a new warehouse automation system in several stages over the next six months to help increase efficiency and productivity in its warehouse operations and ultimately to improve customer value.

Zetes Ireland will implement the upgrade to the new generation Zetes 3iV Crystal multi-modal voice technology system in the company's central warehouse in Newcastle West, Co Limerick. This will be Zetes' first multi modal voice implementation in Ireland and will achieve the automation of the stock management processes whereby more than 60 warehouse operators will be 'voice enabled' and can be guided through routine stock put away, inventory management and order-picking procedures in real time.

Pallas Foods, whose business is built on a foundation of operational excellence and efficiency to deliver exceptional customer service and value, has an extensive range of more than 7,000 products. It makes more than 3,000 daily deliveries to its estimated 6,000 customers and provides a next-day delivery service across the island of Ireland to ensure the freshest of produce and to facilitate many customers' needs to maintain lean inventory levels. Service levels will be further enhanced by the implementation of this new multi-modal voice technology, which will introduce advanced automation to the warehouse operational processes.

The Zetes system is paperless and uses voice technology to guide operators through their routine operational processes. Currently over 75,000 users across Europe are supported with a voice solution from Zetes to improve warehouse picking and stock management processes. The software works by linking directly into the Pallas Foods main Microsoft Dynamics Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system without the need for any additional software development. Voice only and voice assisted technology allows warehouse operators to switch between voice and keyboard.

This system combines with hand-held barcode scanners to increase efficiency and speed in stock management. Zetes' technology can support intelligent inventory management and trigger a stock re-order when it reaches minimum levels.

Pallas Foods initially considered a system solely based on barcode scanning, but as products frequently arrive without barcodes, the voice system was deemed to be the better choice. Zetes' system is designed to maintain service levels in the event of a systems failure, the software interface, known as a 3iV Connector, will continue working and capturing data even if one device should fail. In addition, unlike some voice systems, Zetes 3iV Crystal, which uses the MCL client software, does not require each user to 'train' the voice software before use to recognise individual voice profiles. This is beneficial for users because it means new or interim operators are up and running in no time, which delivers important productivity advantages during peak time periods. The 'untrained' feature of Zetes 3iV Crystal is achieved through the use of MCL-Voice client software, developed by MCL Technologies, a division of Zetes.

According to Donald Riordan, Information Manager with Pallas Foods IT Department, "Zetes' system was technologically superior and not only offered us greater redundancy and resilience, but it was also hardware independent, giving us the freedom to use different devices in the future. Direct integration reduces the potential for data errors to occur because there is no database sitting between our ERP system and the voice terminals, data is exchanged in real time whenever an item of stock is moved'.

Robert Van Vliet, Country Manager for Zetes Ireland said, "We are delighted Zetes' technology was evaluated so carefully and to have been selected as Pallas Foods' voice solution provider because it validates our belief that voice technology should be quick to implement and show a return. It is cost effective in the long term because of its high reliability and flexibility to use any hardware device."

Riordan concluded, "It was a significant financial investment in the current climate, but we believed that this upgrade to our technology would enable us to maintain and improve our levels of customer service."

Pallas Foods is implementing the new 3iV Crystal multi-modal voice solution from Zetes with a mix of WT4090 devices, Motorola dedicated Voice Only Wearables and Motorola multi modal voice and screen based terminals. Zetes will implement and provide ongoing support from its Limerick offices with ongoing central support.

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