INFORMATION: Free information is available from VOITEQ on the subject in this story. Click here to request a copy

VoiteQ, the UK's leading software supplier of voice recognition applications for warehouse and distribution companies has completed the 300,000 implementation to supply Pets at Home with its Talkman T2 product. The system, used in conjunction with a Swisslog warehouse management system, is used by up to 150 pickers a day at their Stoke-on-Trent distribution centre. Since implementation began productivity has increased by 40% and picking accuracy rates have risen to 99.9%.

With a turnover of 300 million a year, Pets at Home is the largest pets and pet accessories retailer in the UK and is rapidly expanding. Their distribution warehouse provides pet accessories ranging from pet food and dog leads to beds and hutches to all 163 of their superstores. Pets at Home needed a new warehouse picking system that would give them the scalability to expand the business whilst increasing efficiency.

The Talkman T2 solution consists of a securely fastened belt unit and head set. Instructions for the day's "picking" are sent over the RF network by the host system to the worker's voice device.

Simon Hayward, Warehouse Management Systems and Project Manager at Pets at Home comments, "The Talkman system has had an instant impact on the productivity of our warehouse, increasing it by up to 40%. We have also had a very positive response back from the pickers - because the instructions are read to them and received through the ear piece it is very easy to use which has lead to an improvement in concentration and efficiency. Picking errors have almost disappeared with 99.9 % efficiency being achieved."

Once a picker has located the product in the warehouse and picked it they respond via the mouthpiece. The speech recognition software in the Talkman is programmed to create a voice template based upon around 63 key sounds, such as numbers and types of product, that are spoken to the device by the worker. The device recognises voice patterns and sounds so it can recognise any language or dialect. The response then automatically ensures that stock records in the central warehouse management system, are updated instantly.

Hayward continues, "There are a number accents spoken in the warehouse but the Talkman system is able to recognise all of them, so no-one is disadvantaged by using it. We have also found it very reliable. Before Talkman we tried to implement a Nuance voice technology system but found that that the technology was too unreliable. It did not have a sophisticated enough voice recognition function and could not recognise all the accents or provide an on the job training function.

"Talkman, however, has an inbuilt training function which has dramatically cut the amount of time it takes to train new employees. We generally find that new employees can be up and running and picking at full speed within just an hour or two. Previously it could take a whole day to train new staff."

The Talkman device remains firmly attached to the picker at all times and removes the need for scanners, order sheets, clipboards or any other hand held devices. The picker is truly "hands free/eyes free" enabled. This has implications for the safety of the worker who is more aware of his surroundings and also means that the equipment is less likely to be dropped or left in inappropriate places.

"We have seen a 100% reduction in damage to equipment since implementing Talkman. Our old system of hand held scanners were not robust enough for the warehouse environment. We had major problems because too often the scanners were getting broken. We were sending faulty or damaged equipment back on a weekly basis, this was beginning to cause considerable disruption and cost. Talkman however, has proved incredibly reliable; so far not one piece of Talkman equipment has been damaged or needed repairing."

Hayward concludes, "Talkman is proving to be invaluable to our business and the level of service we have received from VoiteQ has been excellent. Our next stage of development will be to equip the entire distribution centre with Talkman;
this will include our stock control staff and around 20 fork lift truck drivers. Pets at Home are rapidly expanding and we expect the number of UK superstores to increase to 250 by 2009. I have no reservations that Talkman through VoiteQ has the technology and capability to allow us to grow and expand."
INFORMATION: Free information is available from VOITEQ on the subject in this story. Click here to request a copy

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