Deploying voice in cold and frozen food logistics

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

Voice technology replaces paper-based picking at cold-storage logistics specialist Primafrost. The solution has boosted productivity by more than 20 per cent and the quality of work has improved significantly.

Primafrost is the cold storage logistics centre of Gruppo Lombardini, one of the largest retailers in Italy. Located in Mantua, in Northern Italy, the companys frozen food warehouse extends over 10,000 m2 with a refrigerated volume of 70,000 m3 This enables the storage of approximately 10,000 pallets holding 1200 assorted references. Primafrost provides complete services and storage for the organisations 650 points of sale with two to five weekly deliveries, in addition to working with third party customers.

Quality of service and efficient distribution
As the companys cold and frozen warehouse operation, Primafrost is responsible for serving the Gruppo Lombardinis multiple sales channels which includes supermarkets, hard discounts, hypermarkets, cash and carry, ecommerce and wholesalers. Great emphasis is placed on the quality of transported goods and the importance of timely and accurate order fulfilment.

For these reasons, the products are stored in warehouses with refrigerating temperatures of up to -31C. This hostile environment forces picking operators to work with very thick gloves, making it very difficult to pick up the packages which having an average weight of 5 kg. Because of the extreme temperatures, activity within the refrigerated room is limited to just 45 minutes per worker, during which time operators must be appropriately protected from the cold and supported by innovative approaches that reduce the potential for errors.

For quite some time, the entire structure has been equipped with radio frequency for stock supply. Although adopting radio frequency for picking activities was a natural, if not mandatory choice, Elisa Savoia, managing director, Primafrost, had never changed the warehouses traditional paper-based picking system because she wasnt aware of any viable alternative which would overcome the challenges related to working at such frigid temperatures.

Voice makes the right sound
Primafrost has always used paper- based lists and forms for pickinga procedure with high error rates and even potential product mispicks. In September 2005, the company implemented Vocollects Voice-Directed Distribution within the warehouse with KFI, the Italian Vocollect partner. "I followed my instinct, because I understood that this would allow the operator to work hands-free without burdens and improve productivity. It would also enable the non-Italian workers to communicate with the system in their native languages, said Savoia. I am very satisfied with this system; considering its ease of use and the enthusiasm with which our operators have adopted it, I am thinking of implementing it in our warehouse replenishment operations as well.

In fact, KFIs Vocollect voice deployment enables operators to communicate directly with the warehouse management system through their own voices and in their native languages, thus eliminating any language barrier issues.

All of this is done through Vocollects Talkman wearable computer, a fully fledged, lightweight and stainless computer that is hooked to the operators belt and equipped with a headset and microphone.

Results speak volumes
Thanks to Voice-Directed Distribution, Primafrost has achieved highly significant results. In just 20 days, all operators were fully trained and ready to go on the system and as a result productivity increased by more than 20 per cent. The quality of work has also increased noticeably, enabling the company to keep its non-compliant operations under control, which requires the ability to manage a range of costs that are not easily quantifiable. The employees have expressed their appreciation and satisfaction in using Vocollects wearable computers which, with their hands-free operating mode, allows them to work more rapidly, reduce their error rate and optimise the order selection operations overall effectiveness, even at Arctic temperatures.

The productivity and accuracy results we have achieved are significant. But what has particularly pleased me is the improvement in the quality of work. Voice-Directed Distribution technology also helps a company to keep track of non-compliant activities and costs that are not easily quantifiable for its management, said Savoia.

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

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