Voice picking at TDG increases efficiency

Recognising the need for increasingly auditable accuracy and traceability, TDG has invested voice picking systems in the UK and the Netherlands maximise the efficiency of operations.

The UK systems have been commissioned at two warehouses, and are already improving reporting capabilities and creating a faster pick.

It is a similar success story in the Netherlands, where voicepicking is at TDG Nijmegen and TDG Veenendaal. We needed to replace the scanning equipment and RF network at Veenendaal, and after much research decided on a voicepicking system with SAP software, explained Margot Kokke, project leader for voicepicking at Veenendaal.

The voice picking systems from both Red Prairie and Psion Teklogix instruct the operative to go to a location and pick a number of units, then verify what has been picked.  Order-pickers receive instructions from a headset, but before they can work, they have to record around 50 words so the computer can compose a voice profile of them.

Although minimal, there have been some teething problems in the initial phases of implementation. Most potential problems were foreseen before the systems were in use, like changes to some pick-locations to make the work-flow route more efficient but others have turned up after a few weeks in particular, the best-phone-voice syndrome.

We have and some order-pickers had to re-record their voice profile after some days, said Margot.  It appears that most colleagues articulate better during recording then when tasks are confirmed during order-picking, making it difficult for the computer to recognise their voices!

But apart from minor hiccups, the benefits of having voicepicking are considerable. It is easier for new employees pick up this type of work more rapidly; and employees do not have to carry scanning equipment to identify locations or scanning stickers; and all the sites have seen an increase in productivity and quality.

Where it has been implemented in the UK, TDG warehouse staff pick around million units/week at each site, which are collated onto pallets for dispatch. Using the old paper based picking-system, pallet integrity was reliant on the experience of operatives to safely construct one using widely differing shapes and sized products but with 3,500 locations, operatives could be sent to up to 2000 locations on each shift, which led to the possibility of picking errors.

The new system now gives clear visibility of what has been picked not only the order in which it was picked, but with full product descriptions too. 

All TDGs staff involved in these projects underwent intensive training programmes to make sure the transition was smooth. I admit there was a bit of apprehension as we moved from traditional pick to the most sophisticated system available, but everyone rose to the challenge and were delighted with the results says Sue Spencer, TDG IT project manager.

Says Sue, The technology is incredibly flexible, and we particularly pleased with the scope it gives us to improve our efficiency levels still further.

About TDG

TDG works in partnership with its customers to provide supply chain management services, with operations in six European countries.

It has a reputation for professionalism and operational reliability combined with commercial dynamism and innovation. The companys mission is to work in partnership with its clients so that it can respond to their changing market conditions and create value for shareholders.

In addition to its contract logistics strength, which includes the UK's largest hazardous chemicals network, it also manages inter-continental end to end supply chains.  In the UK it has the largest temperature controlled services network and is able to provide rail-based transport across the country. TDG's clients operate mainly in the chemicals, consumer goods, industrial and retail sectors.


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