Co-op expands Zetes' voice picking solution to cover 6 distribution centres

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Zetes, a leading European supplier of solutions for the automatic identification of goods and people confirms that The Co-operative Group, the UKs largest mutual retailer and its fifth largest food retailer is expanding its use of Zetes' voice picking technology. 

Zetes British subsidiary is a long standing supplier to Co-op and its 3i Voice solution will soon be supporting 1200 warehouse users across six Distribution Centres (DCs) serving over 4,400 retail stores. 

Zetes 3iV Crystal - voice movie

The Co-operative Group, first implemented a voice picking system in its West Thurrock DC in 2006.  Since then, Zetes has implemented voice at three more Co-operative sites with plans to extend usage to a further two Distribution Centres by mid 2009 at the Thetford, Norfolk DC and a new site, due to be opening at Birtley, Gateshead, which will replace two older Distribution Centres.

Zetes has worked with The Co-operative Group throughout the project, which included a complete overhaul of the organisations WMS system and migration to a wireless, real-time infrastructure at each DC.  Voice was selected as the right technology to enable faster picking because of the speed and complexity of their warehouse operation and high numbers of product lines stocked. 

Although The Co-operatives business case for its WMS overhaul and voice implementation was built around a three to four year payback, the organisation has seen much higher than anticipated returns, particularly for Zetes voice system, with pick errors down by up to 70% and picking rates improved beyond original business case estimations.  Operational and management performance targets are also being continually improved upon, beyond expectations, at live voice sites and training of new users can now be completed in less than four hours.

Zetes was selected as The Co-operatives preferred voice technology partner because of its reputation as the auto ID system integrator with the most extensive voice expertise and pan-European experience.  Zetes not only matched our requirements regarding availability, cost and other critical criteria, they also understood our issues from the beginning and we were impressed by their pro-active approach, says Tim Edwards, Retail Logistics Business Projects Manager at The Co-operative.

The Group is using Vocollect Talkman hardware and the 3iVCrystal Solution, implemented by Zetes.  The voice system is used for all picking and marshalling activities across multiple warehouse environments including ambient, produce, chilled and frozen areas. 

We are very pleased that such a highly reputed organisation as The Co-operative Group recognises the added value of our experience and ability to deliver large projects to major European retailers.  This project was an important roll-out which perfectly illustrates the advantages a company can get from 3iV Crystal as a voice solution in particular that our voice solutions are adaptable for use within most warehouse environments. Pickers working in frozen areas will be very appreciative of the positive benefits of using a voice interface, says James Hannay, Managing Director, Zetes UK and Ireland.

In addition the voice system has proved very popular with The Co-operatives multilingual workforce who found it both easy to begin using and convenient to work in their native tongues.  Voice technology allows us to ensure our customers receive a timely and accurate service, and thats what is most important to the business, says Tim Edwards, Retail Logistics Business Projects Manager.

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