Challenged to find a way to retain loyal workers and start up a new distribution centre, Unilever Greece turned a difficult situation to their advantage, using the popular, next generation, ZetesMedea Voice picking solution.
A double mission
The economic situation in Greece forced many companies, including Unilever, to make tough operational choices. In December 2011, having decided to shut down a manufacturing plant, Unilever was concerned about laying-off the workers involved. As the company was also opening a big distribution centre in Schimatari, they chose to transfer those workers to the new warehouse and train them as pickers.
The challenge then for Unilever was twofold. Not only did they need a quality logistics solution, able to integrate directly with the new warehouse's core ERP system SAP. They also had to consider that it would be operated by people with no technology or picking experience. Following an extensive research and selection process, Unilever chose to implement the ZetesMedea Voice picking solution.
Voice: benchmark picking technology
ZetesMedea, Zetes' logistics execution solution, allows all warehouse processes to be optimised. Product movements are registered from goods received, through to picking, replenishment and truck loading, offering real-time visibility and therefore enabling enhanced critical decision making. Not only does the number of data input errors dramatically decrease, warehouse operators can also work more efficiently, as they are fully task focused. ZetesMedea integrates the latest data capture technologies such as barcode, RFID, Voice and ImageID. In Unilever's case, the choice for Voice was justified by the fact that the process requiring optimisation was picking, where voice has proven to offer many advantages. Zetes' Voice picking solution is powered by MCLvoice, developed by MCL Technologies.
Rapid implementation of 1 month
The solution was implemented in just one month. Using SAP's standard integration options, an advantage of the solution was that it eliminated the need for any intermediate business logic layer. Direct SAP integration also allowed Unilever to store business critical data in one location, with the voice devices managed and the individual operator sessions tracked directly by using existing SAP tools.
Easy to operate from the outset
Available in 20 languages, ZetesMedea voice picking adapts to suit all users. It has two voice dialogue levels: a starter level with comprehensive instructions and an experienced level where commands are shortened. Data input can be voice only or multi-modal - combined with touch screen, keyboard or scanner devices. Due to operators inexperience, Unilever opted for voice only and the 'untrained' approach, enabling phonetic recognition of complete spoken words. With no need to save voice profiles, workers were operational in no time.
Productivity, accuracy & efficiency gains
In just a matter of days, all of the operators successfully adapted to working with the Voice devices as a highly productive, efficient picking team. Today the team has grown, with newcomers picking up the system in hours. Unilever now intends to implement the same solution at another distribution centre they are developing.
George Baglatzis of Zetes in Greece Hellas concludes: "Zetes' approach to Voice is to offer as much flexibility as possible. The untrained approach chosen by Unilever illustrates the advantage of making inexperienced users operational and efficient in no time. This has allowed Unilever to save jobs but is also a useful feature for companies which have to deal with peak times periods during which they need to hire staff for only a short period of time. By saving training time, they become more competitive."