Voice technology speaks volumes

Ireland: BWG Foods, which operates Irish retail and wholesale brands including Spar, Eurospar and Mace stores, implement voice technology following a review of new technologies as part of a plan to upgrade and expand operations and improve performance and customer service.

Key objectives included improved accuracy and productivity, the tracking of key processes and stock movements and a reduction in the costs associated with stock holding and manpower.

BWG Foods invested £250,000 in a voice directed warehouse management system supplied by Business Computer Projects; a UK supplier of specialist supply chain software to the food and drink wholesale industry.  It is a leader in voice directed systems and installed the first wall-to-wall voice warehouse management system in the UK food and drink sector in 2002.

Business Computer Projects’ Accord Voice WMS was “the best fit for our business” says Veronica Sullivan, head of IT at BWG Foods.  “Accord… is a fully integrated solution capable of covering the complete range of our warehouse activities,” she says.

Voice was initially implemented in BWG Foods’ Wholesale Division where, a new purpose built depot at North Road in Dublin provided the opportunity to deploy Voice WMS from the outset.  The 4,800m2 depot brought together Value Centre Cash & Carry and BWG Foodservice in the same building for the first time to deliver synergies for the two divisions and provide walk-in and delivered capabilities for customers.

The system deployed uses Business Computer Projects’ Accord Voice Directed WMS operating with Vocollect’s Talkman T5 terminals and a Motorola RF network, both supplied through Irish specialist, Heavey RF.

Business Computer Projects worked with the BWG Foods in-house IT team, Heavey RF and building contractors to implement the system and train operators ready to start as each phase of the system came on line.

Comparisons with paper-based operations are not possible given that Voice has been used from inception, however, the system “exceeded everyone’s expectations” says Sullivan and “feedback from customers has also been very positive, particularly around the accuracy of deliveries.”  Picking is virtually error free with order fulfilment running at 99%.

Real time information from the system is giving the business full visibility and an accurate audit trail across all aspects of the warehouse operation.  Live tracking of stock levels greatly improves the replenishment and ordering processes and, says Sullivan, “the net result is that it’s allowing us to reduce the amount of money we have tied up in stock.”

“Warehouse utilisation is excellent,” says Adrienne McDonnell, BWG Foods IT project manager for the implementation.  “The system helps us utilise the warehouse space in the most efficient and effective manner.  We know immediately when a picking slot needs replenishment and exactly where that replenishment should come from so we can optimise operations.”

BWG Foods has rolled out the same solution at its retail distribution centre in Walkinstown and is now looking to take advantage of other functions available with the system at both facilities.

“The paper-based systems were unable to offer the same level of flexibility and functionality as the Accord Voice WMS which we require to meet the company’s requirements for growth and expansion,” Sullivan says.  The technology is proving itself as we extend its use and the management team is delighted with the speed, efficiency and real time visibility of key information it’s delivering

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