James Hall opts for voice recognition in warehouse

Following successful implementation of voice technology in its frozen foods department last year, Spar wholesaler James Hall Co is rolling out BCP’s Accord Voice Picking System across its entire warehouse operation.

James Hall is expecting the £350,000 investment to pay for itself in 9 to 12 months as the company reaps the accuracy and productivity benefits.

The investment in voice picking has been prompted by a need to minimise picking errors in order to improve customer deliveries, ease out-of-stocks in retail stores and reduce the costs involved in rectifying incorrect deliveries.

The new system replaces a traditional paper-based pick-by-label system which had always been efficient, but, like any manual system, subject to human error – a significant factor in an operation as large as Halls, where pickers assemble 2,500 orders per week from over 6,000 different product lines.
When fully implemented, the new system will be used by 80 pickers across the entire warehouse operation. BCP is delivering the full solution, including all hardware, software and services and is working with Hall’s in-house IT team to install it as a phased implementation.

The first stage – for picking frozen foods – went live in 2004, rapidly delivering such substantial improvements that Halls quickly decided to roll the technology out across its whole operation. Cigarettes, wines and spirits went live in May and the entire ambient department was using voice recognition by mid October, well ahead of schedule. In the new year BCP will work with James Hall to implement the system across fresh foods, where some refinements may be necessary to handle cross docking and other specifics associated with the handling of fresh produce.

Picking errors in frozen foods have fallen by 90%, resulting in accuracy levels of 99.99%. Dominic Hall, technical services director at James Hall, said: “This is way beyond our expectations and is generating enormous savings, as rectifying incorrect deliveries to retailers is expensive and time consuming.”

These savings are expected to make a large contribution to the expected 9 to 12 month payback on the investment, although significant cost reductions are also coming through from other benefits such as improved stock accuracy, stationery savings and administrative efficiencies.

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