Invest for best result

Having the most effective technology and transport can mean the difference between success and failure as wholesalers compete for the business. In delivered foodservice customers can vary from major hospitals and schools down to restaurants and pubs, so flexibility in the supply chain is key. Customers are looking for a minimum of deliveries to satisfy all their needs so a company that can provide multi-temperature deliveries from a single vehicle will have a strong advantage.

Deliveries in the retail sector are growing with almost all cash and carries offering some delivered service and competing for business with the delivered specialists. Blueheath is one of the fastest growing delivered wholesalers, and has recently established its own distribution fleet after initially using third parties.

All the deliveries from its Thurrock site are now being carried out by its own fleet of 40 vehicles which are in the process of being fitted out in the Blueheath livery. The company has no agency drivers, having recruited its own team to man the vehicles.

Blueheath CEO Mark Aylwin explains: “It is my belief that to deliver the very best in customer service, you have to own the relationship between the drivers and your customers. Our drivers are a key link in the relationship with our customers; they ensure we deliver on our customer service promise and can deal with any queries at the point of delivery.”

Technology is another area that can improve efficiency. Computers are ideally suited to processing the huge amount of data involved in ordering products and tracking their progress through the supply chain. Systems supplied by companies such as BCP, Sanderson and STL can bring down costs in many ways, reducing the amount of manual administration, minimising the amount of stock held to an optimum level, and ensuring that picking errors are kept to a minimum.

== Case Study one ==

Sussex-based Southover Foods has invested in a branded fleet of 16 temperature-controlled vans that operate from its two sites. The vehicles, four VW LT35 and 12 Mercedes Sprinter models, are a mixture of varying specification, twin evaporator, dual-temperature systems that ensure safe and hygienic delivery of food.

Steve Pearce, managing director of Southover Foods, says: “Our business is in providing fresh, high-quality foods to the catering industry, and to do this well, we need vehicles that won’t let us down. We first used the RVL brand (Refrigerated Vehicles (UK) Limited) in our very early days in business and I have continued to specify this high-quality build ever since.”

The vans used by Southover are 3.5 tons. The lighter vehicles mean lower fuel consumption for the regular daily deliveries and also, importantly, guarantee maximum delivery capacity. They also allow easy access to narrow streets in certain delivery areas.

With its fleet covering more than 430,000 miles a year, Southover is careful to regularly maintain the vans to the highest standard and minimise the chances of vehicle breakdown.

Southover Foods is based in Southwick near Brighton in East Sussex. It was set up in 1989 by Steve and Liz Pearce as a small unit offering a limited range of deli products across Sussex. Today the company has a nationwide customer base and offers over 3,000 fresh and frozen product lines to clients in the restaurant, hotel, delicatessen and coffee shop trade.

== Case study two ==

CJ Lang Son serves nearly 50% of Scotland’s independent market from its retail distribution centre (RDC) in Dundee, and its three Martex Cash Carry depots serve 7,500 customers a week as well as providing a delivered foodservice operation to hotels, pubs, restaurants, leisure outlets, industrial, healthcare and education catering establishments.

CJ Lang recognised that the paper-based warehouse operations at its RDC were becoming outdated and following evaluation of the different voice solutions available on the market, it decided to go ahead with implementation of Business Computer Projects (BCP) Accord voice warehouse management system. BCP’s voice directed WMS, including the specialist voice tasks, uses voice recognition of Vocollect Voice, supplied by BCP’s partner VoiteQ.

To ensure the system was working as designed, BCP initially conducted a trial of the system in a pilot area in the warehouse. The pilot allowed BCP to show how, by using voice, the WMS can be updated in real time, providing full visibility and an accurate audit trail into all aspects of warehouse operations. It also demonstrated to CJ Lang the increases in speed and accuracy that could be achieved.

Once the pilot was completed, the project was implemented in phases, starting with the installation of a Symbol Technology Spread Spectrum 24 radio frequency (RF) network as the cornerstone for the voice system.

The next step was to introduce voice functionality into goods receiving. This enabled workers to receive instructions by voice and then enter the data directly onto the Accord WMS using a combination of barcode scanning and voice verification. As voice is used to check all aspects of the delivery from quantity to batch number, any discrepancies are identified and addressed immediately rather than filtering into the warehouse to be resolved later on. This ensures the data on the system is accurate from the start.

The next voice module CJ Lang installed was put-away. At this stage, the voice distribution system instructs the forklift truck drivers of the location in the warehouse where the goods need to go, and the drivers then verbally confirm the delivery.

Once the put-away phase was up and running, the system was introduced into order picking. The system is designed so that the workers are directed by voice to the location in the warehouse where a product needs to be picked and told the quantity for selection.

One of the benefits of voice is that its real-time interaction means that pick faces can be replenished as soon as they drop below a minimum level – the system automatically generates instructions to the forklift truck drivers to get a full pallet from bulk storage when this predetermined level is reached. This not only optimises the use of the forklift truck drivers, but also prevents re-picks and waiting time due to empty picking faces.

The final phase of the project was to voice-enable perpetual inventory. This allows stock checking to be done in real-time and means that any stock discrepancies can be dealt with immediately. nbsp;BCP worked closely with CJ Lang throughout the implementation to fine-tune the voice functionality, to ensure the system precisely matched its needs and to provide a seamless transition to voice.

“We felt that our paper-based system was preventing us from achieving the productivity and service goals we aspired to,” explains Graham Murdoch, IT director for CJ Lang. “As a result, we were one of the first companies to adopt voice technology within the warehouse.”

Utilising voice has transformed the ambient warehouse at its RDC from a predominantly paper-based operation with no RF functionality to one that is entirely based on voice-directed distribution. As a result, the company has experienced significant benefits in all areas of its warehouse operations, improving accuracy, productivity, profitability and customer service.

In total 40 Vocollect Talkman mobile computers have been deployed and are being used by 80 workers within the ambient warehouse. The new technology has been quickly adopted and the feedback has been extremely positive, with everyone finding it easy to learn and deploy.

“Voice technology is now integral to how we manage our warehouse. It has led to dramatic improvements, not just to our productivity, but to the overall service we offer to our customers,” says Murdoch. “The project has exceeded our expectations in all areas of the RDC from goods in to goods out.”


=== Savings with voice picking ===

As anticipated, the biggest benefit for CJ Lang has come from improved picking accuracy. Since implementing voice picking, errors have been virtually eradicated with accuracy levels of 99.9%.

The hands-free, eyes-free operation has improved workers’ concentration on their tasks and also their productivity, as they no longer have to stop what they are doing to collect new assignments from the office. Improvements to productivity have also resulted from the reduction in re-picking and less time being spent investigating stock discrepancies, thanks to a more efficient stock-checking process.

The stationery and administration savings from the voice implementation have also been significant. The use of paper lists and labels have been eliminated, along with tasks such as printing and distributing picking documents, the re-keying of picking confirmation and order adjustments for out of stocks. The result has been a reduction of five man-days’ effort per week in warehouse management administration, allowing the company to re-deploy administrative staff to more productive areas of the business.

Safety in the warehouse has also been improved. Eliminating paper has meant a cleaner, tidier and safer warehouse, and as workers are operating hands-free, eyes-free, they have a much better awareness of their environment, which leads to fewer accidents.

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