Expected ROI of 9 – 12 months as James Hall rolls out BCP’s Voice Technology

Following successful implementation of Voice Technology in its Frozen Foods department last year, SPAR wholesaler, James Hall & Co (Southport) Ltd, is rolling out BCP’s Accord Voice Picking system across its entire warehouse operation. James Hall is now expecting, the £350,000 investment to pay for itself in nine to 12 months as the company reaps the accuracy and productivity benefits of this powerful new technology.

James Hall is one of the UK’s top ten grocery delivered wholesalers, servicing 460 independent and company owned stores across NW England.

The investment in Voice Picking is the latest stage in a technology ‘revamp’ which has also included the introduction of radio frequency systems and web ordering. It 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 Voice 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.

The Voice system uses BCP’s Accord Voice Picking solution, operating with Vocollect Talkman T2 terminals on a Symbol RF network. When fully implemented, it will be used by 80 pickers across the entire warehouse operation. Supply chain solutions specialist, 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 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% which, as Dominic Hall, Technical Services Director at James Hall, explains, “is way beyond our expectations and is generating enormous savings, as rectifying incorrect deliveries to retailers is expensive and time consuming.”

Halls believe these savings will be largely responsible for the expected nine to 12 month payback on their investment, although significant cost reductions are also coming through from other benefits such as improved stock accuracy, stationery savings and administrative efficiencies. All these benefits are expected to be even more substantial in the larger ambient and chilled departments.

As Dominic Hall explains: “Ultimately, it’s all about giving our customers the best service and Voice is helping us do just that. Accurate deliveries mean they can now focus on maximising sales and competing better in an increasingly competitive market, rather than spending valuable time checking deliveries.”

As a technology innovator, BCP are at the forefront when it comes to applying new technologies to the Food Industry Supply Chain. Aware of the immense potential of Voice Technology, BCP have paid careful attention to the way they have developed their Voice enabled WMS to make its benefits available to as wide a market as possible. It can be deployed as a standalone WMS to interface to other Order Processing and Stock systems, as discrete Voice modules to interface to third party WMS or, like the implementation at James Hall, as part of a fully integrated Accord supply chain solution.