Appleby Westward

Appleby Westward slashes picking errors with BCP’s Voice WMS

SPAR wholesaler for SW England

AWG slashes picking errors with BCP’s Voice WMS

Grocery wholesaler, Appleby Westward Group Ltd (AWG), reports a 97.3% reduction in pick errors, saving over £100,000 p.a., following its investment in BCP’s Accord™ Voice warehouse management technology.

AWG is one of the UK’s top 20 delivered grocery wholesalers. Part of the BWG Food Group and SPAR food distributor for the South and West of England, AWG services some 300 SPAR stores across the region as well as exporting to NAAFI stores around the world. It operates two RDCs – Saltash in Cornwall for ambient, and Cullompton in Devon, for chilled, produce and frozen foods.

The Challenge
Computerised for years, AWG used RF scanning technology for Goods Receiving, FLT put-away and replenishment, but still picked orders using manual pick-by-label. This was efficient, but subject to human inaccuracy. AWG was keen to improve warehouse picking accuracy, provide a better service to customers and reduce the substantial costs associated with incorrect deliveries.

The Solution
Witnessing the success of Voice technology at fellow SPAR distributors, James Hall and CJ Lang, AWG decided to invest in the same Accord Voice Warehouse Management Software solution from BCP for its 7,200m2 Saltash RDC.

Saltash is the larger of the RDCs, comprising of two warehouses – the Bulk warehouse for bulk pallet storage and the Main warehouse for cases. It operates 6½ days a week on a two shift system, handles around 5,000 sku’s, and delivers, on average, 125,000 assembled packs every week.

The investment encompasses BCP’s complete Accord Voice Directed Picking solution, operating with the latest Vocollect Talkman T5 terminals and a Symbol Technologies RF network. BCP has supplied the full hardware and software solution, working closely with AWG’s in-house Voice implementation team to install the system in phases in order to build up in-house experience and minimise disruption.

The first phase was a month long, four picker pilot to thoroughly test the system before implementing Voice Picking in the Bulk Warehouse. Operatives here handle bulky, heavy, full cases, so totally hands-free Voice technology is ideal. Picking instructions are received via a headset and confirmed through a microphone, both linked to the main Accord WMS through a belt-worn portable computer. Once the Bulk Warehouse was fully operational, the system was incorporated into the Main Warehouse where most ambient lines are picked. Finally, Voice was implemented in the Security Warehouse – a separate facility within the Main Warehouse. Here picking is more complex with the warehouse divided into five departments (Wines, Spirits, Tobacco, Pharmacy, Cakes) and operators picking splits and singles as well as cases. Accord manages the whole process, splitting orders into different departments, directing pickers to locations, checking quantities and controlling the assembly of orders at a single point.

The Results
Within six months picking at Saltash was completely converted to Voice. Twenty-nine pickers now use the system and improvements have exceeded expectations.

Picking accuracy has improved significantly, error claims reducing by over 97%. Philip Brewer, AWG Operations and IT Director: “This alone represents a saving of £2000 per week in additional sales and customer stores are benefiting from the greater accuracy with the right products in the right place at the right time.”

Potential productivity improvements were not used to justify the investment, but improvements here include an ambient pick rate increase of about 5 packs per hour.

Pickers, initially sceptical, have adapted to Voice Picking quickly, finding it simple to learn and adopt. Philip Brewer: “Assemblers – even those who’ve been with us for years and very settled into the old system – really like the new technology. They’re keen to extend it to other warehouse activities as they’ve found it makes their jobs much easier. Indeed, if asked, they wouldn’t want to go back to the old assembly label processes.”

Since the initial investment, AWG has introduced Directed Replenishment of the pick face. Stock levels at the pick face are monitored in real time and FLT drivers directed to replenish items. Warehouse service levels are now 98.33%, an improvement on the manual ‘flag’ system.

Philip Brewer: “Improvements have certainly exceeded expectations. We’re delighted with the accuracy improvements and the capital this is releasing will contribute significantly to a rapid payback on the project.”

Project Description