Parmalat milks the potential of voice picking technology

Tuesday, 24 March, 2015 | Supplied by: Dematic Pty Ltd

Parmalat is one of Australia’s largest dairy producers and in 2014 was named Woolworths’ Core Fresh Supplier of the Year. One of the company’s key warehouses is its Lidcombe distribution centre (DC) in western Sydney.

“The Lidcombe DC is very important to our business as we service a number of high-profile customers across a wide area, and it is imperative that our warehouse runs as effectively as possible in order to deliver perishable dairy goods fresh and on time,” explained Guy Romeo, national logistics transformation manager, Parmalat.

Parmalat enlisted the help of Dematic to investigate how technology could help them optimise their current processes in the Lidcombe facility. Parmalat’s overall goal in implementing the new system was to achieve greater utilisation of their labour to improve overall warehouse efficiency. To achieve this, Parmalat needed to upgrade to a system that offered more visibility, so they were in a position to specify what tasks employees fulfilled at all times.

“The basis of Dematic’s initial investigation on the DC floor was for us to look at what was traditionally a paper-based process and to determine how we could implement technology to help speed that up,” said Seth van Dijk, sales manager, Dematic. “Dematic investigated a number of different technologies but determined that voice picking was the optimal solution.”

Icon Integration and Dematic worked with Honeywell Scanning & Mobility (HSM) to design and employ a new voice-directed smart SAP WMS solution capable of delivering a competitive edge for Parmalat. The WMS solution and the Honeywell Vocollect voice technology solution replaced a paper-based picking system.

“Parmalat’s business is fast-moving consumer goods with a short shelf life; therefore, it was vital they introduced automated processes that led to less travel time, better rotation of stock, less wastage and ultimately an increase in the litres per man-hour,” explained Jason Nalewabau, director, SAP Logistics Execution Solutions, Icon Integration. “We had the tools at Icon to automate Parmalat’s new smart WMS design and on top of that we overlayed the Honeywell voice system to get the visibility and speed of execution in the warehouse.”

Parmalat achieved productivity and safety improvements through Honeywell’s Vocollect voice solution’s ‘hands-free and eyes-free’ qualities, which means employees no longer need to look down or put down papers and scanners to pick up a unit or crate of stock. The DC also is better organised and stock is moving a lot more freely since the new system was deployed.

“Under the new WMS and voice-directed picking system, we’ve experienced a 15% improvement in terms of our litres per man-hour,” Guy Romeo said. “As a result, we’re not only reaching our targets, but exceeding them, even during peak periods such as the Christmas that has just passed. For a fast-moving picking environment, using voice with your WMS is the only way to go.”

Parmalat’s new voice-directed picking solution has not only been designed for use in warehouses distributing milk in nondescript crates, like Lidcombe, but also Parmalat DCs that predominantly distribute other product categories including cheese, soft dairy and UHT milk.

“We are thrilled to see Parmalat is already reaping the rewards of enhanced efficiency, productivity and accuracy that are delivered by voice technologies,” said Paul Phillips, regional manager - Australia/New Zealand for Honeywell’s Vocollect Solutions. “Customers supplied by Parmalat’s Lidcombe warehouse are also benefitting from the enhanced order fulfilment performance they are now able to offer.”

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