Cooper-Booth Wholesale Co., located in Mountville, Pennsylvania, is a full-line, full-service wholesale distributor serving retailers in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, West Virginia and Virginia. Cooper-Booth recently made the decision to replace its RF scanning system with voice picking technology from topVOX. The main reasons for the shift to voice were boosting picking productivity and accuracy.
The overall system combines scanning technology, topVOX’s voice picking system and the company’s warehouse management system (AFS) to keep close tabs on inventory from the moment it arrives at the facility. As workers deposit incoming merchandise into picking slots, they scan the locations to marry the slot with the product. When customer orders come in, the WMS allocates products to specific orders and relays picking instructions to workers via the topVOX voice system. As workers complete the picks, they read check digits back to the WMS system to verify the items were picked from the correct slots and to confirm the pick.
Implementation throughout the warehouse
Trevor Martin, VP Operations at Cooper-Booth, explained that the company had originally anticipated problems during the voice picking implementation due to issues encountered by the company a few years earlier during the implementation of scanning devices. However, in reality, the whole implementation went very smoothly. “We couldn’t simply implement the system in one area, and then roll it out in different areas within the warehouse – this is because we have seven core areas that are all so tightly linked that they needed simultaneous implementation,” Martin pointed out. “We have seven warehouse areas, including frozen, refrigerated, ambient, mezzanine and cigarette picking areas – so, with our internal management system we could not work through one area at a time with a new voice system. We had to go live in all the areas, with all pickers, billing and inventory at once. In short, the whole implementation was quite painless and we were up and running the following day.”
Martin stressed that Cooper-Booth Wholesale is very thorough before making any purchasing decisions: “We went through other scanning systems and voice-pick options, but when it came to making the final decision we felt most comfortable with topVOX. This was partly because of the system’s functionality and ease of use, and because it was an open package that could be integrated directly with our WMS. There was also the feel-good factor of having already done business with topVOX management in the past. The solution was also comparatively low-cost and we felt that we could achieve a fast ROI with the system. It also allowed us to do a couple of important things internally that we wanted to do, such as off-setting our costs with other projects that we were already engaged in.”
When Cooper-Booth Wholesale made the decision to purchase topVOX it put a game plan together with a topVOX project manager and topVOX technician in order to ensure that integration, right up to go-live, would run smoothly. “Between us, we worked out a vocabulary that would fit best for our picking operation,” explained Martin. “We only needed two training sessions for all our employees. The staff picked orders in a test mode to ensure they had learned how to operate the systems. The employees picked it up very quickly, while we ironed out a few remaining issues concerning the vocabulary with the topVOX personnel. They remained at our site for several weeks, simply to help out if we needed it during implementation.”
Integration with WMS
In terms of back-office systems, Cooper-Booth Wholesale uses a basic legacy WMS system onto which it built functionality in-house. Data collected during the picking process is automatically transmitted to the WMS, ensuring that its information is updated in real time. Along with the order and inventory status updates, data collected during picking provides visibility into worker performance, which helps the company to better manage its labor. “Another big plus in switching to voice,” Martin elaborates, “is that we now know what is in every container we ship. We do business with a large global customer that expects to be able to scan the label and know exactly what’s in the container.”
Martin also pointed out that, although Cooper-Booth Wholesale currently only uses voice for picking, the company plans to use the system for receiving, put-away and inventory control in the near future. “We’re really enjoying the benefits of having a hands-free way of working and it’s impressing us more than we had first anticipated,” he remarked.
Sustained market growth
Martin states that Cooper-Booth Wholesale continues to have sustained market growth despite the downturn, “but our topVOX Voice solution only adds to our overall profitability through improved productivity and greater picking accuracy,” he remarked, adding: “We could literally pull someone off the street and after a few minutes training have them up and running. Overall, we’ve seen an increase in productivity by around 14 percent depending on the pick area. We track errors in terms of one per thousand, and since using topVOX our errors have gone down by around seven to eight percent. Indeed, performance is so good that we expect an ROI inside of our estimation.”
topVOX UK contact: Mr. Peter Breens
Tel: +44 – 116 212 6744
(mobile) 44 785 905 7554