Zetes’ voice solution is ‘music to the ears’ for Faber’s warehouse pickers

e3131779jpgVoice gives Faber immediate ROI with pick times cut at least 25% and virtual elimination of errors Zetes has implemented a voice picking solution at Faber Music Distribution, one of Europe’s largest music distributors and a subsidiary of music publishers Faber Music Ltd. The voice solution is the final element of a Warehouse Management System, provided by Solarsoft Business Systems. This also included installing a wireless network, handheld terminals and truck mounted terminals within the company’s Distribution Centre in Harlow, Essex.

Due to ever increasing costs and a competitive market, Faber needed to examine ways of cutting costs and making the DC more efficient. Voice picking, with its relatively short-term return on investment, provides a high impact solution by cutting pick times by at least 25% and virtually eliminating picking errors.

“The new voice system has had to be very flexible to make our rather complex business work, with orders being split into three parts, general stock orders, bulk picking and also archive items manufactured on demand. But after careful design, implementation and testing, the system really works well for us,” says John Hepworth, MD of Faber Music Distribution.

“The other important issue in the current climate is efficiency, and switching to voice is even more significant, helping us to create a leaner machine. It means we can get orders out to customers more quickly, ship stock faster into stores and be able to take re-orders more quickly. Looking ahead, the voice system will also make the warehouse more efficient, enabling us to reduce overtime costs over the year and operate a more flexible workforce to meet our busiest trading periods.”

Faber’s picking system illustrates the benefits of voice directed picking as a warehouse optimisation solution for small to medium sized businesses (SMEs). After its eight pickers had used the Zetes/Vocollect voice system for just one week, Faber Music Distribution saw an instant increase in picking rates compared with their previous paper based system. Now, a single picker can complete anything up to 200 order lines per hour compared with a previous average of 50-70 order lines per hour. A multi pick solution also means pickers can pick 10 orders simultaneously, giving further productivity improvements.

Faber’s warehouse operators were involved in the migration to voice from the onset, and are equally enthusiastic about their new picking system, which was customised to identify order lines by their format – ‘copy’ for printed music, ‘CD’, ‘DVD’ or ‘Set’ for music sets and orchestral scores. The system also switches from descriptive identifiers, such as the abbreviated title for the majority of mainstream and English language publications, to item number identifiers, used for foreign language publications and more obscure, international composers.

“The users really love the new system and were very keen to start using it,” says John Hepworth. “It is human nature to avoid change, and at the start a few team members were quite apprehensive, mainly some of the older ones. But once they started working with voice, their concerns were allayed straight away and they have since said they wouldn’t want to go back to a paper based system.”

“Voice picking has traditionally been seen as the preserve of large companies running high throughput warehouse operations. The Faber implementation demonstrates the flexibility of voice directed working, and proves that SMEs can also see an immediate efficiency and productivity return when they switch,” says James Hannay, Senior VP for Northern Europe at Zetes.

Faber Music Distribution is using the Vocollect Talkman wireless headset and belt pack devices with the 3iV voice recognition software supplied by Zetes. The voice system is integrated directly into Solarsoft’s integrated ERP solution and Warehouse Management System.