Gainsborough Hardware Industries (GHI) is an Australian company founded in 1967 that forms part of the Door & Access Systems division for the GWA Group. The company integrated Honeywell’s Vocollect voice solutions to improve efficiency, accuracy and visibility in its warehouses. GHI supplies first class levers, decorative door furniture, security products and complimentary accessories throughout Australia.
Manual to automated process overhaul
GHI recently decided to overhaul its paper-based system in receiving, picking, replenishing and put-away stock by integrating a new data-management solution to improve visibility, efficiency and accuracy across warehouse operations. Bruce Kelly, National Customer Delivery Manager for Gainsborough, said that in the past, stock was manually handled and monitored before the integration of Honeywell’s Vocollect™ voice technologies.
Processes related to stock management, like picking and replenishment, were delivered to workers via printouts generated by the system and they had to follow the routes instructed, ticking items off the list and marking how many cartons there were left manually with a pen. All that paperwork was then placed with the goods for shipping. The most pressing issue with the paper-based system was the delay associated with having to manually update stock, which meant stock visibility wasn’t very accurate or as timely.
“We could see in the system that stock had been earmarked to be picked, but we didn’t know if it already had been picked or who was picking it,” said Bruce. “So in the event we needed to alter an order or we were chasing something, we had to physically go to each picker and see who had that pick in order to change it.”
Compare and Complement
The initial analysis of the warehouse – undertaken by Honeywell Scanning & Mobility– unearthed some operational process enhancements that had the potential to substantially improve efficiency. Paul Phillips, Regional Manager, ANZ, Honeywell Scanning & Mobility, spoke about the potential benefits identified.
“After a preliminary analysis of their operations, we were very quickly able to identify that the productivity gains achievable with voice would be much greater than handheld RF devices, due to GHI’s varied customer requirement,” said Paul.
“The ability to batch pick small orders, ultimately cutting down the number of trips workers would need to make through the warehouse, was a really significant benefit for GHI.”
Nishan Wijemanne, Managing Director for VoiceID said while initial discussions around potential technological investments were focused on more traditional handheld RF devices, voice was the logical choice for GHI.
Honeywell’s Vocollect voice solutions has also successfully improved a number of the other facets of day-to-day operations at the Gainsborough warehouse.
“In terms of visibility we are now 100 per cent better off than we were before the voice solution,” said Bruce. “Not only is this improvement allowing us to better track where our stock is within the warehouse, but it also gives us a better understanding of how we are utilising resources.”
With the voice system in place, labour allocation and management has become a much simpler and more streamlined process. The voice system now manages workloads automatically, ensuring the most appropriate resources are assigned to complete tasks in the most efficient manner possible without the need for manual intervention.
With the capability to allocate resources instantaneously, the Gainsborough DC is now able to fulfill orders next day if received before the cut-off time, improving the customer service aspect of Gainsborough’s offering. With stock updates being made in real-time, the customer service staff now have the confidence, when discussing stock availability with customers over the phone, to confirm that stock is available and has been allocated to them upon request.
“Our previous manual paper-based system management and inventory numbers could be a bit hit and miss,” said Bruce. “With the manual paper-based system, while you may be able to see something on the system, unfortunately it might have been damaged or moved because the right paperwork had been lost or filled in incorrectly. Our automated voice system has now virtually eliminated this and with the VoiceID Connector, the orders are interfaced into Voice in real-time. ”
As with any new hardware integration into a warehouse environment there were some concerns about how staff would take to the new process, however the reaction from Gainsborough staff was a positive one.
“In terms of the solution, our workers were very excited about the new voice system. Because we have a diverse set of nationalities across our workforce, there was a small concern that the voice recognition system software may not be able to accurately decipher the instructions because of a range of accents or differing levels of English competency,” said Bruce.
“However the solution is so advanced that because of the voice templates and calibration to individual worker language profiles, this perceived problem was actually one that didn’t arise.”
In time and on budget
Ken Crocombe, the Group Solutions Manager for the GWA Group, was also impressed by the ease of integration and uptake by workers.
“Having had 30 years’ experience delivering IT projects, I know how rare it is for a project to come in under-budget, especially on a project as complex as this one,” said Ken.
“Not only did the integration of VoiceLink into M3 come in under budget , the rapid training and deployment of voice to the workforce meant the go-live was smooth and the uptake across all of our warehouse processes was much easier.”
Honeywell Scanning & Mobility’s Vocollect voice integrates with all major WMS, ERP, materials handling systems, as well as most MRO/EAM solutions and supports the industry’s leading mobile computing devices. For more information, please visit www.vocollect.com.