The Reject Shop operates in the discount variety retail sector in Australia, serving a broad range of value-conscious consumers who are attracted to low price points, convenient shopping locations and the opportunity to purchase a bargain.
The Reject Shop has operated for over 30 years and offers a wide variety of general consumer merchandise. The company has 335 leasehold stores Australia-wide across metropolitan, regional areas and country towns.
To service the wide range of stores across Australia with quality, value for money goods, The Reject Shop operates three distribution centres (DCs) across Australia; with sites in Victoria, Queensland and Perth. The company currently processes an average of 360,000 cartons of goods per week across its three DCs.
A major motivation for The Reject Shop to adopt a voice picking solution was that the legacy paper- based system was time and labour intensive and lacked warehouse operations visibility.
"In the past The Reject Shop used a paper-based picking system. It was inefficient, there were safety implications, and we couldn't measure anything," commented Wally Toppi, DC manager for The Reject Shop.
The voice-directed picking system that The Reject Shop installed in 2006 allowed the company to improve its warehouse processes and enhance throughput to get goods to stores quicker. The voice picking process was paperless, which meant operators no longer needed to look away from what they were doing or go back and forth picking up new pick slips.
"The Reject Shop's motivation behind implementing voice technology in 2006 centred on trying to achieve productivity improvements and a degree of accuracy as well. Initially when voice was introduced to the business we saw a near immediate gain in both accuracy and productivity," said Ashley Steers, supply chain systems manager for The Reject Shop.
Additionally, the company also saw tangible improvements in DC safety by moving from a paper-based picking system to an automated voice solution.
"We saw real safety benefits from moving to voice. Our team members were able to operate on the DC floor hands free, they didn't have to look down at a paper-based order all of the time whilst moving about the DC, which made them more aware of their surroundings," said Wally.
"Since moving to voice in 2006, voice technology has evolved and The Reject Shop was keen to take advantage of the new benefits. Following an internal review, we realised that the technology on offer today could allow us to do a lot more things with our current processes and enhance our DC efficiency and operations," said Wally.
To assist with their technology upgrade, The Reject Shop worked with voice integration specialists VoiceID to trial various solutions across their DC network and identify a best fit solution.
"As part of the technology audit VoiceID undertook with The Reject Shop, we tested a wide variety of technologies. The Honeywell A700 system was ultimately selected with the Reject Shop because it was a best fit for their DC operations and also offered future proofing capabilities as well," said Rizan Mawzoon, director of sales for Voice Interface Design.
"The Reject Shop was attracted to Honeywell's A700 solution because of the technology's wireless headsets, the ability to tap and go to login and the built-in scanners. With the wireless headsets our team members are able to move more freely and complete their orders quicker." said Wally.
With The Reject Shop's upgraded voice system, when a store order comes into a DC's WMS the operator will pick up an order list, they will then go to the specific product location in the DC and confirm with the check-digit that they are at the right location. The system will then tell them to pick a certain amount of product. From there they'll pick it and the voice system will ask the worker if they picked the right amount. The system will keeping going through this process until the order is finished, drastically reducing the chance of picking inaccuracies or human error.
"Voice has made my job easier because I don't have to worry about pieces of paper, or holding anything in my hand. I just put the headset on and listen to what the voice systems says, carry out its instructions and you can't make a mistake. From the pickers point of view it's 100 per cent accurate," said Laurie Maiolo, distribution centre picker for The Reject Shop.
"VoiceID and Honeywell voice technologies have improved our training processes. We're finding our voice operators are able to get up to speed for the operation as soon as they are introduced to the business. Having voice as a technology, operators are able to listen and respond rather than try and read and interpret what their order list is," said Ashley Steers, supply chain systems manager for The Reject Shop.
"Since upgrading our voice technology solution, we have noticed accuracy benefits in relation to our stocktake results and our inventory levels overall," said Wally.
A key driver behind the technology upgrade for The Reject Shop was the company's desire to improve the utilisation of labour and in order to achieve that, it needed greater operational visibility and control.
"Through the technology upgrade, we've been able to track and monitor what our team members do every day in regards to how many cartons they're processing and use that data to improve our picking operations in the future," said Wally.
The Reject Shop's successful upgrade of their voice picking system has improved its DC operations and offers lessons for warehouse operators across Australia.
"I would recommend the Honeywell A700 voice solution to other DCs because of the accuracy, the efficiency and the benefits we have seen at The Reject Shop. The technology is also adaptable to meet our changing business needs which is critically important in a fast moving retail environment," said Dani Aquilina, general manager-distribution for The Reject Shop.
© 2016 Honeywell International Inc.