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Reject Shop Finds a New Voice With Major DC Technology Deployment

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Honeywell Sensing and Productivity Solutions and VoiceID upgrade the Reject Shop's voice-directed processes to improve DC productivity and accuracy

Reject Shop Finds a New Voice With Major DC Technology DeploymentThe 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.

An early adopter in voice

Recognising the need for an efficient supply chain and the importance of accuracy across a complex national distribution network, The Reject Shop became an early adopter of voice technology in its warehouse facilities. The company moved from a manual, paper-based system for picking store orders and managing goods movement through its DC to a voice picking system in 2006.

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.

Upgrading technology, upgrading processes

The Reject Shop had benefited from gains in productivity, accuracy and safety as a result of deploying voice technology into their DC. However, voice technology has advanced significantly over recent years to offer new features and means to further improve picking processes and warehouse operations.

"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.

A rapid start with voice

Given DCs can operate with periods of peak demand where extra seasonal workers come in to assist with picking, it was imperative that any voice-technology upgrade with The Reject Shop be easily understood by new workers and that the existing workforce would be able to quickly use the new system as well. To facilitate the training process, The Reject Shop utilised the VoiceID Training 360 program, which is aimed at enhancing user acceptance from inception with guidance on change management of the voice-recognition technology, providing training programs to ensure a successful go-live, automating the basic training components to minimise downtime of supervisors and offering subscription to up-to-date training information to help maintain in-house knowledge.

"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.

The results speak for themselves

By upgrading to the Honeywell A700 voice picking solution, The Reject Shop has achieved greater visibility of its processes, as well as accuracy improvements.

"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.