Sainsbury’s deploys voice-based picking to increase accuracy in distribution chain


Sainsbury’s deploys voice-based picking to increase accuracy in distribution chain

Antony Savvas

Sainsbury's has deployed voice-directed product picking at three of its busiest distribution centres to increase accuracy.

Sainsbury's has implemented voice technology from VoiteQ at three of its distribution centres at Maltby, Stone and Skelton.

The firm's current warehouse management system (WMS) - Disco - produced paper pick-lists at those depots detailing the items that the pickers needed to place into the cages for dispatch to its stores.

The new voice system will be used to replace paper pick lists with voice directed work, making the process more efficient and accurate.

The implementation consists of more than 100 Talkman devices that are being used 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Talkman is a wearable voice computer attached to a securely fastened belt and headset and microphone worn by the picker. This interacts with the user and the existing WMS, via VoiteQ's VoiceMan middleware solution.

Instructions from VoiceMan are transmitted over a wireless network to the operative who follows the location and quantity instructions.

The operative responds with the verification of the product and the quantity they've picked. The device updates VoiceMan in real time, which in turn produces an output to update the host WMS with each pick result.

The voice terminal recognises the picker's voice and can understand key words used irrespective of their nationality or accent.

Nick Symmons, Sainsbury's head of supply chain and convenience systems, said, "Despite only recently implementing voice we have already seen significant benefits - accuracy has improved by more than 1% to 99.99%, and productivity is anticipated to increase by the end of 2008.

"We have made a significant investment in this new system, but believe with this increase in efficiency we will quickly attain our return on investment."

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