Efficient picking at Eurocash S.A.
Objective of the implementation:
- Increase of picking process performance
Benefits of the implementation:
Established in 1995, Eurocash Group with headquarters in Komorniki is the largest Polish company dealing in wholesale distribution of fast moving consumer goods (FMCG). It also provides marketing support to independent Polish entrepreneurs operating in retail, providing them with innovative cooperation models and effective tools supporting business. The franchise and partner networks supported by Eurocash associate approximately 15,000 independent stores operating under the following brands: abc, Groszek, Delikatesy Centrum, Lewiatan, Euro Sklep, Gama, Duży Ben, Kontigo, and Koliber. The excellent entrepreneurship of the company during its more than 25 years of activity is confirmed by many awards and distinctions in prestigious industry polls, as well as by entering the Main Market of the Stock Exchange (in 2005).
Without slowing down an entrepreneurial development for a moment, Eurocash decided to increase the efficiency in one of its most key logistics processes, which is the picking of goods. This goal was to be achieved with a new system using voice technology. The requirement for the system was to design and manufacture it in such a way as to minimize the negative impact of interruptions or delays in communication with the overriding system. This uneasy task was entrusted to SKK S.A. due to the good cooperation with this partner so far and recommendations regarding the implementation of voice solutions by SKK.
11 Eurocash distribution centers located all over the country were covered by the new solution. The implementation began with warehouse in Błonie, then it was successively executed in Sosnowiec, Gdańsk, Poznań, Wrocław, Krosno, Lublin, Białystok, Stargard, Tęgoborz and Kraków. Additionally, SKK specialists conducted wireless network audits in all distribution centers. As a result, they replaced wi-fi in Wrocław warehouse. In other locations the network required only small corrections which Eurocash introduced on its own, following the recommendations after the audits carried out. These measures were aimed at ensuring efficient and stable communication during execution of picking process.
The voice system consists primarily of hardware and software supplied by both SKK and Honeywell. These are portable terminals with a built-in barcode reader; wireless headsets; Voice Catalyst – a software platform for building and running a voice application which is the driving force of the system; Voice Console – terminal management software, SKK Voice Client – voice application reproducing specific warehouse processes in Eurocash; SKK Voice Connector – a communication server for data exchange between voice terminals and SAP software. In addition, the necessary accessories, hardware warranties and technical support under the system maintenance contract were provided.
How run the picking in Eurocash warehouses? After logging into the system (SAP) using a terminal, the operator takes a forklift truck and registers it by reading the barcode. By answering a few questions about the technical condition of a forklift truck, he checks its efficiency. Then, he takes a pallet, weighs it and tares it, and downloads a picking order from the system. Then, on printers positioned in the warehouse, the picking labels are printed, which will be later used to mark the completed goods. The voice system directs the operator to the first place of picking the goods by giving its coordinates. The employee confirms arrival at the correct location by reading its control digits. The system communicates information about a commodity and its quantity for picking. The operator confirms the actual collected quantity (in the event of a lack of product, he communicates the appropriate information to the system). And this is how the operations of picking subsequent goods runs until all items from the order are completed. The last stage of picking is to put a pallet away to an intermediate storage area, which is also indicated to the operator by the system, and to provide the completed order with a label. The employee may proceed to the next order.
Communication between the system and the operator takes place by means of determined commands. If necessary, at any moment the employee may adjourn or interrupt the execution of the order and ask the system again for relevant information. Thanks to a microphone and headphones set and a terminal strapped to the belt, the operator has his eyes and hands free during the whole process, which significantly increases the safety and ergonomics of work. Eurocash staff appreciates this aspect very much, as does a simple operation of the system. Training in the new system itself takes extremely little time – after 2 hours a new operator can already carry out the picking.
As a result of the implementation the picking efficiency increased, therefore, the goal that the company cared about the most was worked out. This increase has been especially made for “multi-order picking” and ranges from 10% to 40% depending on the warehouse. It was also observed that the time to reach the previous average productivity when hiring a new employee is shorter due to the voice system (at the same time he reaches a higher average).
The system works in three language versions – the operator can choose which language he wants to work in: Polish, English or Russian. Multilingualism is also a great advantage of the solution because there are foreign-language people among Eurocash staff.
A total of approximately 850 licenses of the voice system were delivered. Taking into account the two-shift work system in Eurocash warehouses, approximately 1,700 employees use the picking process daily.
It is worth adding that the project was finished six month earlier than planned in work schedule hence all the benefits of the introduced solution are felt faster as well.
The system was implemented in the area of dry goods, which is the largest part each of distribution center. The company plans to introduce an identical solution in remaining warehouse zones in the future.