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Supplies ahoy, says P&O

12 December 2012

P&O Ferries gets onboard with Zetes voice picking solution in a bid to boost warehouse efficiency P&O Ferries has implemented voice directed picking in its Dover warehouse to improve operational efficiency in partner

P&O Ferries gets onboard with Zetes voice picking solution in a bid to boost warehouse efficiency

P&O Ferries has implemented voice directed picking in its Dover warehouse to improve operational efficiency in partnership with Zetes, a provider of solutions and services for the automatic identification of goods and people.

Introduced in August 2009 for P&O to benefit from significant productivity and accuracy improvements during the busy summer holiday period, the solution utilises an interface from Oracle eBiz and replaces P&O's legacy picking system based on handheld terminals in ambient areas and paper-based picking within chilled and frozen environments.

As a warehouse, P&O's site is unique and combines a variety of environments and racking systems, all of which pose challenges to coverage and connectivity. In spite of this, the company has successfully used voice devices effectively in all areas of its warehouse, serving as a testament to both the solution design and quality of the hardware deployed.

"Shopping and dining are an integral part of the travel experience for ferry passengers and a vital source of revenue for ferry operators. So ensuring that the right stock is available at all times is vital," says Rob Meredith, head of supply chain at P&O Ferries.

"Our original intention was to pick with handheld terminals throughout the site, but working in a freezer with handhelds and gloves is impractical and created an unwieldy process because pickers had to use paper initially and then input data once out of the freezer area," adds Meredith. "It was in the freezer where we saw the biggest improvements - both from an efficiency and ergonomic point of view," he continues. "Overall, we saw efficiency rise by some 20% across the warehouse but this increased to 40-50% in the freezer, even at temperatures of minus 18 degrees." Task allocation and resourcing management is also much more efficient now. The system includes auto assignments; allowing operators to log on at the start of their shift and receive pick instructions continuously. In the past, pickers would have returned to the operational controller to be reallocated tasks, resulting in inevitable downtime and disrupted workflow. In addition to these benefits, the voice system enables P&O to run a more automated perpetual inventory system, delivering further efficiency benefits during the peak summer months.

Zetes has implemented its 3i Voice Solution with Vocollect T5 Talkman devices, which supports 29 warehouse operatives responsible for picking an average of 150 units per hour (up to 114,000 items per week). Since implementing the voice picking solution, P&O Ferries has seen a 20% efficiency improvement and greater efficiencies through sequentially ordered pick routing and quality reporting. Errors have also been reduced, assisting P&O Ferries to achieve its 99.5% accuracy targets.

"Most voice users highlight the reduced training times as a key benefit and we experienced this at first hand recently when we moved a picker from nights onto the day shift where they needed to use voice - within 2 hours they were working to full efficiency," says Meredith. "Compare this to the old method with handheld terminals, it would have taken at least two days to become efficient." "For a travel operator, service and availability are key and this solution is a great example of innovation as P&O is the first ferry company to introduce voice to its warehouses," says Andrew Southgate, regional sales director for Zetes.
 
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