Gifts and novelties merchant Oriental Trading Co. is proud of its golden voice, which it refers to as Jennifer. So who or what is this Jennifer?
Well, Jennifer is the name of the voice in the company’s pick-to-voice fulfillment technology – which has increased productivity by 45% since its implementation in 2007. Oriental Trading’s order accuracy is 99.9% and its productivity is 430 units/man hour. And Jennifer has helped reduced pick errors by a whopping 60 %.
Oriental Trading decided to automate to increase capacity and have the ability to grow SKUs, according to its director of warehouse operations Deon Wagner. Speaking at the National Conference on Operations & Fulfillment in Las Vegas on April 5, Wagner noted how quickly its distribution center workers got up to seep with the technology.
“By day two, a person trained with pick-to-voice can be out on the floor doing it,” Wagner said. “When we transitioned to pick-to-voice technology in 2007, we transitioned pick-to-cart employees. We were pleasantly surprised because we thought we’d lose some, but we didn’t.”
So how does Jennifer work? The system relays instructions from the warehouse management system to distribution center employee using a separate server or directly to a mobile computer.
Warehouse workers communicate with Jennifer through a headset connected to a mobile voice-enabled computer while their eyes and hands stay focused on the job. “We didn’t want our pickers carrying around pick tickets,” Wagner said.
Oriental Trading sells about 25,000 SKUs, and its DC ships more than 300,000 units per day. The product variety – and frequent changeover in inventory – makes its fulfillment process more challenging.
The merchant combines the voice system with barcode scanning. It often sends workers messages for rush orders and gets a real-time view of productivity and production through a management console that is part of the voice system.
Lucas Systems installed the pick-to-voice system at Oriental Trading. The technology can be applied throughout the 750,000-sq.- ft. distribution center in La Vista, NE, that the merchant opened in 2007, according to Pat Wilson, retail industry segment manager for Lucas Systems.
“The value of data we capture is real-time insight and control, which gives insight into the operation and manages the process,” Lucas said. The pick-to-voice technology also improves communication and captures metrics for the labor management system.
What’s more, pick-to-voice can add new functionality on top of existing systems. Wagner said Oriental Trading has had one software update in its pick-to-voice technology since 2007.