Are you looking for the right Pick by Voice system for your intralogistics?
Only the best will do for our beloved pets. And for Fressnapf Group, the same standard applies when it comes to the company's product range and logistics processes. Instead of settling with its tried-and-tested order picking system at its two warehouses in Feuchtwangen and Krefeld, Germany, the specialist chain for pet food and accessories decided to seek out a more efficient solution. The latest picking technologies were therefore put to the test during a comprehensive review. Only one system was able to meet the performance requirements of a professional warehouse environment: pick by voice. topsystem's smart voice assistant Lydia® came out on top ahead of alternative technologies such as pick by vision.
Having launched in 1990 with just one store in Erkelenz, Germany, Fressnapf Group has since gone on to become Europe's largest retailer for pet food and accessories. The company has roughly 1,500 stores in 11 different countries, where pet lovers from Denmark to Italy can find a wide range of products for their dogs, cats and other pets. All Fressnapf stores and end customers are supplied by five German warehouses covering a total area of 143,000 m2. Two of these warehouses are operated by the Fressnapf Group itself: the 60,000 m2 logistics centre in Krefeld and the 20,000 m2 regional warehouse in Feuchtwangen. Both locations feature a large area in which orders are picked manually. Around 2,500 fast-moving consumer goods are stored in Feuchtwangen and roughly 8,000 goods in Krefeld.
Electronic picking lists a thing of the past
Fressnapf started using electronic picking lists (EPLs) in its warehouses back in 2006. The EPLs were prepared on a monitor which was directly attached to the forklift truck. "Back then, we developed the graphic interface ourselves and tailored it to our individual requirements. We placed a particular emphasis on clarity and user-friendly operation. This helped us to boost picking performance by 15% and reduce the error rate by 20%," explains Gerhard Kunkel, Head of Outbound Logistics at Fressnapf. However, the potential for optimising the EPLs – and thus boosting efficiency further – was limited. As Fressnapf Group always aims to critically assess and improve its internal processes, the company sought out an even more efficient system for manual picking. "In order to keep up with the company's continued growth and increasing customer orders, we required a new solution that would increase productivity and which could be implemented flexibly without the need for long training periods," Kunkel adds.
Putting picking solutions to the test
Fressnapf Group put a number of efficient and future-oriented manual picking systems to the test such as pick by light, pick by voice and pick by vision data glasses. They were assessed in terms of their potential suitability to a previously defined profile of requirements. "We created identical test orders for each of the selected systems, which were then picked by various employees under almost normal conditions. We then evaluated the systems on the basis of previously defined criteria," Kunkel explains. Fressnapf was thus able to obtain concrete data such as performance values and error rates, enabling it to objectively compare the various picking solutions in terms of performance.
Voice trumps vision
Kunkel was surprised by the outcome of the test: "From the outset I was sure we would opt for a pick-by-vision solution, as I'd regarded this system as particularly effective and future-proof." The test revealed, however, that this widely promoted technology was unable to achieve the desired performance data. In comparison with the other solutions, pick by vision demonstrated a weaker performance in the fields of work safety and battery life. And because Fressnapf places a high value on the opinion of its employees, a number of order pickers were chosen to play an active role in the selection procedure. "The employees who took part reported back to me about how the desired increase in productivity in the picking process could not be achieved with the data glasses," Kunkel says. Another critical aspect related to the product's ergonomics: "The use of data glasses over several hours is particularly straining on workers' eyes due to the constant shift between the physical warehouse surroundings and virtual information," he adds.
Instead of the pick-by-vision system, which had initially been the favoured solution, another system came out on top during testing. "Pick by voice emerged as the system best suited to our requirements over the course of the tests. We ultimately opted for topsystem as a solution provider, as Lydia® Voice does not require employees to go through voice training. It also delivers first-class results with regard to voice recognition, which helps to ensure fast workflows and a high level of acceptance among employees," Kunkel explains. Lydia® Voice made an impression thanks to its intuitive operation and easy-to-grasp voice dialogue, which all warehouse workers can learn quickly whatever their native language may be. This in turn enables order pickers to work productively with the system within a very short period of time. In addition, employees have the choice between a headset and the Lydia® VoiceWear® picking vest to help ensure optimal working conditions.
Lydia® Voice boosts productivity
The pick-by-voice solution has been fully installed at the Feuchtwangen and Krefeld warehouses since 2018. Roughly 360 pickers now work with Lydia® Voice in the manual picking areas of both warehouses. The system provides employees with optimised guidance through the warehouse, indicates the pallet storage position and specifies the correct number of units to be taken. The picker then only needs to place the goods on the corresponding load carrier, for example on a pallet or in a box. Since the introduction of Lydia® Voice, Fressnapf Group has seen a further increase in productivity by roughly 10% at both warehouses. The number of picks has increased from 190 to 205 packages per hour. "We hadn't expected to see such a positive increase in productivity," says Kunkel. Furthermore, the introduction of Lydia® Voice has seen the error rate reduced substantially by almost 50% to just 0.2%. This is due, in part, to the hands-free/eyes-free concept which allows for a 100% focus on the picking process. "Through the introduction of Lydia® Voice we have also been able to reduce the number of workplace accidents, since employees are now more focused and no longer distracted by having to look at picking lists," Kunkel adds.
Fressnapf Group is currently planning a new project with topsystem as it looks to further optimise its processes. The two companies are aiming to work together closely in the field of workforce management.