Associated Grocers Rolls Out Voice-Directed Selection

March 1, 2003
OMI International, a provider of supply chain management solutions, along with Vocollect, a leader in voice-directed distribution systems, announced the

OMI International, a provider of supply chain management solutions, along with Vocollect, a leader in voice-directed distribution systems, announced the rollout of a real-time voice-directed selection system within Associated Grocers Inc.'s distribution center (DC) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

As an independent wholesale distributor, Associated Grocers recognized the potential for voice technology as a competitive advantage for improving its service levels to its 200-plus independent grocery retailers throughout its market of Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Using a detailed return-on- investment analysis, Associated Grocer's management team budgeted for a voice-directed order selection system with the expectation of improving productivity by reducing mis-picks and shorts within their selection process.

"Our first goal was to put the warehouse software and voice technology through a rigorous benchmark test to see what it could achieve for us, but at another level, we also wanted to look at how efficient our people could be in utilizing this new technology," said Carl Marks, vice president and CIO, Associated Grocers.

Installed initially in its 530,000-square-foot main distribution center for meat, dairy, perishables, frozen and general merchandise products, Associated Grocers first tested the use of voice technology in the dairy and meat sections. In this initial pilot, they installed 35 Vocollect Talkman voice terminals, which receive real-time selection assignments from OMI's TRICEPS warehouse management system. Associated Grocers -- Baton Rouge has OMI's entire supply chain suite installed, including purchasing, invoicing and warehouse management -- enabling complete end-to-end supply chain management of its distribution function with fully integrated real-time interaction between all applications.

Associated Grocers used this test phase to validate the combined solution for speed and accuracy and overall ease of use. "We deliberately set our expectations high for the product -- and so far, we are happy to report that we have attained an overall 63 percent reduction in mis-picks over our previous selection process. We're also pleased to be seeing productivity improvements and a high rate of user acceptance ," Randy Fletcher, vice president, logistics and supply chain management commented.

Upon arrival of the remaining voice equipment, Associated Grocers intends to roll out Vocollect's Talkman voice terminals to the remaining sections of the distribution center in late December with an expected installation of a total of 110 voice terminals for their entire DC selection process. It is expected that Associated Grocers will also extend the use of voice in its inventory control process and other areas where the combined efficiency of hands-free, eyes-free, voice-directed selection can improve their labor effectiveness.

"Voice technology is proving to be a breakthrough application for achieving productivity gains of as much as 15 percent. We are pleased that Associated Grocers has taken the next step of integrating voice-directed selection within TRICEPS. Combined with the efficiencies gained using OMI's other applications, Associated Grocers is competitively positioned to be among the most efficient and progressive wholesalers in the business," stated Richard Oksanen, president, OMI International.

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