Lipari Foods is a family-run wholesale distributor based in Warren, Mich. It has been serving grocery stores in 13 Midwestern states for years, shipping foods in all categories, including deli, bakery, fresh fish and confections. Delivering those products to big chains is challenge enough, but now that Lipari is adding convenience stores to its mix, the logistics challenges multiply.
Convenience stores represent a different business model from grocery stores, and Lipari is serving both models out of the same building it’s always used. Joe Beydoun, systems and process manager for Lipari, says making that work is his priority.
“C-stores represent much less volume, meaning smaller quantities and more returns thanks to guarantee programs and smaller units,” he says. “We’ve always avoided totes, but now we’re in the tote business.”
And now that they are in that business, they’ve been looking at backing up their voice picking operations with bar code scanning to ensure the right items are going to the C-stores.
Lipari has been a pilot site for Vocollect’s new A700, a wearable device that combines voice picking with scanning. It is designed to help associates with weight capture. Beydoun expects that having a single hands-free device that supports both voice and scanning will improve picking efficiency.
“Some of these products coming in have UCC bar codes that contain the weight, so we would like to capture that with a scan vs. reading back 20-30 cases of weight,” he explains.
Another benefit from scanning the UPC barcode is capturing expiration dates and lot codes, along with weights, all at once, which Beydoun says can’t be done with voice. Verification at the customer site would be another plus.
“At the customer people scan your products at the back door and want all the proper UPCs,” Beydoun adds. “And with the different packs we now deliver we could deliver a full case of yogurt to our typical grocery customer while our convenience store customer wants one cup of yogurt. That provides challenges—like making sure they don’t get the full case and scan it in and take it for a cup. Now that we’re picking into totes we’re seeing some scanning possibilities like verifying the picks into the proper carton, and then the regular selector verifying that tote as he puts it on his main pallet that goes out for delivery.”
While Beydoun is at the beginning of adding scanning to his voice application, he intends to make a bigger productivity impact with it as the year goes on. In the past year Lipari acquired I & K Distributors of Delphos, Ohio, and increased case throughput by about 30%. The challenge is that the company’s operational footprint hasn’t changed and it can’t keep adding more selectors.
“Voice has been able to deliver for us because every time we’ve had to increase productivity we saw that selection accuracies never moved in the opposite direction,” Beydoun says.