For years, Horeca Van Zon has relied on voice picking at its distribution center in Lommel. But as expectations of logistics operations steadily increased, they had to be even faster, more efficient and error-free. With CaptureTech’s help, the wholesaler completely revamped its voice picking. Not only does this benefit the speed of operators, meanwhile the error rate has decreased and visibility of operations has increased.

Since 1964, wholesaler Horeca Van Zon has been supplying products for the hospitality industry. In that competitive market, the family business wants to make a difference with its speed, delivery reliability and complete assortment. Needless to say, the 16,000-square-foot distribution center plays a key role in fulfilling those promises. There are some 30,000 SKUs (stock keeping units) there. In total, the distribution center in Lommel employs about 50 warehouse workers, not including drivers and administrative staff.

Warehouse workers in Zon's warehouse picking orders

Of these, a total of 30 employees are responsible for order picking. Together, they collect more than 500 orders per day, accounting for 7,000 order lines. Those orders go either directly to customers or to its three company-owned cash-and-carry stores, which are open seven days a week and together represent more than 20,000 square feet of retail space. Customers can place weekly orders at Horeca Van Zon, as well as count on 24/7 express deliveries. Ordering online is also among the possibilities.

Female warehouse worker voice picking an order

Need for renewal

The processes in the warehouse are straightforward, with fairly traditional inbound, storage, manual order picking with order pick trucks, outbound and return activities. To ensure a fast order picking process, Horeca Van Zon has relied on voice picking for nearly a decade, but after years of faithful service, the voice picking and scanning equipment was in need of replacement. Moreover, logistics activities are becoming increasingly challenging: everything has to be faster, more efficient, more ergonomic and error-free.

And this in an environment where the volume of orders and the number of operators has steadily increased. “With new equipment, we especially wanted to prepare ourselves for the future,” says Michael Jans, logistics coordinator at Horeca Van Zon. “Especially the software on the handheld scanners – which we use for our warehousing and restocking operations – had a hard time keeping up. These were still running on outdated Windows CE operating software. In particular, the processing speed left something to be desired, sometimes operators had to wait seconds before they could proceed.”

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Voicepicking in warehouse Horeca van Zon

Moving forward with voice picking

“Because we wanted to make sure we were making the right decisions, we engaged CaptureTech,” continued Michael Jans. “They specialize in voice picking and their expertise was apparent during our initial discussions. An sich we were satisfied with voicepicking technology to support our picking. It allows us to work in a natural and logically structured way. Since you have your hands free during picking, you can work much faster. That’s why we were keen to continue picking in this way.”

Warehouse worker scanning a barcode with a Honeywell scanner

CaptureTech analyzed all the techniques and processes in place, from goods receiving and storage to picking and transportation to customers. Improvement opportunities were then identified. Thus, it became clear that a new generation of hardware, software and integration with Horeca Van Zon’s ERP system would help it become more efficient. Furthermore, all processes were immediately optimized, giving Horeca Van Zon a solid foundation to build on. Among other things, it was decided to classify the stock from now on via ABC analysis.

With CaptureTech, Horeca Van Zon then entered the implementation process. In consultation, we looked at which techniques and products would look best in the environment of Horeca Van Zon. This took into account the wishes of the people on the shop floor. After a well-thought-out configuration, Horeca Van Zon was quickly able to get to work with the new equipment.

Digitization across the board

Meanwhile, all internal operations were digitized, either by voice or handheld scanners. The robust range from Honeywell was chosen for this purpose. “We already had positive experiences with that manufacturer. Moreover, the party is a leader in voice,” it sounds. “The advantages that voicepicking already offered have only been magnified. The users have quickly mastered the system and, in addition, the technology allows everyone to speak their own language and dialect. Training is now done using a tool that CaptureTech custom designed for us.”

Voice picking solution inside a warehouse

The voice picking software was replaced with software from CaptureTech and integrated with the ERP system Navision. Each process was converted into a dialogue or voice task, taking into account the “voice best practices” defined by CaptureTech. This is important for the technology to work perfectly. All 58 pickers received their personal headset and ring scanner.

The 25 order-picking trucks were equipped with holders for the terminals, allowing employees to safely leave the terminals on the truck. Moreover, this way the terminals are also immediately recharged.

New scanners DC Horeca Van Zon

Honeywell CK65scanners were chosen for storage and restocking operations in the frozen food environment. Due to their long battery life, these devices easily last an entire shift even in freezing temperatures. For storage and restocking activities in the other warehouse space, Horeca Van Zon went for the light and compact, yet robust Honeywell CT60 scanners. A total of 100 handheld scanners were taken into the home.

As for the software, it switched to Android. As a result, processing speed increased significantly. The target per pick line: one minute and ten seconds (1:10). Thanks to the Mobile Device Management software, the operating software is also always up to date. “We also now get automatic reports on speed and errors for both voice and scan-based activities,” Michael Jans says. “This allows us to closely monitor the performance of the operators. Those figures are analyzed and communicated to the shop floor. That way, people are encouraged to always give their best.”

For control purposes, the pick locations now use three control numbers instead of a single one. Indeed, if only a single number is requested, it is tempting for operators to memorize it for the hard running products. To avoid that, Horeca Van Zon had to change those numbers regularly. When more control numbers are asked, it is obviously much more difficult to memorize them. As a result, remarkably fewer errors occur during order picking and control numbers rarely need to be changed anymore. This ensures that Horeca Van Zon can now achieve the goal of no more than one in a thousand errors much more easily.

Warehouse manager using mobile device management software to check on scanners

Remote viewing

Through the Mobile Device Management software, CaptureTech can also remotely monitor and provide support. The device administrator can load new warehouse application upgrades, run tests and put them live on any device. If an operator has a problem, CaptureTech can take over the scanner remotely, analyze the problem in question and – if possible – provide an immediate solution.

Through the CaptureTech Protect service, Horeca Van Zon can see in real time at which location the devices are being used and what their status is. With integrated fall detection, Horeca Van Zon now also knows exactly when someone has dropped a device. Fortunately, the devices are rugged enough to withstand rough handling. If it should prove necessary, repairs can be reported to CaptureTech through the tool. This can be done by entering the device’s type number, which will then be sent to the repair center. In real time, Horeca Van Zon can then track the status of the repair.

In summary, since the new wind in the warehouse, efficiency has increased, the error rate has decreased and transparency in the warehouse has improved. Operators also report that it is more pleasant to work with the new equipment. They feel that they can work smoothly, in an ergonomic way, getting more done in the same amount of time. “But above all, we find that our systems and processes are now optimally connected. This is thanks to CaptureTech, which ensured that the systems were optimally aligned with our now optimized processes. As a result, we are now completely ready to continue serving our customers optimally now and in the future,” concludes Michael Jans.

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Pascal Hibon from CaptureTech
Pascal Hibon

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