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Productivity gains at RS Components

October 27, 2017

Global distributor achieves significant productivity gains with Voiteq’s voice solution.

Benefits at a glance:

  • 0.3% improvement on accuracy
  • 26% productivity gains
  • Real-time visibility of performance and order exceptions
  • Seamless integration with WMS
  • High user acceptance

Introduction: 

RS Components is the leading high-service distributor of electronics, automation and control components, tools and consumables, serving over 1 million customers globally.

With operations across 32 countries and a network of distribution centres worldwide, it offers more than 500,000 products through the internet, catalogues and at trade counters, shipping more than 44,000 parcels a day.

The company’s 600,000 sq ft Distribution Centre (DC) in Nuneaton which supports RS Components’ global supply chain, was using an automated conveyor system combined with a paper-based picking process.

Andrea Wing, operations manager at RS Components, said: “We wanted to enhance our customer experience by ensuring that our customers consistently receive the correct product and quantity within short delivery windows.

“As part of our ongoing strategic vision for operational excellence, we looked to introduce voice technology for picking tasks. We recognised the productivity and accuracy gains that Voiteq’s VoiceMan solution could deliver through eyes and hands-free working.”

Challenge: 

Distributing thousands of products daily, and with its DC operating on a multi-shift basis, it was critical that any new process could be introduced without disrupting order fulfilment schedules.

In addition, Voiteq had to ensure that its voice solution would work seamlessly with RS Components’ existing conveyor, SAP ERP and DAI WCS systems.

Wing explained, “It was imperative that the voice technology could integrate easily with our complex systems. We needed to retain the processes already in place and protect the huge investments already made in those systems.”

The business also wanted to provide managers and supervisors with greater visibility of operations, allowing them more control over processes and supporting the pro-active management of work-in-progress.

Wing continued, “We need to know what is happening in our DC at any point in time to ensure high levels of service, and that product dispatch targets are being achieved.”

Solution & Results: 

Voiteq worked closely with RS Components’ Operational Excellence Programme team that was set up to manage the voice project.

Using Voiteq’s VoiceMan Warehouse Execution System (WES) and business intelligence suite (BI), the new solution was successfully developed and integrated into RS Components’ systems.

Now operatives in forward pick face zones, receive a tote on the conveyor and through an – A730 belt-worn voice unit and SRX2 headset – hear a spoken command of which item to pick and the quantity.

Chris Jennings, from RS Components completed the first live pick on ‘go-live’ day and said: “I was pleased to complete the initial pick. Voice will be a big improvement to the business; it’s extremely simple to use.”

Within a short time-frame the company increased its accuracy rating at Nuneaton from 99.6% to 99.9% and realised efficiency gains of 26%

Wing added, “The implementation of voice marked a significant milestone for the company. Voiteq delivered a solution that worked well with our operation and had the expertise to deliver such a huge project in a matter of months.”

“The visibility and control that the BI suite has provided means we have been able to improve our management of staff and adjust meet our customers’ delivery needs; the flexibility we now have is second to none,” Wing concluded. “We’ve been blown away by the results and user uptake, now we’re looking to implement single-order line picking using voice to reduce the use of totes on the conveyor and to further enhance productivity.”

The BI suite has provided the company with high-level dashboards that offer insights and analysis which are reviewed remotely by managers to track pick rates, order progress and exceptions as well as associate performance.

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