Glanbia voice investment reduces errors by 80pc

5 May 2009

A seven-figure investment in radio frequency-based voice control of its logistics and warehousing functions has resulted in food group Glanbia reporting an 80pc reduction in stock errors, the company said today.

The new system, which was implemented by Heavey RF, has shown a significant increase in productivity, while bringing accuracy up close to 100pc.

Heavey RF replaced Glanbia’s manual system with the advanced technologies in two warehousing sites, as well as two manufacturing sites, where it is integrated with the company’s SAP system.

“The new system is going very well, and it has already surpassed our expectations in a short space of time,” said Cormac McCarthy, transport development manager at Glanbia.

“A massive amount of information is provided in real-time, which is invaluable as we can see exactly what’s happening and where we need to reposition our resources to ensure 100pc customer satisfaction,” McCarthy said.

Instead of relying on paper for various warehouse transactions, Glanbia staff use speech recognition and handheld terminals to perform their daily assignments and orders.

Electronic orders are automatically converted to speech, which are directed to the warehouse staff using a secured wireless technology provided by Heavey RF. The capability has made the Glanbia operation more accurate and more productive, as its operators move from order to order.

Heavey RF provided the Psion Teklogix range of handheld computers and wireless access points and the Vocollect range of voice directed computers. Heavey RF has been an authorised partner of both manufacturers for many years.

Glanbia looked at a number of Irish and European providers when it decided to overhaul its system.

“We selected Heavey RF because of its superior products, local capabilities and excellent after sales support service,” explained John Mee, supply chain manager at Glanbia.

“Heavey RF has an impressive track record with similar solutions with some of the leading names in the retail and wholesaler business.

“It made a proactive effort to get to know our business and what we were about. It also came back to us with suggestions above and beyond the initial brief,” said John Mee, supply chain manager, Glanbia. “This approach was refreshing and assisted us in getting the best out of the system.”

The new system has improved production planning and also labour planning within Glanbia. All available warehouse resources can be focused on key tasks, and workloads can be quickly altered to ensure that Glanbia can respond instantly to its customers’ evolving demands.

“We operate a 24-hour shift cycle and can now accurately calculate the number of staff needed per shift to fulfil every order. Before, we could only estimate how many operatives were needed, which led to excess workers on some shifts,” said McCarthy.

Training of staff to the new system was very straightforward and was completed in approximately two days per site. Heavey RF personnel were on site 24/7 during the implementation to cover the continuous shift changes, and were able to tweak the system during go-live to ensure everything ran smoothly and efficiently.

“The Glanbia solution was a very significant win for Heavey RF,” said Ronan Clinton, managing director, Heavey RF.

“It was an adventurous journey into voice logistics in manufacturing, and a journey that has surpassed our expectations. After just two weeks, planned efficiencies were exceeded.

“The net result has been an improvement to the overall service levels to Glanbia’s customers, as can be seen by a reduction in claims of over 80pc at very early stages,” Clinton concluded.

By John Kennedy

Pictured: Ronan Clinton, managing director, Heavey RF, and John Mee, supply chain manager, Glanbia