Harbor Wholesale is a grocery and convenience store distributor servicing more than 2,900 convenience stores, grocery stores and restaurants across the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. From small, family-owned operations to large chains like Subway, Taco Time, and Skippers, Harbor supplies everything from produce and meat to cigarettes and other tobacco products. Harbor runs its operations out of two distribution centers (DCs) located in Lacey, Washington, and Roseburg, Oregon, which allow the organization to deliver more than 160,000 items picked each day.
They were looking to improve productivity, accuracy and training time, after struggling with paper picking and a failed RF implementation. “Voice picking proved that it would be much more productive for us, and we really liked the fact that it was hands-free,” stated Noah Skelton, Technical Operations Specialist and PM Warehouse Manager for Harbor. “Accuracy, productivity, and training time were all important to us, and voice delivered on every metric.”
Shortly after implementing voice, Harbor experienced a 50 percent increase in productivity. With workers now hands-free and eyes-free, they were able to move throughout the warehouse quickly and with direction, increasing their pick speed.
After implementing voice, Harbor made the jump from 99.99 percent accuracy to 99.9997 percent. This not only made an impact on the checking procedures, but also improved customer satisfaction. “Our customer service team is no longer dealing with frequent customer phone calls about wrong orders,” said Skelton.
Voice also transformed Harbor’s training procedures, dropping training time by more than 200 percent. “Trying to teach someone to pick with voice instead of paper is a night and day difference,” Skelton said. “Voice just makes everything easier.” This reduction in training time has allowed Harbor to get employees up to speed and on the floor faster, decreasing the amount of time managers need to spend supervising the new workers.
Lower Operational Costs
With such a large increase in worker productivity, Harbor has also decreased operational costs. Workers are able to pick at a much faster rate, meaning that it takes fewer staff to keep up with the demand of the warehouse. “It would be impossible, even if I tripled the amount of employees I have, to pick with paper at the rate we are picking with voice now,” said Skelton.
Getting the most out of voice requires direction, planning, and a partner willing to go above and beyond for your company. “I can sum up what it is like to work with Vitech in two words: extremely awesome,” said Skelton.
When asked about advice he could give to someone considering voice, Skelton had one final story. “I recently had a reference visit with a company who came in saying that they didn’t think voice made sense for their operation, and they would rather have their pickers using a scanner. I had them go through our training setup, and allowed them to listen to one of our operators pick. They walked out of our warehouse 15 minutes later set on voice. Voice is the best decision we have made, and I know it will be the same for you.”