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At the hair stylist, every move of the hand must be right – same is true of the order picking of the high-quality styling products of the Paul Mitchell brand: To noticeably reduce the high time and effort required for error-free, paper-based order picking and enable an even faster processing of the incoming stylist product purchase orders, logistics service Ahl GmbH was commissioned with order picking by German sales company Wild in June 2011. Instead of paper lists, employees now use voice-directed warehousing, i.e., “Pick-by-Voice.” For this purpose, Ahl GmbH relies on the Pick Manager software solution of Ehrhardt + Partner, six Talkman devices of Vocollect and two Put-to-Light trolleys. The 250 orders per day on average with 25 to 30 items are now processed up to 20 percent faster.
Purchase orders received by 3:00 pm in the Semiramis materials management system of logistics service provider Ahl are guaranteed to be sent on the same day. Despite the sometimes very short time period up to handover to the parcel service, an extremely low error rate in the preparation of fine styling products has a very high priority. “When we were still picking orders with paper lists, we could guarantee a low error rate only by inspecting every shipment several times,” says Michael Ahl, Managing Director of Ahl GmbH. In addition, Ahl wants to continue to operate its warehouse with 3,200 pallet spaces using its existing crew of 15 employees despite narrow delivery deadlines and increasing throughput numbers. It was quickly clear that this would be possible only with more efficient processes such as path-optimized order picking.
“We obtained intensive information at LogiMAT about the possibilities of using Pick-by-Voice together with our Semiramis materials management system,” Ahl remembers. In the process, the logistics service provider was looking for a compact software solution, if possible, as they currently had no need for a complex warehouse management system. Ultimately, the people responsible at Ahl found out about two solutions. “We finally selected the Pick Manager of Ehrhardt + Partner since the standard version of this solution already ideally covers our individual requirements, Ahl reports. “Integration into Semiramis was also possible without a problem.” In addition the coordinated complete package of the Pick Manager software and the hardware of Ehrhardt + Partner’s partner Vocollect also persuaded him. An additional advantage for Ahl: “If the introduction of a complete warehouse management system should become necessary in the medium term, however, Pick Manager can be easily expanded to LFS, our warehouse management system,” Marco Ehrhardt, Managing Partner at Ehrhardt + Partner, explains.
At Ahl GmbH, Pick Manager was set up on Windows, and the necessary data is managed in the external Oracle database of Semiramis. With the introduction of Pick Manager, the order picking procedure has fundamentally changed. The warehouse employees now receive voice instructions via the Pick Manager Talkman as to which storage compartment they should go to next and how many articles they should remove there. After that, Pick Manager guides them to the shortest route through the warehouse. The lightweight Talkman is attached to the order picker’s belt so that he or she has both hands free for the safe removal of the required articles. Once they reach the compartment, they confirm both the compartment and the removal of the articles through corresponding check digits and removal quantities. In this manner, faulty order picking is practically impossible. “Through the introduction of Pick Manager, we can reduce our previously low error rate to almost zero,” Ahl reports. The considerable effort for additional inspections is no longer required. Before, each shipment had to be inspected for completeness and the correct assembly both visually and using scales. Even longer delays in supply management are a thing of the past since the introduction of Pick Manager: If an employee finds an empty storage compartment during order picking, he or she just speaks the “Supply!” command into the headset. Pick Manager then triggers the printout of a supply document in the warehouse activity monitor so that the supply can be required through the Semiramis materials management system.
The use of two trolleys with compartment lighting of Ehrhardt + Partner provides additional process optimizations. They enable so-called multi-order picking, the simultaneous picking of several orders. While the order picker is voice-guided to the desired removal station, an LED indicator lights up on the picking trolley on the compartment into which the picked goods should be deposited. In addition, the compartment is also illuminated by an LED spotlight. In the process, the Put-to-Light system on the trolley is also controlled by Pick Manager via WLAN. In this way, the respective employee can work up to nine orders in parallel. In the case of this investment, as well, the reduction of the error rate and faster order picking were in the foreground for Managing Director Michael Ahl. “In total, we have achieved a time savings from 15 to 20 percent,” Ahl reports. With the additional capacities that arise in this manner, the logistics service provider is excellent prepared for future, positive business developments and can react more flexibly than before during peak times.