While new technology is often the source of innovation, it is not the only source. Some of the most interesting innovations are achieved by combining several good ideas, often from diverse areas, in ways not done before, to achieve an even better outcome. In the case of Marktkauf, a German Grocery Retailer, Dematic developed and patented a new picking concept called Voice Pick to AGV (Automated Guided Vehicle).
The new concept has eliminated many non-value adding tasks and cleverly boosted picking productivity. Like all retail grocery industries around the globe, the German market is extremely competitive and price sensitive with major retailers investing in technology in an attempt to keep logistics costs to a minimum.
Marktkauf, one of Germany’s supermarket chains, recently implemented an innovative integrated system which utilises Voice Picking in conjunction with Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV’s). The outcome is a 100% increase in the productivity of pickers, a reduction in labour costs at the Laichingen warehouse and a dramatic increase in order accuracy.
Marktkauf calculated that during an eight hour shift pickers spent only 3.5 hours actually picking items from storage to shipping pallets. According to Torsten Winter, General Manager, Marktkauf Laichingen, warehouse staff were spending too much time on non-productive functions.
Staff were spending time performing functions such as retrieving new pallets from storage, driving pallet movers in the pick aisle, finding locations and confirming picks, and taking completed pallets to stretch wrappers and despatch-tasks that took the picker away from doing the actual picking.
It was Marktkauf's objective to eliminate all these non-value adding activities in order to make the picking process in the dry goods warehouse, the cold store and in the fruit and vegetable warehouse more efficient. Dematic implemented an innovative new solution for Marktkauf based on proven technology.
The solution seamlessly integrates Voice Picking with AGV’s and has greatly improved the productivity of the pickers. The non-value adding activities are now completely automated, allowing pickers to concentrate on the task at hand. The Voice Picking terminals and AGVs are managed by Dematic’s IT software which is integrated into Marktkauf’s existing Warehouse Management System.
The solution was implemented in two phases. In phase one, Voice Picking was implemented to improve the physical productivity of the pickers and replaced vehicle-mounted RF terminals. With Voice Picking, instructions including pick location and quantity of items are provided verbally to the picker through wireless terminals and headsets.
The picker verbally acknowledges the location and the completed picks through the headset. As the picker can travel while receiving picking instructions, picking speed is improved and as the communication is hands and eyes free, picking ergonomics is also improved.
Phase two saw the implementation of the AGV system which serves as an intelligent automated pallet mover. An AGV automatically retrieves new shipping pallets and takes away completed pallets to shipping and despatch while the picker is continuously picking in the pick aisle.
Within the pick aisle, the AGV automatically moves with the picker to pick locations, as the picker’s pick confirmations direct the AGV to move to the next location. Even the distance travelled between the pallet and pick locations is shorter as the pallets are always placed next to the picking location.
Winter also stated that the advantage is that everything is moving much faster and the picking process is far more accurate. In fact the Voice Picking and AGV solution has doubled picker productivity, while errors have been reduced by 60%.
The step-by-step implementation and the ease of use combined with the extensive training of operators has also ensured that employee acceptance is high. Most importantly the return on investment was less than three years. The success of the solution at Laiching convinced Marktkauf to implement the system at a second Distribution Centre. Winter added saying that his colleagues have also rolled out the system in Bielefelt and are satisfied.