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Delhaize Serbia increased efficiency and productivity in order-picking in collaboration with Špica and Honeywell Voice team

(Photo: Zapp2Photo/shutterstock.com)
Delhaize Serbia operates the central logistics centre that supplies more than 450 Maxi, Tempo, Mega Maxi and Shop&Go stores throughout Serbia. Opened in 2014, this distribution centre in Stara Pazova, 40 kilometres northwest of Belgrade, stores dairy products, fruits, vegetables and ambient products, and the order-picking of goods to retail stores is carried out in three shifts.

With 70,000 square meters, this is one of the largest distribution centres in the country. Every day goods are loaded and unloaded from more than 500 trucks on 120 platforms and sent to the final destination, practically without mistakes, partly due to investments in Honeywell Voice from 2018. Delhaize Serbia uses the order-picking solution based on voice commands, with the aim of fast training, reduction of errors, and increase in productivity.

Initially, the company carried out the order-picking using handheld terminals to scan barcodes. However, in 2015, the company decided to establish a system that uses voice commands for two large storage segments - fruits and vegetables, and ambient products. The order-picking of dairy products is carried out using handheld devices.

- The fact that we were able to increase productivity without changing the previous system was very important to us - says Nemanja Ivković, Director of the Delhaize Serbia distribution centre. In order to introduce the new system smoothly and quickly, Delhaize Serbia cooperated with Špica, the implementer of IT services, and with the Honeywell Voice team, on the integration of the solution with voice commands, after visiting several reference locations where such a system has already been installed.

- One of the greatest advantages of the order-picking via voice commands is that our colleagues do not have to use their hands and the instructions are clear - emphasized Dejan Šarović, ICT Supervisor of Delhaize Serbia. He adds that it is easy to master this system, so the training period is very short.

- Newly employed colleagues are trained and theoretically they are ready in an hour or two, while savings in relation to the training period are more than 60% compared to the order-picking using handheld devices.

Personal voice profile for each worker

An integral part of the short training is adjusting the profile for the voice of each worker in his/her working environment, which is carried out only once. This phase lasts about 30 minutes. By using the device's microphone, each worker pronounces instructions and commands which the voice order-picking system uses, with his/her natural tone of voice and accent. These data are stored in the system, which are then used in any subsequent communication between the worker and the Honeywell Voice solution. As soon as the personal voice profile is set, the worker can start working. After several days of practical training, the worker reaches full productivity, which drastically reduces the adaptation period compared to the previous system.

In collaboration with Špica, Delhaize Serbia has developed an effective work process that implies the use of voice commands. This system uses 140 Honeywell Talkman A730 voice terminals and as many SRX-2 wireless headphones. About 50 devices are used in the order-picking in the warehouse for fruits and vegetables. This process implies the distribution of fruits and vegetables and transport to each individual supermarket in several hours, while respecting the strictest quality standards.

Eliminating errors in the order-picking

Within the delivery process, the warehouse management system (WMS) receives orders from more than 450 locations where stores are located, and then calculates the optimal order of the order-picking. The instructions are transmitted by VoiceXtreme software (middleware) developed by Špica. They are then converted into specific commands for order-picking and sent via wireless LAN network (WLAN) to voice terminals. Every voice terminal converts the data into voice commands, which are sent to operators via Bluetooth. Commands can be repeated, if required.

The order-picking process used by Delhaize Serbia is considered unique in the logistics sector. The first step is the transfer of full pallets with goods that arrive in the morning at a location with a barcode, which are then “linked” by scanning at a new position. At the same time, empty pallets are sent individually to the order-picking zones in accordance with each particular order, whereby each pallet has its own barcode. This allows WMS to accurately send workers towards full pallets through the VoiceXtreme solution and Talkman device, so that they could begin with the order-picking process.

After picking up full pallets, the worker receives instructions via headphones in a particular order and he/she is sent to the order-picking locations. After arriving at a given location, the worker first reads aloud control numbers (to confirm to the system that he/she is at the correct location), which the Talkman device confirms immediately. Afterwards, the voice system informs the worker about the quantity of products which must be transferred from the full pallet to the pallet used for sending the product to its destination.

- This system reduces errors while placing products on mixed pallets - Ivković highlights.

Easy integration with other order-picking systems

The order-picking of ambient products combines voice technology with scanning of barcodes and the scanning and sorting system (put-to-light), which leads to the reduction of errors and allows the execution of multiple commands at the same time (multi picking). Classic forklifts that can carry two standard Euro pallets are equipped with green and blue LED lights placed above pallets, which give a signal on which position the separation of goods should be carried out.

After the worker pronounces the control numbers at the storage location through voice commands, a ray of light marks the pallet that is assigned to a given order. Additional screen attached to the light shows the amount of items to pick up.

- This allows the worker to clearly link the order with the exact location where the order-picking is carried out - says Šarović.

Another specific characteristic of this solution is the integrated control of goods to be picked up. Before picking up the first box from a new pallet, the system requires numbers of the appropriate barcode. When replying, the worker may either read the last four digits of the barcode, or use the scanner integrated into the Talkman device. Thanks to the integrated Bluetooth system, the device does not have to be removed in any situation, which facilitates the work.

(Photo: Marcin Balcerzak/shutterstock.com)
Achieved results

- reduced frequency of errors
- increased productivity through targeted optimization of time spent and routes of the order-picking
- training period reduced to 2 hours, which represents an improvement of 60%
- precise execution of multiple orders at the same time (multi picking) and filling of mixed pallets

Why Delhaize Serbia chose Honeywell

- recommendation of the logistics partner Špica
- visit to a number of reference locations where the voice system has already been installed
- workers do not have to used their hands and they receive clear instructions


- the efficiency of order-picking is increased through targeted optimization of time and movement directions
- significant reduction of errors
- introduction training time reduced to 2 hours
- training time of workers reduced by 60%
- the increase of database, which enables further optimization of processes
- better precision of simultaneous order-picking and filling of mixed pallets

Another advantage that the Honeywell Voice solution provides to Delhaize Serbia refers to the ability of analysing data collected in the order-picking process. Managers can now calculate exactly how much time is spent on order-picking, movement in the warehouse and other activities.

- We discovered that about one-third of working hours is spent on picking up the products, and two-thirds on moving through the passages - said Dejan Šarović and emphasized that the company plans to significantly increase the percentage of time spent on pick up the products.

Thanks to the implementation of the Honeywell Voice solution, Delhaize Serbia is additionally certain of the quality and application of the highest standards, as well as a low percentage of errors, through processes that have been developed for the needs of the company. In addition, generated and documented information within the system make an excellent database for a thorough analysis and further optimization in the future.

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