Voice Technology for Maximizing Accuracy
GFX International is a visual communications firm that designs, manufactures, and distributes a range of custom in-store décor and temporary in-store campaigns for retailers and brands. On a typical day, the Illinois-based distribution center processes 250-300 shipments of custom promotional materials. Due to the highly variable nature of the items the company produces, the number of items in an order ranges from 1 to 10,000 (though it typically averages around 30). Item size also varies significantly, which means that one collection of 10 items can be picked in 5 minutes while another collection of 10 items may take 1 hour or longer to complete.
GFX has partnered with NorthStar Automation going back to 2009. Over the last few years, GFX International has experienced significant growth. As the company continues to expand, the distribution operations team has needed to improve efficiency while using fewer resources. The two companies decided to look into voice technology with the overall goals of improving profitability by reducing costs and exceeding accuracy and efficiency demands across a broad spectrum of functions.
Finding the Right Distribution Technology
The mutual project management team considered multiple data collection technologies for their 121,500 square foot distribution center. To keep pace with rapid business growth, the GFX International distribution operations needed a solution that would achieve 99.9% order accuracy and improve efficiency while also enabling distribution operations to better adapt to the unpredictable dynamics of their business. The company’s item selectors needed to be able to meet both regular peaks during the first and last week of each month (when customers call to order items they may have forgotten during the previous month) as well as irregular peaks dependent on customers’ promotion schedules.
“If a company orders materials for 2500 stores, we might get calls from 600 stores who need extra or additional materials,” says Mauer. “Additionally, some promotions will last several months while others will turnover within a few weeks, which means that our team members must keep pace with constantly shifting circumstances.”
After deploying Voice with the NorthStar WMS, not only was GFX able to start using the voice automation technology much more quickly but they were also able to improve both accuracy and efficiency. “The team is able to fulfill items more efficiently, which has enabled the company to improve throughput without having to hire additional item selectors,” said Dan Hall, Director of IT Operations, GFX International. “When needed, we’re also able to get someone up to speed in a few hours and can transition them to expert mode quickly, too.”
Impact Throughout the Distribution Center
GFX International was also able to improve inventory management through the more efficient replenishment and primary pick location protocols. Adding voice technology to our NorthStar WMS encouraged us to separate replenishment from picking, which means that our item selectors no longer replenish items during the middle of a picking shift. This change has helped us improve our inventory control and has contributed to more efficient overall operation,” said Mauer.
Thanks to the NorthStar WMS / voice solution, GFX has been able to implement a distribution operations solution that improves accuracy, efficiency, and inventory management while also preparing the company for its future growth.
Goals and Objectives
- Reduce miss picked items
- Improve operational efficiency
- Better manage rapidly changing inventory
- Enable more alert “hands free, eyes up” item selection
- On-Premise Deployment
- Integrated with NorthStar WMS
- 90 Day Implementation
- Hardware: Zebra WT41N0-Voice-Only Wearable
- Able to reduce training time for item selectors from 15 days to 1 day
- Expanded picking capacity without hiring additional item selectors
- “Hands Free, Eyes Up” solution results in fewer miss-picked items
- Improved cycle count accuracy
- Increased efficiency through more efficient replenishment protocols