Major productivity gains
25 January 2024
Voice-Directed Warehouse Solution delivers game-changing results for a leading flower wholesaler.
TOM BROWN Wholesale supplies fresh cut flowers and plants to florists across London, shipping 250+ orders six days a week with annual turnover in excess of £15million. To ensure flower stocks arrive looking as freshly picked as possible, the company runs a 24-hour sales and distribution operation. The process begins the evening before when florists close their shops and flower buying opens.
At midnight Tom Brown’s warehouse springs into action with a team of 25 pickers working through the night, preparing sales orders for dispatch to retailers starting at 3am. By 5am, all 18 delivery vans are out on the road shipping the day’s orders. At 8am, when high street florists open for business, stocks purchased overnight are waiting in florists’ secure lockers, ready to be transformed into bouquets and arrangements.
“Before we started working with BEC, every single item picked was put on a trolley and double checked by a second member of staff before it could be scheduled for dispatch. Now a single person can pick and check at the same time, which has completely changed everything we do and created a daily two-hour time saving per picker.”
Ensuring flower stocks are super fresh and accurate requires a knowledgeable, experienced eye. In the past, this was a manual process, driven by paper pick sheets - orders were ticked off once assembled for dispatch. Now, after adopting BEC’s eSmart Voice solution, operators wear Bluetooth headsets and listen to spoken instructions about what items to pick and from which location. eSmart Voice is a modular warehouse technology developed by BEC utilising Honeywell’s voice-guided solutions architecture and Talkman A730X hardware, customised for the fresh flower industry and integrated seamlessly with the Florisoft flower supply management system.
Prior to eSmart Voice, the warehouse environment could become chaotic with stress levels running high during busy periods. It is now a much calmer place to work, whatever time of year, compared to the original manual system.
Picks are finished 30% faster
Management has tracked the productivity improvements seen and calculated a 30% improvement to picking times. eSmart Voice guides the operator through the entire process and makes it impossible to select the wrong flowers by mistake. Once items are selected, the operator replies with a check digit and is directed to the next location. Even the most sceptical pickers agree that the new way of working is much better for everyone. “Before we started working with BEC, every single item picked was put on a trolley and double checked by a second member of staff before it could be scheduled for dispatch. Now a single person can pick and check at the same time, which has completely changed everything we do and created a daily two-hour time saving per picker,” says Tom Brown.
Reduced training times
Another benefit seen has been reduced training times. “Picking flowers sounds easy but it required a product knowledge when our pick operation was paper based. Now that expertise requirement has been removed, it’s very easy to employ someone new and have them picking orders at full speed on day one, whereas before, they would need weeks of training,” adds Tom.
Keen to continue improving, Tom Brown is working with BEC to implement an electronic proof of delivery and asset tracking system, using eSmart ePOD. As a module within the eSmart family, eSmart ePOD is fully integrated with eSmart Voice and means Tom Brown will have complete real time, end-to-end supply chain visibility.
Tom concludes: “Our vision is to develop a one-click, seamless transaction similar to what other global retail distributors offer to their customers, and we can see this becoming a reality as we expand our partnership with BEC.” n
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