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Pet products wholesaler sees significant operational efficiency and control improvements with the roll out of new voice-based systems across its distribution network  

Pedigree Wholesale, has seen significant improvements in efficiency and control of its operations with the roll out of BCP’s Accord voice-based warehouse management system (WMS) across its network of five depots.

Based in Nottingham and founded over 40 years ago, Pedigree is one of the UK’s key pet products wholesalers servicing the independent sector. The company has an annual turnover approaching £48 million and operates from a network of five strategically located depots, using its own 30-strong delivery fleet to service over 2,000 accounts across England and Wales. Customers include pet shops, garden centres and specialist outlets.

Growing investment in voice

Pedigree first invested in Accord Voice WMS for its bulk warehouse and accessories warehouse at its main distribution centre in Nottingham as part of a full Accord Distribution system from supply chain software and warehouse management specialist Business Computer Projects (BCP). The improvements delivered by the voice component – particularly in picking accuracy – were so convincing that Pedigree decided to extend its investment to the rest of its depots.

During a two-year programme, Accord Voice WMS was rolled out to each depot in turn, transforming Pedigree’s warehousing from manual, paper-based operations to real time wall-to-wall voice control in all five depots. Goods in are now scanned and voice received to ensure all stock information on the system is accurate from the start and any discrepancies addressed immediately. The voice-driven system then controls put away, picking, replenishment and stocktaking processes right through to despatch.

With 9,000 stock-keeping units (SKUs) and 250 orders a day to manage across 170,000 square foot of warehouse space divided between five locations, the conversion to voice is delivering major efficiency improvements. 

Delivering productivity improvements

As expected, voice-directed picking is helping pickers work faster and more accurately from pick faces which are now automatically kept replenished by the system, optimising the use of both forklift truck drivers and pickers and eliminating re-picks and waiting time due to empty picking faces. Picking rates have improved by up to 20% depending on the type of goods picked and accuracy is now at 99.9%.

“Order fulfilment ‘right first time, on time’ is always our aim and we’re virtually there now,” said Chris Laud, Pedigree financial director. “The whole warehouse just works so much more efficiently. Pickers can quite literally start picking as the order comes in because picking instructions are generated at the relevant depot as soon as the order is placed.”

Not only are orders more accurate, but also damage has been minimised as pickers can now pick and pallet by weight so that heavier items don’t damage more fragile ones and pallets are more stable. Other benefits have arisen in terms of faster training of new staff and flexibility to move staff around departments, as product knowledge is no longer needed.

Exceeding initial expectations

Stationery and administration savings arising from voice have also been significant, with the elimination of paper picking lists and labels along with associated administrative tasks. Invoices, which used to require manual input, with up to five separate picking notes for each order, for instance, are now all produced automatically on completion of picking. The net result has been a significant saving of administrative time, allowing staff to be redeployed in more productive tasks.

Laud concluded: “Pedigree are delighted with the improvements we have obtained by moving to voice controlled warehousing. When we first invested in Accord Voice WMS as part of a full Accord implementation we believed that it outclassed specialist standalone WMS in terms of functionality. The improvements we have gained have verified this, more than fulfilling our expectations.”

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