Product traceability is an issue in many industries, raising the specter of increased costs to capture item-level data in the DC. One Lucas foodservice customer has improved productivity 20% while also improving data capture and traceability.

On a recent trip to the West Coast I stopped in to visit one of our newest foodservice customers. The main reason for my trip was to attend a DC Tour at HD Supply in Seattle, so I decided to take a detour south and pay a courtesy visit to this new customer in California.

I wasn’t surprised to hear that users and supervisors at this new DC were happier working with the Lucas solution. I’d heard the same at HD Supply the day before. But I didn’t expect that managers would be able to quantify their performance improvements so soon after going live with the Lucas software. Most people tend to be a little circumspect in the early going, but the DC manager told me without prompting that they have virtually eliminated overtime, even on their busiest day of the week. And they had just finished getting the new system up and running two weeks earlier.

On their heaviest shipping days selectors would normally work one to two hours of overtime. This week they were done a full hour early. So rather than working a 9-10 hour day to pick their heaviest volume of orders, they were done selecting in 7 hours, leaving selectors time to do other tasks (cleaning up and organizing for the next day, for example). The payoff is that they avoided 1-2 hours of time and a half. In rough figures, that equals a 20-30 percent productivity improvement. And we expect those productivity gains to increase further.

So, what are they doing differently today to get that big bump in productivity? First, rather than picking single pallet assignments, selectors are now picking two pallets in a single trip. That’s a big deal: they have cut travel time in half and doubled pick densities.

pick-labelsThey have also eliminated unnecessary waiting and travel time between assignments by printing case labels “on-demand.” Like many foodservice distributors, case labels are used for delivery purposes, regardless of the picking method. With their old RF system, clerical staff pre-printed the labels and handed them out at a central location. Today, the Lucas system prints the labels when a selector is ready for his next work assignment. This eliminates travel and socializing at the office.

Another big time-saver has to do with the unique way the Lucas mobile applications use voice and scanning, Lucas uses voice direction and speech recognition as the primary means of location, item and quantity confirmation, but it also supports barcode scanning, when and where that make sense. Although lots of people know us for our voice recognition technology, we think barcode scanning is a great technology, too, especially when it is used intelligently.

In this DC, the old RF system required that selectors scan three barcodes per pick location, but they had to key-in catchweights (when needed). With Lucas Move, users speak quantities and checkstrings to confirm locations, and they can scan (or speak) item catchweights. Scanning catchweights is faster than voice (and it is far faster and more accurate than key entry), so having the ability to use voice and scanning together is a big win. It provides data capture efficiency and accuracy.

Equally important, this scanning capability is designed to support the GS1 Foodservice standards. In other words, this DC today can capture and read GS1-128 barcodes (including batch/lot numbers and dates) at the point of pick without making any changes to their picking system. Many foodservice DCs are making major system investments to meet GS1 requirements. Unfortunately, some of them will also likely incur a productivity hit in their picking process because of the new data capture requirements. With Lucas, this new customer is positioned to meet the requirements while already boosting productivity more 20%. That’s a true win-win!

Are you facing new traceability requirements that will impact picking productivity in your DC? Contact us to learn about GS1 and how Lucas can help you improve traceability and productivity.

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