Eby-Brown is the third-largest convenience distributor and wholesaler in the United States, supplying thousands of products, including food, candy, tobacco, health and beauty products, and more, to over 13,500 convenience store distributors across the eastern and midwestern states. The company operates seven facilities, totaling more than 1.4 million square feet of warehouse space, in Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. Despite its large size and expansive growth in recent decades, the company maintains a commitment to meeting customers’ specific needs, a commitment that influences every decision they make and every new technology they implement.
Like most distributors, Eby-Brown’s single largest labor expense is in their picking areas. Prior to working with Lucas, their pickers were selecting orders that were written on paper pick tickets. Not only is paper picking inherently a slow, labor-intensive process, but it is also a relatively inflexible solution that is not easily scaled or adapted. Chris Timmons, Executive Vice President of Operations at Eby-Brown reflects, “We have undergone tremendous growth over the past couple of decades, and we were really reaching beyond our capabilities in our legacy, paper pick environment. We needed to streamline the process.”
As Timmons’ team was evaluating the possibility of using mobile picking applications, Eby-Brown as a whole decided to make a move from a legacy WMS to an SAP ERP, which meant SAP WM for the warehouses. Timmons pushed for the company to implement the Lucas solution, featuring Jennifer, prior to the implementation of the SAP WM, and he is glad that he did. “By the time we started our SAP WM rollout, we had already earned a full payback on the Lucas system,” says Timmons. Not only did they realize the Lucas voice ROI before implementing SAP, but the Lucas solution also rendered the SAP transition invisible to the pickers.
“Far and away, it’s the best decision I ever made and the best product I ever brought in. This thing paid for itself in less than a year.” -Timmons
In addition to the added value of facilitating the SAP transition, the Lucas solution, configured for Eby-Brown’s specific operational needs, met each of their initial goals for the technology upgrade. They wanted a solution that would not sacrifice their special customer services for the sake of the new technology. “Lucas’s voice-directed technology uses open, standards-based interfaces to link into systems like the SAP WM. Lucas’s building block approach and service-oriented architecture meant that it could be tailored to Eby-Brown’s unique needs in several weeks and workers could be up and running quickly,” says Timmons.
The Lucas solution at Eby-Brown allows managers to adjust, manipulate, and update orders in the Engage Management Dashboard. They can control add-ons, update orders, and prioritize orders based on specific customer needs, all automatically and without disrupting the streamlined picking process. Through Engage, the managers themselves have constant, real-time visibility into the pickers’ productivity and actions, right down to the time they take between picks. This visibility allows management to encourage successful pickers and to enforce minimum productivity thresholds. Lucas’ unique QC/Audit application enables managers to set specific criteria for what orders are to be audited, thus reducing audit costs dramatically.