Wyoming Liquor Division: Picking by voice

With a new voice-directed picking system, Wyoming Liquor Division is handling more split-case picking, additional SKUs and higher customer service levels.
By Bob Trebilcock, Executive Editor
May 01, 2014 - MMH Editorial

Department of Revenue Wyoming Liquor Division; Cheyenne, Wy.
145,000 square feet
Products: Wine and spirits
SKUs: 2,300 in storage plus access to 30,000 for special orders
Throughput: 920,000 cases per year
Employees: 17 full time; 7 part time in distribution
Shifts per day/days per week: 1 shift per day; 5 days per week

With operations powered by a voice-over (VoIP) voice recognition system, Wyoming Liquor Division is capable of picking up to 12,000 bottles and 3,000 cases per day to serve more than 1,200 retailers across the state. Orders received by noon are shipped that day for next day delivery.

Receiving: Palletized and slip-sheeted materials are unloaded by lift trucks in the receiving area (1). Once the shipping documents have been verified against a purchase order, a license plate bar code label is printed for each pallet and the inventory is received in the warehouse management system (WMS). The pallets are staged for putaway into storage.

Putaway: The WMS determines the storage location. Pallets may be put away in a bulk storage area reserved for the fastest moving items (2), in single deep pallet rack (3), double deep pallet rack (4) or four deep pallet rack (5). Reserve storage locations are located on the upper levels of the pallet rack storage areas while picking is done from the lower levels in the racks. As a rule, the system will pick a spot closest to the pick location for that item to minimize travel time during replenishment. A lift truck operator scans the pallet into the right bin location. Special orders are stored and processed in a specials area (6).

Replenishment: Replenishment is directed by the voice system. When an associate receives work instructions over the headset, he first visits the pick location to confirm that material is needed. Next, the associate travels to a storage location in the reserve storage area. Once there, the associate speaks a product number to confirm the location. The system then indicates the quantity of product required, which could range from a full pallet to a few cases. Once the product is picked, the associate travels to the replenishment location and confirms the putaway by voice.

Case picking:  Case picking is also directed by the voice system. Associates drive a tugger to the pick destination in one of the storage areas (2, 3, 4, and 5) and picks to one or two carts. Orders for 30 cartons or less use one cart; the maximum order is two carts and up to 60 cases. The carts are color-coded; one side is designated red and one side is designated green. To initiate the process, the system sends the associate to the first pick location.

Once the associate speaks a check digit to confirm the location, the system indicates how many cases to pick and whether it is a red or green order. Once the associate confirms the pick, the system chooses the next pick location. Once all the cases for an order have been picked, the associate travels to a printer to retrieve and apply bar code labels for the cases. From there, the cases are delivered to the shipping area (7), where they are turned over to a third-party contractor that manages packing, loading and shipping. 

Split-case (bottle) picking: Voice-directed split-case picking takes place along a 300-foot-long bottle line (8). In that area, 16 associates can simultaneously pull from work on up to 36 orders at a time. Team members work in zones, picking from case flow rack (9) on either side of a conveyor system (10). Split-case orders build up during the early part of the day to ensure that the area can keep busy once picking begins.

To initiate the process, associates go to their stations and log in to their phones to ensure that everyone is in the right zone. Then they ask the system to get them work and are directed to pick items to cases. Each case has a letter on the side designating a specific order, such as an A. Once an order is complete, an order starter at the head of the line puts a flag with a letter on the conveyor.  When the flag with an A reaches a zone, the associates in that area put all of their cases with an A on the conveyor behind the flag.

At the end of the line, order consolidators verify the bottle count and consolidate the bottles into fewer cases. Once complete, the cases are labeled and delivered to the third-party contractor in the shipping area (7) for loading and shipping.

Both bottles and cases may also be picked from an additional pallet pick area (11) on the north side of the building. 

System Suppliers
Voice recognition system: Datria Voice from Knighted, an Intelligrated company
VoIP telephony: Cisco
Lift trucks: Toyota Industrial Equipment, Hyster
Tuggers: Yale
Carts: Nutting
Single deep pallet rack: Teilhaber Manufacturing
Four deep push-back rack: Advance Storage Products
Carton flow rack: Unex Span Track
ERP/WMS: Epicor
Mobile computing and scanning: Motorola Solutions
Conveyor: TGW

About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Executive Editor

Bob Trebilcock, executive editor, has covered materials handling, technology and supply chain topics for Modern Materials Handling since 1984. More recently, Trebilcock became editorial director of Supply Chain Management Review. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

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