Bike store rides on with Dematic's picking solution

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When Chain Reaction Cycles wanted a Voice picking solution to improve picking efficiency, it came to Dematic and got much more...

Dematic is supplying online bike store Chain Reaction Cycles with a solution for Voice picking, packing and conveying as well as a tailored warehouse management system (WMS) in a scheme that is expected to deliver a 50 per cent improvement in order-picking efficiency. Chain Reaction Cycles sells bicycles, spare parts and accessories online, direct to the customer.

Recently the company also expanded into winter sports goods and now offers some 84,000 different products from its 150,000 sq ft purpose-built facility in Ballyclare, just outside Belfast in Northern Ireland. Celebrating 25 years of business in 2010, this family-owned company became an online business 10 years ago and is currently experiencing an impressive 40 per cent year-on-year growth.

Realising it needed to improve its picking process to accommodate this level of growth, and being aware of the benefits that Voice picking could deliver, CRC sought out Voice solutions and providers at the Logistics Link North Show, held in Doncaster during October 2009. Seeing a Voice system being demonstrated on Dematic's stand they stopped and talked. Dematic subsequently spent three days on site at CRC conducting a study and setting up a live demonstration to convey the concept to those on the CRC board less familiar with Voice technology. During the consultation process the focus was solely on Voice picking together with a packing solution. However, Dematic's concept differed from other companies bidding for the contract and caught CRC's interest, as Stuart Stables, head of Dematic's product division, explains: "We were able to identify issues with CRC's in-house developed ERP system that, like other ERP systems, is built around general business processes and lacks the specialist warehouse capabilities of Dematic's own Warehouse Management System (WMS), which we could tailor to suit CRC's particular requirements. Competitive bidders could only offer proprietary software that could not compete on specification."

Dematic won the contract, but now it was no longer for just Voice picking and a packing system but also for Dematic's full WMS to cover all warehousing aspects for CRC; including goods receipts, putaway, replenishment, pick and pack, stock counting, cycle counting and kitting, where CRC build bicycle wheels according to customer requests. While working closely with CRC during the development of the WMS, Dematic identified significant possible improvements; from feeding orders to the packing area on an automated conveyor system. Packing cartons will be erected automatically and fed to packers while conveyors transport picked orders from the zones directly to the packers to reduce walking distance for the pickers. CRC approved of the concept and signed the contract for this further solution. With a tight timeline for its deployment, Dematic split the scheme into two phases. Phase 1 comprises the Voice pick system, which includes 35 Vocollect Talkman terminals, and the packing and dispatch system, which features 20 packing terminals. Each packing station comprises Dematic's touch screen, barcode scanners and label and document printers for each packing station. CRC has just gone live with Phase 1 and is currently ramping up throughput into full flow. Phase 2 involves the deployment of the full WMS - including the goods in, stock management and the replenishment modules - and features handheld Radio Data Terminals (RDTs) for goods receiving and directed putaway. This phase will be completed later this year after the packing conveyors have been installed.

Real-time management information
Dematic's scheme will ensure CRC has real-time management information at its fingertips, with full visibility of all items and order status. It is also anticipated to deliver the aformentioned overall picking efficiency improvement of up to 50 per cent. This is due to orders being split into single-line and multi-line type, following Dematic's review of CRC's picking operations, and the Voice technology prompting users around the warehouse. Barry Dunn, operations manager at CRC, commented: "Our warehouse can no longer afford to be regarded as a dusty building for holding stock; it now has to perform productively so that goods are received, processed and dispatched with the minimum of errors. Mistakes that occur in picking are costly, both in terms of pickup/delivery costs and repackaging, as well as through penalties that come from customer dissatisfaction and loss of business. After lots of research into various picking technologies, case studies, site visits and sales pitches we decided with a lot of help from Dematic to deploy Voice picking to our warehouse operation, allowing picking staff to listen and respond to instructions through a headset and leaving their hands free to pick efficiently. Pickers in the warehouses can receive Voice instructions, ask questions and report back without having to carry paper with them or to keep returning to a picking desk."

Dunn added: "I'm looking forward to the next phase of implementation and believe with the help and support of Dematic we will continue to be not only the biggest but the best online cycle superstore in the world." Visit Dematic at IMHX 2010, NEC Birmingham from 16 to 19 November, Stand 18N110 & 19L140 in the AMHSA Pavilion.

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