Associated Wholesale Grocers (AWG), the second largest grocery cooperative in the nation, has implemented a voice-directed distribution system, an integrated software and hardware solution, in its 1,000,000-sq.-ft. Kansas City, Kan. facility, replacing both pick lists and handheld scanning terminals in its case-picking operations. AWG said that despite the precision of scanners, accuracy results with the voice are at least equivalent, and frequently better, with error rates dropping 25% following the installation.

“Previously, we went from paper to bar code scanners to increase accuracy rates, but lost productivity,” said Rich Vastine, corporate director of industrial engineering at AWG. “Now, with voice, we get both benefits. A hands- and eyes-free operation is such a natural way for our associates to work.”

Installed in February 2003, the voice-directed distribution application software, provided by Vocollect, is configured specifically for AWG's warehouse operation and provides managers with real-time visibility into floor operations so they can react to changing conditions immediately. The system pairs industrial speech recognition technology with a wearable voice computer.

AWG intends to expand the use of the voice distribution system to the whole warehouse. It can be used for cycle- counting, put-away, replenishment, transfers, receiving and loading applications.