Distributor improves workflow with voice-directed order picking

Minnesota-based distributor sees improvements in fill times, error rates and training.

By ·

Patterson Companies is a distributor of dental and animal health supplies serving customers across North America and the United Kingdom. To improve efficiency and accuracy in its 14 fulfillment centers, the company replaced its existing paper-based order picking system with a voice-directed technology.

Patterson fills 25,000 orders each day, all of which are shipped on-demand. The company needed a solution that could speed up order fulfillment, reduce errors and shorten training time. The previous paper-based system, where workers typically picked 10 to 12 orders at a time, was prone to errors.

The solution (Honeywell) includes a small, hands-free headset paired with a wireless scanner. Workers are now able to scan items by speaking a voice command that activates the scanner when they are moving boxes. This functionality not only enhanced the worker experience, but also improved accuracy and performance. Order fillers were able to complete orders 25% faster, and their internal error rate dropped from 1 per 300 lines picked to 1 per 1,000. Training that had once taken weeks on a paper system dropped to hours.

“Our goal in this effort was to really build something productive and something we could replicate, and we ended up building something very special,” said Paul Courchene, distribution and logistics lead at Patterson Companies. “The whole project boiled down to the device working exactly the way we said it was going to work, and it became the device of the future for us.”


About the Author

Josh Bond, Senior Editor
Josh Bond is Senior Editor for Modern, and was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and associate editor. He has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce University.

Subscribe to Modern Materials Handling Magazine!

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Find out what the world’s most innovative companies are doing to improve productivity in their plants and distribution centers.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Latest Whitepaper
Southworth Brouchure Shows Practical Applications of Ergonomics
This little booklet done in comic book style uses simple illustrations to take readers on a walk through a hypothetical, yet typical, plant where the plant manager, safety director, and controller point out a variety of problems that were solved through the practical application of ergonomics.
Download Today!
From the December 2018 Modern Materials Handling Issue
EDC brought in a WMS, lights, powered conveyor and sortation to write a new chapter in the book distributor’s distribution story.
Educational Development Corp. writes a new chapter in distribution
2018 Top 20 warehouses
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
The Impact of e-Commerce on an Organization’s Fulfillment Operations
This exclusive research study, conducted by Modern Materials Handling on behalf of Honeywell, investigates the consequences e-commerce has on an organization’s fulfillment operation.
Register Today!
EDITORS' PICKS
Resilience and innovation at Gap Inc.
Just months before the start of the 2016 holiday season, one of Gap Inc.’s distribution centers...
System Report: Luxottica keeps it simple
Simplification and consolidation drove the design of a new 1.1-million-square-foot logistics campus...

Goya Foods’ secret ingredient: Lift trucks
The leader in Hispanic food and beverage products puts a variety of lift trucks and racks to work in...
Arvato SCM Solutions: Fashion Logistics
At its Hannover, Germany, facility, e-commerce logistics provider Arvato SCM Solutions is using...