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Voice-directed picking supports healthy distribution processes

Healthcare distributor improves outcomes for pickers, clinicians and patients by replacing paper-based picking.

Mission Health has provided health care to Asheville, N.C., and the surrounding region since 1885. Today, the organization manages seven hospitals that offer services in more than 50 medical specialties as well as a dedicated Level II trauma center.

After replacing a paper-based picking process with a voice-directed picking solution, the company’s distribution center significantly improved accuracy and efficiency.

The DC handles all non-pharmaceutical and non-foodstuff supplies for clinicians throughout the healthcare network. Almost 3,500 items are picked and shipped each day.

Until recently, Mission Health relied on a paper-based picking process. The process was inefficient and created picking errors that further slowed productivity.

The combined effect of inefficiencies and errors forced work orders to remain open at the end of a shift, especially during weekly peaks on Mondays and Tuesdays and seasonal peaks such as flu season and holidays.

Hiring more staff wasn’t an option, so the company first experimented with a handheld scanning system that came built-in as an option with their warehouse management system (WMS).

“Our team members found it cumbersome,” says Bobby Robinson, manager of Ridgefield operations at Mission Health. “We knew we needed a hands-free technology.”

Within the first four months of using the new voice-directed system (Voxware), Robinson saw accuracy improve by 30%, “and we know that it’s going to continue to improve.” The solution uses a configurable, Cloud-based application to address all of the organization’s requirements.

Within a week, pickers were moving from beginner to expert mode. Managers were able to see results in real time with the system’s dashboard, which has fueled friendly competition among the staff to drive productivity improvements.

“The dashboards have been especially powerful and enable supervisors to assign priority jobs to a particular person to make sure they’re completed in time,” Robinson says. “Now we can actually accomplish a day’s work in a day and our closed orders are more organized and complete than they’ve been in years.”

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About the Author

Josh Bond
Josh Bond was Senior Editor for Modern through July 2020, 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.
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