Modern Materials Handling Casebook Directory | Information Management: Distributor targets accuracy and labor costs with mobile pick carts

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Company consolidates six facilities into one while reducing the number of pickers by 60%.

By Josh Bond, Senior Editor
October 02, 2014

Symbion Consumer, Australia’s largest distributor of vitamin supplements, supplies to more than 3,500 health food stores and pharmacies across the continent and New Zealand. To cut costs, the company decided to consolidate six separate warehouses under one roof. A series of picking solutions built around mobile pick carts helped exceed previous pick rates a week after deployment.

Shortly after the move to the new facility, “we began to struggle with a number of pick-related issues, particularly accuracy, performance, picking labor costs, breakages and damaged stock,” says Matthew Maw, IT manager for Symbion. “Worse, we were experiencing delays in getting product to customers. While we had reduced our freight costs, we had increased labor costs.”

The company implemented a mobile pick cart solution with pick-to-light modules, additional handheld and forklift scanners, and mobile label printers. The system’s software now provides real-time batch picking optimization capabilities, reducing pick face visits by up to 70%.

“Within a week after going live, we were meeting and exceeding our previous pick rates,” Maw says. “The system tells the pickers everything they need to know. They only have to read the instructions on the screen.”

Previously, approximately one order in five went out without the correct stock. Now, the error rate has been reduced to one order in 50. Maw says he is confident that figure will soon be down to one order in 100.

The warehouse reduced the number of required pickers from 23 to nine within just three months. At the same time, accuracy increased more than ten-fold. Maw says the solution has helped improve staff efficiency, significantly reduced stock write-offs, and reduced stock movements.

Lightning Pick, a part of Matthews Fulfillment Systems

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