Canadian electrical component supplier Thomas & Betts works hard to ensure that its shipments to distributors and retailers contain exactly what each manifest declares.
Fulfillment mistakes cost time and money, so the company has adopted voice picking technology and incorporated a scale at its pallet-wrapping station to compare the expected and the actual weight of outgoing shipments.
Still, the company wanted to drive down its error rate even further. So last year, Thomas & Betts launched an initiative to fix any mistakes before orders even leave the warehouse and push picking accuracy to close to 100 percent.
The result was a solution called Pick by Weight, a real-time mobile monitoring technology that the company developed in house and has deployed at its Bromont, Québec, distribution center.
"We were trying to get as much quality as we could into the picking process," says Robert Primeau, a warehouse management system (WMS) specialist at Thomas & Betts. "To make it better, we can now have the picker correct mistakes as he's picking."
The Pick by Weight system consists of a scale mounted on the forks of a pallet jack. A touchscreen tablet PC mounted on the vehicle's handle is linked to the DC's WMS system through a wireless network, so users can compare the weight of every item in the load to its expected weight and receive instant feedback if the two don't match.
To make the system easier for warehouse workers to use, Thomas & Betts used StepLogic, a software development platform from DMLogic LLC, to build a simple user interface with intuitive touchscreen controls, says Bob Kennedy, DMLogic's senior vice president for business development.
The result is a customized software layer that sits on top of the WMS and offers a tailored view to each user, allowing Thomas & Betts to achieve 99.9 percent picking accuracy, he says. (To see a video of the system in action, visit www.dmlogicllc.com/videos.)
As for what's next, Thomas & Betts is already planning improvements to the system, such as using the tablet to display pictures of the items to be picked, show warnings if a box is especially heavy, and change the color of characters to help identify the appropriate storage row.