In the restaurant business, as in retail, stocking is something you have to get right. You can't sell what you don't have, and if you disappoint customers too many times, they won't come back.
But getting it right isn't always easy, as the Atlanta-based restaurant chain Huddle House can attest. A few years back, the company, which operates 350 locations in 23 states, was struggling to keep its outlets supplied with the meat, produce, and dry goods they needed. The root of the problem was picking errors at the company's Atlanta DC, which were leading to costly expedited-shipping fees and increased customer complaints.
The 70,000-square-foot Atlanta DC serves as the restaurant chain's single distribution point, housing about 650 stock-keeping units in three different temperature zones—ambient, cooler, and freezer—and shipping roughly 60,000 pieces per week. At the time, the company was using RF (radio frequency) scan-based technology to direct its fulfillment operations, but staffers were finding it increasingly difficult to meet speed and accuracy standards with that system. It was clear the operation was in need of an overhaul.
"When you think of Huddle House, you think of this restaurant chain, but distribution is the other half of our business," said Nathan Ballard, senior vice president of supply chain, in an online video case study.
After considering its fulfillment options, the company chose voice due to the hands-free nature of the technology. "We came to the conclusion that it was just inescapable [that] voice was the way to go for our operation," Ballard said.
PICKING THE BEST PARTNER
As for what Huddle House wanted in a voice system, the company had two key requirements: It had to integrate easily with the DC's existing warehouse management system (WMS)—HighJump's Warehouse Edge software—and it had to be quick and easy for staffers to learn.
Ultimately, the company chose Voiteq, one of HighJump's partners and a supplier of voice-directed and auto-ID solutions, to help lead the implementation in 2016. The technology Voiteq installed for its client was the Honeywell Vocollect Talkman system with SRX2 headsets.
According to the company, the implementation and execution of voice into its WMS was swift and seamless. Although Huddle House initially allocated a month and a half for the rollout, it took Voiteq's team a matter of days to train staff and assimilate the system into its WMS.
JUST WHAT THEY ORDERED
By all accounts, the new system has easily met the restaurant chain's needs for ease-of-use and accuracy. To begin with, the flexibility of voice technology has made training a breeze, according to the company. The implementation team started with those workers who had struggled the most with RF scanning and was able to train them in an hour. "The speed and accuracy of Voiteq's voice technology proved to be far superior to reading a screen and scanning with the RF," Ballard said in the video.
As for accuracy, the voice system has been a major success there as well. The company reports that picking errors have dropped 53 percent since it shifted to the new system, bringing its picking accuracy rates up to 99.999 percent.