May 1, 2009

Just what the doctor ordered

A new Jennifer voice system operating on Motorola mobile computers has increased productivity and accuracy at medical supplier Henry Schein.

Sponsored by:

Henry Schein

When doctors order medical equipment and supplies, they expect to receive them with the same precision and quality control that the medical profession is known for. After all, lives may depend on it.

That's why many medical offices turn to Henry Schein. The $6 billion-a-year company is North America's largest distributor of medical products, equipment and supplies to office-based practitioners, including physicians, dentists, veterinarians, clinics and laboratories. Its five U.S. distribution centers make sure that the 60,000 boxes shipped daily to doctors' offices are accurate, complete and delivered in a timely manner. Henry Schein's high level of distribution performance has recently gotten even better, thanks to new voice systems operating on Motorola mobile computers. The Jennifer voice solution from Lucas Systems (www.lucasware.com) has replaced paper-based operations at Henry Schein's distribution centers in Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Indiana.

Since moving to voice, Henry Schein has seen a 12-percent increase in product picking accuracy and an 8-percent improvement in picking productivity. Training time has been reduced from weeks to days, and there has been better tracking of products as they move through the distribution process.

"What we did on paper we did well, with good productivity and accuracy," recalls Mike Charpin, Henry Schein's senior project manager, distribution and operations. "But the compelling reason for moving to voice was growth. The voice system provides a platform to manage growth while improving accuracy to our customers."

He adds that the Jennifer system fit the company's needs well. It is fast and accurate, and it handles the wide range of data needed for distributing medical products, such as the tracking and tracing capabilities required by pedigree laws. Once the voice system was determined, Henry Schein chose Motorola MC3090 multimodal devices to support it. These lightweight mobile computer terminals are worn as belt packs that are connected to headsets when performing voice operations, but they also have the added capabilities of being able to scan bar codes and performing screen-based applications. This comes in handy for capturing additional data, such as serial numbers for items that carry warranties. It also makes it easy for pickers to retrieve additional product data on items, such as lot codes, vendor information and expiration dates.

"So, it came down to which terminal could hold and deliver the data workers needed at the time of picking. We chose the Motorola MC3090. It is a nice, lightweight terminal that our users are very happy with," adds Charpin.

The facility in Grapevine, Texas, near Dallas services practitioners in southwestern states. This 176,000-square-foot facility ships some 8,500 cartons each day and has been using the voice system for a little over a year.

Individual products are picked from flow racks and shelving onto carts. The carts contain about 20 totes used to gather specific orders. The Jennifer system guides a worker to specific storage locations that hold needed products. Once there, he speaks a check digit to confirm the correct location. The voice system then tells how many items to pick and instructs him to place them into a specific tote on the cart, which also holds a check digit that the worker must confirm. This assures near-perfect picking accuracy.

And while the Motorola units are primarily used for picking today, their multimodal design allows other roles in the future, which was an attractive advantage for Charpin.

"We know what the business is like today, but we don't know what it will be tomorrow," he says. "The Motorola device we have will allow us the flexibility to manage change in the future."

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