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Modernized warehouse runs laps around paper-based predecessor

New software, hardware and voice-directed processes increase visibility and flexibility for manufacturer/distributor. By Josh Bond

Founded in 1885, Raleigh is one of the largest manufacturers and distributors of bicycles and accessories around the world. After a project to transform its warehouse into a faster and sleeker operation, the company achieved 99.9% stock accuracy levels, increased productivity and real-time stock control.

“We were running a warehouse on a completely paper-based system, and this was proving very inefficient in terms of the picking process,” says Jane Tomkinson, operations director.

The administrative team was always a few hours behind actual stock levels on products, so managing sales in real time was impossible. This was compounded by the seasonality of the bicycle business and the fact that the paper-based system only made training more difficult.

Working with a systems integrator, the company deployed a new warehouse management system (WMS) and new hardware (Honeywell,, Vocollect by Honeywell,) to update the goods-in and goods-out sides of the parts and accessories business.

Phase one focused on the receiving and picking side of the business, eliminating existing issues around stock control by ensuring that all the stock received into the warehouse was bar coded. Raleigh used cordless Bluetooth bar code scanners to make sure the data was correct before products could move forward into the storage and distribution process.

Phase two dealt with picking and replenishment, equipping warehouse staff with voice solutions allowing them to communicate directly with the WMS. Purpose-built for voice recognition in warehouse environments, the units are equipped with a voice-activated scanner for full hands-free operation.

After initial skepticism, workers report the headsets are comfortable and increase productivity, enabling them to pack and launch more quickly, accurately and effectively. Seasonal workers can now be fully trained in a couple of days. Raleigh has access to more data than before regarding all the picks, packs and processes in the warehouses.

“Compared with paper, the use of this system has given us much more accuracy and control,” says Steve Wigley, distribution manager. “We’ve seen stock accuracy go from a not-too-bad 96% or 97% to 99.9%.”

The project has also made an impact on the physical layout of the warehouse, creating a flexible pick face with four times the locations in the same space. Raleigh now plans to extend the solution across the rest of the business.

About the author
Josh Bond, Senior Editor
Josh Bond is Senior Editor for Modern, 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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