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Voice serves up productivity gain for food distributor

Anacapri Foods’ deployment of a voice solution supports 20% more order volume without adding DC staff. The N.J.-based distributor also benefits from analytics software that provides insight into picker throughput and performance.

In the food business, success comes from having quality ingredients as well as great service. In food distribution, the keys to success are similar—top quality products, and also efficiency and accuracy in services like order fulfillment.

For more than 45 years, Anacapri Foods has distributed a complete line of brand-name products, today reaching more than 1,800 pizza shops and fine Italian restaurants in the Northeast. With growing order volumes at Anacapri’s 130,000-square-foot DC in Cranford, N.J., the company was looking for a way to automate and speed up order picking.

With the implementation of a voice-directed solution (Voxware), Anacapri has seen desirable outcomes from the system: the ability to accurately pick more orders without increasing DC staff, and reduced training time for new pickers tied to the ease of use of voice directives.

Anacapri’s customers are centered in the Tri-State area (New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania). To serve these businesses, the DC’s outbound shipments average between 12,000 and 15,000 boxes per day. Jerry Gasparro, the second-generation owner of Anacapri Foods, wanted to ensure his employees were as efficient as possible while maintaining high accuracy when fulfilling orders. He recognized the potential of voice to achieve these aims.

“Our IT partner works with another distributor, and they deployed voice software in their warehouse to improve productivity levels and reduce errors,” says Gasparro.

While Gasparro was confident in the decision, his workforce needed to put the system through its paces to fully appreciate the benefits of voice to their responsibilities.

“Nobody here likes change,” says Gasparro. “Like many others in the industry, our pickers get compensated by pieces picked per hour, and they are rewarded for that. Some were worried that the system would slow them down and impact their paychecks. We opted to deploy it during our slow season because it would only take one hiccup for the team to lose faith.”

During the month-long roll out, the pickers and warehouse management staff realized the potential of voice automation to help them better perform and complete their job functions.

“Our pick rates improved and our errors were reduced,” said Gasparro. “We increased our volume roughly 20% without the need to hire any new employees. The assignments keep coming into the ear of our pickers, so that helps them remain productive.”

Anacapri Foods uses some of the capabilities of VoxPilot, Voxware’s supply chain analytics solution that gives insight into picker and workflow performance.

“I’m most interested in pieces per hour and the daily productivity of our workers,” says Gasparro. “VoxPilot gives me that information in real time so I can understand what’s happening in the warehouse, and if there are errors or things of that nature that need to be addressed immediately.”

Another area where Anacapri Foods has noticed a difference while using voice is how it has improved the training of new employees.

“We don’t have a complex training program here, so we’ve found within a couple of days the new employees are self-trained,” explains Gasparro.

As Anacapri Foods continues to see productivity numbers increase and errors decrease, Gasparro expects to add replenishment and putaway workflows to further automate his distribution operations.

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About the Author

Roberto Michel's avatar
Roberto Michel
Roberto Michel, senior editor for Modern, has covered manufacturing and supply chain management trends since 1996, mainly as a former staff editor and former contributor at Manufacturing Business Technology. He has been a contributor to Modern since 2004. He has worked on numerous show dailies, including at ProMat, the North American Material Handling Logistics show, and National Manufacturing Week. You can reach him at: [email protected].
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