Foodservice Distributor Boosts Productivity With Voice Technology

Hawaiian-based foodservice company expects an ROI in less than a year.

Hawaiian foodservice distributor, Suisan Co. Ltd., and voice solutions provider, topVOX Corp., have launched their recent deployment of topVOX’s Lydia solution in Suisan’s picking operation.

The system was implemented in Suisan’s 53,000-square-foot refrigerated warehouse in Hilo, HI, last year. In just two months, the company realized a 30 percent increase in fulfillment accuracy and a 20 percent increase in picks per hour.

“We were looking for a solution to help us increase pick productivity and I believed that voice would be the most cost-effective solution. I also liked the idea of hands-free picking—I knew it would create a safer work environment,” says Paul J. Agamata, Suisan’s IT director. “We chose topVOX as our vendor because of their professionalism and reputation. We knew they would be the perfect partner for this project.”

Another selling point was that the fact topVOX’s Lydia solution is speaker independent, so employees don’t need to create a voice template to use the system—allowing workers to get up to speed in less time. This was an important benefit for Suisan, whose order selectors speak five different languages.

In addition, workers can be fully trained on Lydia in a matter of hours.

“We are now able to hire new selectors and getting them up and running in no time. It also gives us much more flexibility in terms of hiring seasonal help,” says Agamata.

Additionally, Suisan’s IT team was able to easily integrate the topVOX solution into its existing ERP system. Workers wear topVOX’s VOXTER compact computer units, in combination with barcode scanners.

Picking is directed by the Lydia software and, because of all the checks built into the system, it’s almost impossible for selectors to pick the wrong item.

Initially, Suisan anticipated a two year return on investment (ROI), but based on the initial productivity gains, the company expects to see a return in less than a year.

“I was shocked when I saw the results—I had to recheck my numbers,” says Agamata. “The productivity improvements were unbelievable.”

Now that the picking area has been completed, Suisan is expanding voice to its loading process, and eventually into receiving and inventory.

“This project has been hugely successful for us and there’s been no downside to what we’ve done,” says Agamata. “This is just the beginning of another transformation for Suisan. And we couldn’t have achieved these results without the topVOX team.”

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