Fresh Ideas For Fresh Products
EDEKA enhances its delivery processes by using Zebra® printers
In the retail food sector, rapid delivery processes are key to ensure that everything, from aubergines to fish fillets, reaches consumers fresh. Handling documents can slow down processes, so EDEKA's Minden- Hanover regional division in Germany sends its fleet of trucks equipped with Zebra® mobile receipt printers. Consequently instead of dealing with huge volumes of delivery documents, drivers can now print out clear delivery receipts on demand.
From its 72,000 square foot distribution center in Vernon Hills, Illinois, Zebra Technologies processes and picks more than 16,000 items comprising printers, RTLS equipment and accessories every day. The location serves customers and partners across North America and Latin America.
Zebra's North American operations recently initiated a multi-year program focused on systems and processes to support its overall business transformation. As part of that, the company deployed Oracle, allowing it to connect many stand-alone systems into one and drive operational efficiencies. With the deployment, Zebra identified opportunities in its North American distribution center to enhance operations.
"With our Oracle implementation we improved our operational efficiency and capabilities from a business process perspective, but we still lacked visibility into the actual actions taking place in our warehouse," said Ashley Ford, Vice President & General Manager – North America.
With the move to Oracle, Zebra had to change its process for consolidating orders. When pickers move products from the warehouse to staging areas, they often need to combine items with other picked goods before they are ready for shipment. Items remain in a staging area until the entire order is complete.
However, in Oracle, orders are "blind" to the size of the area required for staging. At times, they would relocate an order multiple times before it was complete and pickers frequently had to search through products already in the staging area to complete an order.
"It was very difficult to locate individual items to pair up orders," said Daniel Larkin, Warehouse Control Board Manager. "It was taking one to two minutes to find where to put the material we had just picked."
Pairing reconfigured products with the rest of orders presented another challenge. Reconfigurations refer to customizations of printers and other accessories for specific customer needs.
Team members would stage completed reconfigurations in the aisles until the finished goods were moved to the shipping area. Yet, they had no way to notify the shipping staff when it was time to remove items from the aisle. Goods accumulated in the narrow aisles, blocking picking, creating a safety hazard, and slowing order completion by up to 15 minutes – several times a day.
A robust, easy-to-use mobile solution.
Initially, EDEKA could have been provided with printers by one of its hardware suppliers however there was no guarantee that these would withstand the challenging in-truck demands during start-up and braking. What were needed were robust, easy-to-use mobile devices.
"The Zebra® printers are better quality than other competitors and very easy to use," says Pedro Rodrigues, recalling the first tests with the Zebra RW 420™ model. The mobile printer was specially developed for field sales staff, comes with an optional, easy-to-install vehicle cradle, is shock-and impact-proof and requires few manual actions. This is important as drivers have early morning deliveries and now don't need to make complicated key pad combinations in the dark. The RW 420 thermal direct printer doesn't require supplies (such as carbon ribbons, ink heads or toner cartridges) as the typeface is produced by the printer head heating up the special temperature-sensitive paper.
New paper rolls can also be easily inserted as there are no bending mechanisms. Integer Solutions an integration specialist, presented a convincing solution for installing in the trucks. The Zebra vehicle cradle was connected via RS 232 to the handheld device, with a cable cut to length - thus providing a ready to use printer solution. Consequently EDEKA in Minden bought 700 Zebra RW 420 printers from Integer.
We can now offer our customers even better quality and service, which they can then pass on to their consumers.
An error rate of almost zero.
"Previously, on discovery at the customer's premises that a consignment was incomplete, the missing goods had to be delivered afterwards. This involved an additional trip. Apart from the extra time and costs incurred, the customer was left with an 'out-of-shelf' situation. Given the current competitive climate, endconsumers wouldn't visit food stores with empty shelves. Now we can guarantee that we are delivering the right consignment to the right market straight away," says Pedro Rodrigues, summarising the main benefit of travelling with fewer documents, thanks to Zebra printers. Although EDEKA Minden had a previous error rate of 0.5%, containers are hardly exchanged at all now.
Local supermarket retailers not only benefit from improved delivery quality, which guarantees their customers a complete range of fresh goods, but also from a problem-free system for administering empty containers. The driver simply specifies the quantity of returned goods containers to the warehouse from the supermarket. Using the on demand printed receipt, both the EDEKA regional division and customer can trace empty containers still in circulation, and any outstanding return costs. With this added transparency, there are very few missing containers, which mean accurate deliveries.
Pedro Rodrigues and his team have now added yet another important strand to its philosophy of "Fresh every day". "We can now offer our customers even better quality and service, which they can then pass on to their consumers."