Fox Head Yields 90 Percent Productivity Boost With Vocollect Warehouse Deployment

6/2/2013
Fox Head, Inc. has achieved major additional distribution task optimizations with its Vocollect Voice deployment for mobile workers, facilitated by Vitech Business Group. The brand reports a 90 percent productivity improvement by interleaving cycle-counting with picking and a 20 to 25 percent productivity improvement over handhelds by interleaving voice with replenishment.

Fox Head, Inc. is headquartered in Irvine, Calif., with additional offices in Morgan Hill, Calif., Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and Barcelona. The Fox brand is the most recognized and best-selling brand of motocross apparel in the world today. Fox built its business by developing clothing for the high-intensity, physically demanding motorsport of motocross. Its highly successful initial deployment of Vocollect Voice for picking resulted in strong payback in accuracy (moving from 82 percent to 99.99 percent), productivity (50 percent improvement), reduced training time (from one day to 1.5 hours), and a six-month return on investment.

Says global vice president of operations Robby Dhesi, "We would have been happy with the results we attained from using voice just with picking, but the value-add we have found in applying voice for many other workflows and the ability to interleave tasks has taken us to an entirely new level of workforce optimization," he says.

With excellent integration support from Vitech Business Group and its HighJump warehouse management system (WMS), today Fox uses voice to support picking, replenishment, cycle-counting, slotting, receiving, and soon, packing. With the demands of processing 35,000 SKUs across multiple business channels including e-commerce, international retail and wholesale, Vocollect Voice has been a catalyst for company growth, helping the company:

Keep pace with a highly-fluctuating and rapid order volume – No matter how good Fox associates became at picking with voice, its pickers often lost considerable time when waiting for the next order or cart to come to their station. Prior to implementing voice, cycle-counting was performed as a full-time function using handhelds every six months, with only 60 percent accuracy. Now, as much as 90 percent of the cycle-count is performed using voice, and nearly half of this is performed in-line with picking. Interleaving cycle-counting with voice helps the company pick up 30 to 35 percent of the cycle-counts during each 90-day period. This has netted Fox a 90 percent productivity improvement.
Fox also interleaves replenishment with voice. Workers put items into bins three to four times a day, because Fox has only forward pick faces for 19,000 SKUs, while it has more than 35,000 total SKUS. This dynamic slotting allows the company to shorten the travel path for picking and replenishment. The interleaved replenishment process with voice generated a 20 to 25 percent productivity increase over replenishment performed with handhelds. Fox has increased its throughput from 25 to 27 lines per hour with handhelds to 35 lines per hour with voice.
Improve labor management – Fox bases labor decisions on workflow reports from the HighJump WMS on the number of orders coming in. Six people perform the putaway to replenishment task, and sometimes they are switched between replenishment and picking. This provides the flexibility to have a few people transition from replenishment/ putaway to picking, and to drop to one person in replenishment for half an hour so other associates can go pick a cart. "With voice, it is easier and faster to make personnel, workload, and process changes than it is with handheld devices," says Dhesi.

Continues Dhesi, "We've been able to reduce the number of pickers from 35 before voice to 18 after voice and reduce the number of dedicated cycle-counters from four before voice to one with voice. And our associates enjoy using the system, finding it a more ergonomic and safe way to work. Because they are more productive in completing the day's assignments, they can go home at 5 p.m. instead of 9 p.m."

Address geographic and cultural customer ordering differences – In North America, people order the product first and then tell a company whether they want it or not. In Europe where Fox also operates, customers commit to items way ahead of production. Fully 90 percent of European order volume comes before the purchase order has been placed. To accommodate this, Fox has integrated voice into receiving within its European operation, which has a 22,000 square foot distribution center. Using voice for receiving helps Fox pre-book multiple orders and schedule the necessary picking and receiving requirements.

Fox's successful voice-centric deployment was recently selected as one of Supply & Demand Chain Executive Magazine's 2013 "100 Great Supply Chain Projects." Dhesi's insights and experiences are also profiled in Vocollect's new ebook, The Talking Warehouse: Understanding How Voice Unleashes Higher Performance in Product Distribution.

So what's next for Fox? "We will soon launch a packing station application for voice in our DCs. We think it is also going to help us eliminate as much as 50 percent of unnecessary travel time, which will help us even better meet seasonal order demands with our existing workforce. Voice enables the highest level of accuracy and order detail required for e-commerce, catalog and mail order operations to maintain top-level customer service. The superior accuracy level through voice also reduces the cost of returns," says Dhesi. "We're also planning to extend voice to receiving in our North American operations this year."
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