About Viridian Glass
Viridian Glass has been operating in Australia for over 130 years and has been a key manufacturer of glass products for over 75 years. The company has helped shape the way Australians see glass; from being just a functional building product, to something that adds value to people’s homes and lives.
Today, Viridian is proud not just to be the only glass manufacturer in Australia, but also the largest glass supplier in the country. As a business, Viridian leads the industry for quality and innovation and processes glass from manufacturing through to installation.
To service the wide range of customers across Australia with quality glass products, Viridian operates its manufacturing operations in conjunction with a major distribution centre (DC) out of its Dandenong headquarters in Melbourne. The DC comprises seven warehouse buildings, housing glass products for commercial and residential usage.
There’s nothing stock standard about stock management
Recognising the importance of stock accuracy across its complex network in operating an efficient supply chain, Viridian recently undertook an audit of its business. The audit identified inefficiencies in its warehouse operations that needed to be addressed to maintain customer satisfaction.
The operations audit identified that warehouse inefficiencies were being created through the multiple handling of products, and ongoing stock management issues. This meant that the company was dedicating three fulltime staff to manually search for product in its warehouse network on a daily basis to ensure orders were being fulfilled.
“Under our previous manual warehouse management processes, we couldn’t run a cyclic count program due to the poor location accuracy, meaning we had to conduct four wall-to-wall stocktakes per year. These were labour intensive and disruptive to the business,” said Justin McKenzie, Warehouse and Distribution Manager for Viridian Glass.
The upgrade to new technologies
To enhance its stock management processes and increase efficiency, Viridian sought to upgrade its systems. Viridian worked with SAP technology specialists Icon Integration and voice technology leaders VoiceID to develop a solution which optimised warehouse layouts, provided an accurate, granular level of stock traceability and ensured that workplace safety was not compromised for employees.
“Working closely with Viridian, we quickly understood that the nature of their operations were complicated and there were real risks for staff members working on the floor. This means that while their business is always looking to innovate, it is the safety of employees, or people entering the business, that is key,” said Nishan Wijemanne, Managing Director for VoiceID.
To improve stock visibility and establish a process that would enable Viridian to complete all transactions in real-time from door-to-door without impacting any current production processes or safety, Icon Integration and VoiceID deployed an advanced Honeywell voice system supported by the SAP Warehouse Management System (WMS).
Upgrading systems and business operations
Through deploying the SAP WMS coupled with Honeywell’s A700 voice picking solution, Viridian has achieved labour cost savings, greater visibility of stock, as well as key operational efficiency improvements.
“Today Viridian is able to track its stock movement transactions in real-time and accurately direct workers to where product is in their distribution centre network. This significantly enhances Viridian’s delivery processes and supply chain practices,” said Nishan Wijemanne. Importantly for Viridian the technology deployment did not interrupt operations, impact on DC safety and has greatly improved worker stock locating processes.
“Our newly approved stock take procedure is to do cyclic counts of locations once per quarter. This means we no longer have to stop processes for wall- to- wall counts, which increases our productivity. Stock accuracy by location went from 25% per location to 86% after the first three months. At the moment, stocktake location accuracy is tracking at 97%. An amazing turnaround,” said Justin McKenzie.
Key to the success of the new workflow processes in place at Viridian has been the technology specialists overseeing the upgrade program. Justin McKenzie commented, “Icon Integration, together with VoiceID and Honeywell have given us the latest in innovative technology. This has meant that our whole supply chain operates more effectively – and we’re able to pass on the benefit not only to our customers, but also to the people who work here.”
New technologies for new work practices
Viridian’s industrial environment, its large plant and materials handling equipment lend themselves perfectly to a hands-free, voice driven environment; to the extent that today the company uses voice for every workflow without the support of RF.
When picking glass material in the DC for distribution, operators are able to speak letters and numbers to confirm the location of a glass product rather than having to pick up a device and dismount the materials handling equipment just to scan a barcode. All tasks are executed via voice, from putaway and production, through to internal stock movements (such as replenishment) and all outbound tasks, with operators confirming locations, frame numbers (storage type) and pack numbers.
Today when an order comes into the DC’s SAP WMS, the worker is allocated a warehouse task. The operators confirm the pick locations, frame numbers and pack numbers picked for staging prior to despatch. This has drastically reduced the chance of picking inaccuracies, or human error and significantly improved inventory accuracy.
Voice technology has also enhanced worker safety on the distribution centre floor according to Justin McKenzie, “Through using voice, our workers are able to operate efficiently and safely as they do not have to constantly look down at reports, or written location notes. Our pickers often work from large materials handling forklifts to transport the glass and through using voice they no longer have to dismount to scan and confirm product location data. The hands-free, eyes-free aspect of Voice also makes workers much more aware of their environment. It allows them to anticipate the actions of others for increased safety in the warehouse. Today on the distribution centre floor we work handsfree, from the moment the glass is manufactured until the point it leaves our warehouse.”