Healthcare Technology Featured Article

February 11, 2013

Sentara Healthcare Implements Lucas Systems Jennifer Voice Picking in Distribution Center

Sentara Healthcare, a not-for-profit healthcare system serving people in Virginia and North Carolina, has implemented Lucas Systems’ Jennifer Voice Picking to improve its just-in-time picking operations.

“We are always looking to stay on the cutting edge of technology to provide better service and efficiency, as well as to improve ergonomics for employees,” said Robert Saunders, director of materials management at Sentara Healthcare. “Our products can be critical to the patients we serve, so we were looking at ways to improve accuracy and efficiency by letting DC employees pick items without having to hold a barcode scanner. We are still early in our implementation, but we’ve already reduced picking errors by half and improved productivity. And our employees love working with Jennifer – on day one they all had smiles on their faces.”

Jennifer is a female voice that directs warehouse employees over headsets to the appropriate items in the warehouse, and has them pick up the right items and in the right quantity. The employees confirm they’re picking the right items by repeating her instructions and reading a checksum number on the bins for the items they’re picking up or barcodes they’re scanning.

Sentara Healthcare has reduced the pick error rate in its distribution center by more than 50 percent since bringing Jennifer to work there. Reducing the error rate is especially important for Sentara, since getting the wrong medical supplies from the warehouse can mean the difference between life and death.

Sentara’s 86,000-square-foot distribution center, which serves its eight hospitals and additional medical facilities, maintains minimal stocks, meaning employees must be able to pick items accurately.

“Our rapid user acceptance and immediate operational gains stem from the close, collaborative working relationship among our IT Product Manager, Erinn McBride, and the team from Lucas Systems,” said Saunders. “Voice technology is great, but this kind of success requires a partnership based on communication and working together to get the best possible results for the people using the technology. Now that we’ve proven the value of voice in picking, we are looking for other opportunities to use voice in loading, receiving, putaway and replenishment.”

Edited by Braden Becker

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