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January 9, 2009

Co-op expands Zetes ID deal

Voice picking technology expanded to 1,200 workers

By Steve Evans

Zetes has announced that it has extended its contract with The Co-operative Group for the use of its 3i Voice offering.

The Group is using Vocollect Talkman hardware and the 3iVCrystal platform from Zetes for all picking and marshalling activities across multiple warehouse environments including ambient, produce, chilled and frozen areas.

Zetes offers platforms for the automatic identification of goods and people. It is headquartered in Belgium with subsidiaries in Germany, France, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and the UK. Zetes currently employs more than 700 workers and generated consolidated revenues of €177m (£157m) in 2007.

Once rollout is complete later in 2009, the platform will support 1,200 workers at six distribution centres across the UK, serving 4,400 stores. The Co-op first implemented a voice picking system in its West Thurrock distribution in 2006, and since then has added three more to that list.

It is predicted that the system will be implemented at the two remaining distribution centres by the middle of 2009. The centres, one at Thetford, Norfolk and a new facility at Birtley, Gateshead will replace two older distribution centres.

The Co-op has also revamped its WMS system and installed a wireless, real-time infrastructure at each data centre.

According to the company, payback was initially expected after three to four years, but The Co-op is already seeing much higher returns than anticipated. Pick errors are reportedly down by 70% and picking rates have dramatically improved, beyond even the original business case estimations.

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Tim Edwards, retail logistics business projects manager at The Co-op, said: “Voice technology allows us to ensure our customers receive a timely and accurate service, and that’s what is most important to the business.”

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