Exclusive Interview with Tom Hamlyn,
Logistics Director at Aliaxis
Welcome to the third of our exclusive customer interviews.
This time it’s with Tom Hamlyn, Logistics Director at Aliaxis, a global leader in the production and distribution of advanced plastic piping systems. Tom has worked at Aliaxis for over 20 years, heading up the Logistics Department since 2015.
In this interview, Tom discusses how he and his team worked with BEC to create and implement both a voice-enabled data capture and Electric Point of Delivery (ePod) scanning solution as part of a drive to improve the company’s customer service offering by modernising its order fulfilment and logistical processes.
1. What are your main areas of responsibility within Aliaxis?
My main area of responsibility involves the management of all orders relating to our leading brands, which include Durapipe, Hunter Plastics, Multikwik and Marley Plumbing & Drainage. I oversee the entire journey of our manufactured product, from the factory to the warehouse, through to order picking and fulfilment and ultimately the final delivery of completed orders to our customers.
2. How long have you been a BEC customer?
We have been a BEC customer for 3 years.
3. How did you first come into contact with BEC?
We were introduced to BEC by Honeywell Vocollect. We received a call from them about voice-based data capture solutions and expressed an interest as this was something which we were in the process of evaluating at the time. Once they had deciphered what type of voice-based solution we were looking for, they put us in touch with BEC in order to take the project forward.
4. Which BEC solution are you currently using?
We have deployed two types of software – BEC’s eSmart® Voice software for the voice-enabled element of our solution and BEC ePod software for the ePod element.
5. How is the BEC solution used within your warehousing facility?
The solution is being used in a number of ways. The voice element of the solution is used both inside and outside of our warehouse facility.
We are using eSmart® Voice running on A710 Talkman devices from Honeywell Vocollect coupled with SRX2 cordless headsets within the warehouse for order picking, consolidation and fulfilment. Each product within the warehouse has a unique locations identifier, allowing the operatives to accurately follow instructions received through the speech recognition wireless headsets in order to pick items correctly.
We use A730 Talkman devices (also running eSmart® Voice) with SRX2 cordless headsets outside of our warehouse facility for picking larger products which are stored externally due to their size, as well as for scanning completed orders onto our delivery vehicles.
The ePod element of the solution, which comprises of eSmart® ePod software loaded onto Honeywell CT50 mobile computers, is used in-cab for the tracking and delivery of orders, including signature capture.
The BEC eSmart® Voice software working in conjunction with eSmart® ePod manages the entire solution from end-to-end, including the provision of dashboards for easy reporting and management of the solution in its entirety.
6. What type of solution were you using before you deployed your BEC solution?
We were using a paper-based solution both in the warehouse and also for our ePod processes which included manual paper pick lists, despatch notes and labels – we didn’t use any barcoding whatsoever.
7. What have been the main business benefits you have experienced/achieved as a result of your BEC eSmart® WMS software solution?
We have experienced a number of business benefits as a result of the new BEC solution, predominantly improved customer services levels as well as better picking and delivery accuracy. Our delivery quality has improved by 40% and the dashboards which we now have as a result of the system offers improved visibility for customers and provides management staff with a snapshot of the warehouse daily workload.
We are also able to view drivers’ routes, fulfilment information and workers’ picking history which delivers an up-to-date status overview and reporting platform. The ePod part of the solution has also given us the opportunity to collect clear and accurate signature capture for goods received, with a clear time and geographical time-stamp.
Being able to send out the correct consignments and deliveries first time every time has also helped us to substantially lower costs due to the reduction in second-time deliveries which we were experiencing before due to incorrect orders being loaded onto trucks and delivered.
8. What ERP system are you currently using?
We are currently using Microsoft Dynamix AX which is critical to our business and processes, however we may look to upgrade our ERP system in the future.
9. How have your workers found the transition between your old picking system and the new BEC solution?
Our workers were initially resistant to the change as they were used to working with our old paper-based system which we had used for over 20 years. Our workers did however come to realise that the new system would help them with day-to-day picking accuracy and got used to it very quickly. They wouldn’t be without it now.
They have less ‘baggage’ to walk around with and it makes their job easier as they have better stock accuracy to work with. The voice solution can also work with a huge range of languages, dialects and accents, so training and the undertaking of tasks for our permanent, temporary and agency staff are much quicker and easier than before.
Some of our workers who use hearing aids were particularly sceptical of the new system, however when they came to use it, they were reassured that the headsets could be tailored to their specific requirements thanks to customisable volume levels.
10. Why did you choose BEC to work with you on your warehouse automation project?
BEC came highly recommended by Honeywell Vocollect so we were assured from the off-set that they would be a suitable fit for us. At the time we were evaluating another company as well as BEC, however we quickly came to the conclusion that BEC understood what we wanted to achieve from a new system and really took the time to understand our operational processes.
Since our system requirements were not straightforward, BEC undertook a detailed evaluation of our business in order to come up with a suitable bespoke solution which worked for us, giving us the confidence that they would be able to overcome all the non-standard elements of our process. By developing the software in partnership with the actual warehouse operatives, they were able to find out exactly what was happening ‘out on the floor’ and put solutions in place to eradicate any bottlenecks or other issues.
11. What are BEC’s specific USPs?
BEC gave us the element of confidence which we needed in order to take the next step and improve upon the previously manual processes which were utilised within our facility. We knew that they were well-versed in supplying and implementing similar solutions amongst their existing customer base and were highly experienced in developing, designing and deploying both scanning, ePod and voice data capture solutions.
It was also extremely beneficial to us to get an end-to-end solution supplier so that we could deploy and work on the whole solution throughout our business with one specific company.
12. Do you have any plans to extend your BEC solution further or do you have any new applications which you are currently considering?
We are currently evaluating the possibility of extending the BEC solution into our Scottish warehouse near Glasgow to install the same end-to-end process as we have here in Kent within the next 12 months.
13. What are the main benefits you have found working with BEC?
We have experienced many benefits working with BEC. They took the time to understand the solution we required so as a result of that, coupled with their vast amount of experience with scanning and voice, we have got everything we asked for – and more.
Since the software is so stable, our support and maintenance requirements have been minimal however on the odd occasion that we have required assistance, the resolution time has been extremely quick and efficient.
14. How would you rate your experience with BEC?
Working with BEC has been nothing short of an enjoyable experience as they are a very pleasant company to work with. The implementation ran extremely smoothly and they delivered everything they said they would from day one. Any minor problems were overcome and dealt with immediately – even at 9 o’clock at night.
We have received a highly stable, robust solution which we don’t have to worry about on a day-to-day basis which continues to deliver great results for us as a business, drastically improving our overall functionality and profitability. We very much hope to roll-out the solution to our Scottish division in the near future.