Exclusive Interview with Nick Hudson,
General Manager at Flowervision (Bristol) Ltd
Welcome to the fourth of our exclusive customer interviews.
This time it’s with Nick Hudson, General Manager at Flowervision (Bristol) Ltd, an independent wholesaler of high-quality fresh cut flowers and plants as well as a vast range of sundries. Nick has worked at Flowervision for over 13 years and has held the role of General Manager since 2012.
In this interview, Nick discusses how he, Flowervision Bristol’s Managing Director Andrew Jones and his team worked with BEC to create and implement a voice-enabled data capture scanning solution as part of a drive to improve the company’s customer service offering by modernising its order picking and fulfilment processes.
1. What are your main areas of responsibility within Flowervision?
My main areas of responsibility are the day-to-day running of the organisation including the management of deliveries, general logistics, staff and cash and carry. I also oversee specific projects undertaken in order to help develop the company and make it more efficient in the way that specific processes are carried out; resulting in changes or modifications as and when required.
2. How long have you been a BEC customer?
We have been dealing with BEC for around 18 months but a customer for almost a year.
3. How did you first come into contact with BEC?
We first came into contact with BEC by undertaking an internet search for voice picking and warehouse management solution providers. We spoke to an alternative supplier initially however after meeting with BEC, we decided to work with them on the project moving forward.
4. Which BEC solution are you currently using?
We are currently using BEC’s eSmart® Voice software for our picking processes running on A730 Talkman devices from Honeywell Vocollect coupled with SRX2 cordless headsets.
5. How is the BEC solution used within your warehousing facility?
BEC’s eSmart® Voice solution is used within our warehouse facility including our refrigerated and cash and carry areas.
We operate a web shop which is used by the vast majority of our customers which include independent retailers and florists across the South West of the UK within an 80-mile radius. 80% of what we sell is picked and packed overnight, while the rest is sold to customers coming into our facility and making a direct, face-to-face purchase.
Our web shop opens at 3pm which allows our customers to see what’s available in stock within our warehouse as well as what has been bought that morning and transported from Holland for arrival in Bristol overnight. Initial picks are carried out from our held stock, while new products from the lorry deliveries are placed in defined product locations within our warehouse and fridges. Once the products are put into the correct locations we can then start picking and packing orders overnight for shipment first thing in the morning.
We needed to develop a method of picking products which was a lot more accurate as we were making regular errors which in turn was leading to order mix-ups and ultimately poor levels of customer satisfaction.
Each product within the warehouse now has a unique locations identifier, allowing operatives to accurately follow instructions received through the speech recognition wireless headsets in order to pick and pack items correctly.
6. What type of solution were you using before you deployed your BEC solution?
Before the BEC solution was implemented we were using pen and paper to fulfil orders – we didn’t use any barcoding whatsoever for the picking of orders.
7. What have been the main business benefits you have experienced/achieved as a result of your BEC eSmart® Voice software solution?
The main benefit of the solution is that picking accuracy has dramatically increased. At the end of every night our pick room should be empty however with our previous pen and paper method we regularly had a number of products left over which meant that orders hadn’t been fulfilled correctly. This would be particularly problematic when fulfilling orders for one-off events such as weddings and funerals where mistakes can’t be made, so we were ultimately spending a lot of time, money and resource rectifying incorrect orders. With the new solution this doesn’t happen and customer satisfaction has significantly improved as a result.
The new solution also provides us with dashboards which give us full visibility of staff picking performance, enabling us to discover which members of staff are most productive as well as highlighting any issues.
Staff training times have also been reduced so introducing new pickers is now a quick and seamless process without staff having to have specific flower knowledge – the system simply tells them what to pick. This is facilitated by the new solution helping us to define the location of products as well as using check digits via the voice system to ensure that items are picked correctly.
One other benefit is that the new solution enables staff to work hands-free rather than picking items with papers under their arm and a pen in their mouth, allowing for the gentler handling of our products during the picking and packing process.
8. What ERP system are you currently using?
We are currently using the Florisoft ERP system.
9. How have your workers found the transition between your old picking system and the new BEC solution?
Our workers were initially sceptical in terms of the changes as they were used to working with our old paper-based system. They 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 understood that we needed it to help them fulfil their tasks more accurately and efficiently and had an appreciation of the benefits to the business as a result of implementing the new solution.
10. Why did you choose BEC to work with you on your warehouse automation project?
We had been evaluating another company to work with 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.
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 voice data capture solutions.
As a company, we strive to work with businesses who can offer us a good working relationship and constructive face-to-face interactions. This is far more important to us than getting the cheapest price for a solution and this positive interaction was something which BEC was able to deliver.
After our initial meeting with BEC we definitely had a gut feeling that they were a good company to work with and subsequently build a good relationship with moving forward. They were very open and offered great potential for a strong working relationship. We wanted something very specific and BEC fully understood what we required from a solution and listened to us about how we wanted to work.
12. Do you have any plans to extend your BEC solution further or do you have any new applications which you are currently considering?
In the New Year we are planning to extend the solution into the stock-taking and sundries elements of the business. In addition, we are looking to evaluate a scanning solution for deliveries in order to compliment the current voice-picking function. We have also recently ordered a number of the new Honeywell Vocollect SRX3 wireless headsets as they are equipped with improved functionality in order to cope with noisy refrigerated environments.
We currently have a pilot of the solution running in Holland and we are also hoping to extend the system into Flowervision in Norwich.
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 in implementing voice systems, 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.
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, accuracy, efficiency and profitability.