CONA Services Deploys Lydia Voice Across 92 Coca-Cola Bottler Locations, Boosts Productivity by up to 7% per Site Versus Previous Solution
Voice-directed workflow system from Ehrhardt Partner Group (EPG) features neural network voice recognition solution that eliminates the need for inefficient, repetitive voice training.
Already a long-time user of voice-directed workflows, Atlanta-headquartered CONA Services decided to evaluate a new voice solution in 2019 upon learning that manufacturer support for their existing system would be discontinued in 2021. The company — which provides information technology services for a dozen different North American Coca-Cola bottlers — saw this as an opportunity to take a fresh look at the solutions currently available in the market, said Baron Jordan, Chief Product Officer – Supply Chain at CONA.
“Our previous voice system had a complex architecture and required the software to be hosted and run on individual servers at each deployment site,” he explained, noting that more than 90 bottling and distribution locations were using the voice-directed system to facilitate picking, which required extensive support. “Further, there were inconsistent voice recognition issues with the old system that pickers found frustrating.”
Jordan and his colleagues’ wish list for a new voice-directed solution included simplified architecture that was optimized for SAP, a universally supported platform, and the ability to enable continuous picking in challenging network environments. Their previous system used voice over internet protocol (VoIP) to transmit pick instructions, but was prone to weak or dropped connections. Therefore, CONA desired a solution that would permit continuous picking, independent of a network connection, should the WiFi signal be weak or lost.
Testing the Options
After eight months of investigation, the CONA team selected two potential voice-directed workflow providers and invited them to demonstrate their solutions in a side-by-side pilot. To gain the best understanding of how each solution would work in a typical bottler’s facility, as well as to gauge the user experience, Jordan’s team selected a test location where pickers were already familiar with the old voice system.
In December 2019, both prospective solutions were connected to CONA’s back-end SAP enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and fed live data. Pickers were outfitted with headsets and mobile devices, then sent off to test the two options in their real-world environment.
The clear winner of the two systems tested, said Jordan, was Lydia Voice from Ehrhardt Partner Group (EPG), a leading global provider of supply chain execution and voice software solutions. “The Lydia Voice solution addressed all of our needs and concerns, and had the best user feedback,” he noted.
About the Solution
The Lydia Voice solution’s software integrates directly with SAP via a remote function call (RFC) without any middleware. That made deployment of the new voice solution across multiple bottler locations much easier.
CONA’s previous inefficiencies related to both voice training and poor voice recognition are negated with Lydia Voice’s deep neural network voice recognition solution. Lydia Voice automatically recognizes more than 50 different languages, 3 of which used by CONA, and a multitude of unique dialects. Plus, it is optimized for the noisy warehouse environment.
Lydia Voice is also device independent, allowing the solution to interface with various Android handheld devices. That gives each bottler location the ability to select the devices that best suit their unique environment or preferences.
Further, the Lydia Voice solution provides an integrated development environment called Dialogue Designer. This enables Jordan and his team to independently create customized voice-directed workflow configurations without EPG technicians or developers. In CONA’s case, the voice application is used to build different types of pallets and print pallet tickets, he said.
“It also allows pickers to access a special menu with user directed commands for activities like announcing they are taking a break,” continued Jordan. “That automatically updates our backend ERP system to track overall time spent by pickers, supporting engineered labor standards (ELS) productivity calculations.”
Pandemic? No Problem
After the successful pilot test, CONA elected to begin rolling out the Lydia Voice solution to its first site in March 2020, with deployment to 92 other North American locations completed 12 months later, in March 2021.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 travel restrictions and site safety policies prevented the EPG installation team from traveling to facilitate on-site deployment at most of the distribution centers. A hybrid implementation plan utilizing EPG and CONA staff to remotely support on-site bottler IT resources was developed and documented to meet accelerated delivery requirements.
Bottlers’ IT staffers — with support from CONA’s IT department — were able to handle a majority of the installation and commissioning, and EPG provided extensive remote support for the implementation, Jordan added, noting: “EPG was a great implementation partner and offered tremendous customer support.”
By delivering high service availability in challenging network environments and eliminating voice template training and recognition errors, the Lydia Voice solution has increased efficiency at each of the 92 implementation sites.
“On average, many sites have seen approximately a 6% to 7% productivity improvement over our previous voice solution,” reported Jordan. In operations with thousands of users and thousands of hours this can provide very significant savings.
Further, many other locations that previously used paper-based pick lists to fill orders are now transitioning to Lydia Voice. Jordan added that among the overwhelmingly positive feedback he’s received from the bottlers, a typical comment is: “This is the best thing we have ever rolled out to the warehouse. Where has this been the last five years?”
For more information about the Lydia Voice workflow solution, contact Ehrhardt Partner Group (EPG) at 704.927.1483 or visit www.epg.com.
CONA Services, LLC is an IT services company for the North American Coca-Cola bottling business. CONA provides our participating bottlers a common set of processes, data standards, manufacturing and customer solutions. The CONA system process $24 billion of revenue a year, more than 160,000 sales orders and in average 30,000 users per day. CONA is a Strategic Partner of the North America Coca-Cola Bottler System. For more information, visit www.conaservices.com.
About Lydia Voice
Lydia Voice is the first voice recognition solution for the logistics market to use deep neural network technology designed specifically for the industrial environment where “near perfect” voice recognition is required and eliminates outdated voice-template training. Lydia Voice virtually eliminates one of the most time-consuming multi-site IT responsibilities associated with a typical voice project when Lydia Voice Enterprise SiteSwitcher with dynamic set-up is leveraged. Native integration with SAP EWM and WM and direct integration with additonal leading ERP/WMS solutions. Extensive real-time analytics is available with TimeSquare Cloud Analytics and Lydia Voice Warehouse Reporting (LWI).
Ehrhardt Partner Group (EPG) is the leading provider of comprehensive supply chain execution and Lydia Voice software solutions for smarter connected logistics with more than 1,500 customers globally and a team of almost 700 team members. EPG’s highly configurable and scalable logistics solution, LFS, delivers Tier I functionality inclusive of: warehouse management, warehouse control and automation, resource management, transportation management, advanced business intelligence analytics and its industry leading iBrowser ensures ongoing support for all major browsers, delivering flexibility and platform independence. Our Lydia Voice solution offers unparalleled voice recognition with its deep neural network technology and eliminates the need for voice template training, while interfacing with a multitude of WMS and ERP solutions, as well as real-time analytics is available with TimeSquare Cloud Analytics. To learn more, visit www.epg.com.