HANNAFORD TO EXPAND ROLLOUT OF VOICE SYSTEM

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- Hannaford Bros. said here it hopes to expand its installation of voice selection technology to all its distribution facilities in South Portland, Maine, and in Schodack, N.Y., by the end of the year.Gerry Greenleaf, vice president of distribution for the 119-store, Scarborough, Maine-based company, said a successful test of voice selection that began in early December at Hannaford's

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- Hannaford Bros. said here it hopes to expand its installation of voice selection technology to all its distribution facilities in South Portland, Maine, and in Schodack, N.Y., by the end of the year.

Gerry Greenleaf, vice president of distribution for the 119-store, Scarborough, Maine-based company, said a successful test of voice selection that began in early December at Hannaford's dairy facility in South Portland prompted it to expand the program to its meat facility on March 18 and its produce facility seven days later, with the frozen foods facility there expected to implement the technology in mid-April. Hannaford's full-line distribution center in South Portland, including all facilities, encompasses 520,192 square feet in total.

He said Hannaford hopes to install the system at the perishables facilities it operates in Schodack, N.Y., later this spring, with expectations of utilizing the technology at its dry grocery facilities there and in Maine by the end of the year "if we continue to get the results we anticipate in perishables," Greenleaf told SN. The Schodack full-line distribution center comprises 489,000 square feet in total.

One issue delaying expansion of voice selection to dry groceries is that tear strips -- paper guides often eliminated in voice picking -- are a bigger issue in that category "because the stores [use them in] central processing in the back room," he explained. "In addition, training will be a bigger issue because there's a broader product selection. "But once we take care of those issues and once the money becomes available later in the year, we think we could move quickly into voice selection in dry groceries."

Hannaford is a unit of Delhaize America, Salisbury, N.C., along with Salisbury-based Food Lion. Greenleaf said Food Lion officials were involved in assessing voice selection, "so the solutions would fit Delhaize, not just Hannaford."

He told SN Food Lion is "looking at [installing voice selection technology] very seriously -- they're just waiting to see our results."

Greenleaf spoke to SN following formal remarks at the Food Marketing Institute's 2003 Distribution Conference here, during which he discussed the chain's pilot program in voice selection -- a system in which pick lists are transmitted electronically to portable voice terminals that direct order fillers via headsets to the proper warehouse locations. The technology Hannaford is using is supplied by Vocollect, Pittsburgh.

In his presentation, Greenleaf discussed some of the benefits Hannaford has gotten since installing the system in its dairy operation:

Productivity gains, including a pickup of 18.2% in shipping cases per hour.

Accuracy gains, including a 64.1% reduction in errors based on elimination of retail credits and inventory adjustments.

Equipment performance, including minimal headset problems and battery reliability for an entire 10-hour dairy shift.

Lift-truck driver performance, including a 10% improvement in drops per hour.

"We're getting positive feedback from selectors who feel they have more choices and more control," Greenleaf said. "And because voice selection enables the selector to time the process better, the system is eliminating hours of wasted work and selectors are able to move faster and more accurately."