SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Minyard Food Stores, Coppell, Texas, has realized a 25% total increase in warehouse productivity and efficiency by installing a radio frequency inventory system, said Prudencio Pineda, senior vice president, warehousing-logistics. Minyard implemented the RF system about a year ago following the installation of a warehouse management system. During the Food Marketing Institute's Distribution Conference here this month, Pineda told SN the RF system has already paid for itself and now the retailer is planning to put in a voice-recognition selection system sometime this year.
"RF is not new, but it hasn't been in operation for that many years," Pineda said. "We were a little reluctant to get into it. But we saw the possibilities of what RF could bring back to us in efficiency and increased productivity, and we were well satisfied with the results. The system is all that it was said to be."
Minyard operates 81 supermarkets and does about $1 billion in annual sales.
The RF inventory system centers on using common FM transmission methods. A small tag, or transporter, is affixed to a pallet, trailer, tractor or forklift, identifying objects by code and making it easier and quicker to locate orders and stock.
The RF systems replace hard copy work lists, enabling lift operators to use a terminal that informs them where the next stop is or what the next best move is. It is used to get the right pallets to the correct truck. It also gives dispatchers real-time updates as to when pallets are loaded.
Minyard's vendor for both the RF and warehouse management system is AquiTec, Chicago, which was formerly known as Worldwide Chain Store Systems.
"RF was introduced to us as an inventory system, and it had helped us in the inventory section, but mostly in receiving and put-away segments. It has really shown us tremendous improvements in accuracy and productivity," he said.
In the year the RF system has been in place, Minyard has seen about a 15% increase in receiving accuracy and a 10% increase in forklift productivity, for a combined 25% increase, Pineda said.
"That's how we concluded that the system paid for itself. From now on it is just gravy," Pineda said.
"It's taught us to work smarter and not harder," he added. "At first I thought it was going to be hard to sell to the work force, and actually it wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be. The people took to it," Pineda said.
Pineda explained that warehouse workers enjoyed the fact that all of a sudden the RF system was doing the thinking for them just as long as they followed directions.
"The system is going to direct us as to what to do with this product, when and where," he said. "Those are the three major fundamentals of warehousing. So it has taken the guesswork out of the whole system."
Additionally, "at any given time, I can locate every single pallet in that warehouse," he said. "I think we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg, there's so much more that we can derive from this technology."
Next on Pineda's agenda is the RF voice recognition selecting system.
Besides operating efficiencies, he expects voice recognition to help Minyard address work force diversity. In Minyard's part of the country, "we employ a lot of Hispanics who do not speak English very well." But the retailer also has hired eastern Europeans and even some Frenchmen, he said. "So voice recognition in multiple languages is going to be the answer," he said.