Logistics in a hospital environment are demanding; Seamless cold chains, varying delivery priorities, and suppliers ranging between tiny specialists and global heavy hitters. As labour costs can be up to 40–60% of the total cost of inventory, even small efficiency improvements can add up to considerable time savings and profit. Nonetheless, precision is paramount as rectifying errors takes even more of the precious time.
We had the pleasure of reimagining and realizing the next technical evolution of the reception process of the warehouse of Pohde, a Finnish hospital district based in Oulu. Together with Devoca, Gemini (by CGI) and Pohde logistics professionals we streamlined the process with state-of-the-art digital helpers. Before diving deeper into technicalities, let us introduce the backstory; How did it all started?
TACIT KNOWLEDGE CAN BE DIGITALISED
Jape, the grand old man of Pohde warehouse, was heading for retirement. He had the job of sorting the incoming packages in priority queues and keeping track of what had arrived and waiting further processing. He remembered all the exceptions to all the rules and protocols. How could anyone replace Jape? Would anyone even want to? Honestly, the job isn’t all that glorious – and maybe the operation should not rely so heavily on any one person. Possibly a computer could help in filling those mighty working boots?
Continuously searching for the order numbers from the packaging lists is a tedious task. Surely computers are much faster at it than humans. Computers also thrive on comparing data sets and handling very complicated protocols and rules “on the top of their minds”. Therefore we implemented a mobile helper that warehouse employees can use to tap into the computer’s superpowers. It’s a smart scanning app we call Scandex.
Scandex will never replace Jape, the precious human being, but it can make anyone almost as good of a warehouse worker as Jape was. That’s why Scandex got a new name for this occasion. In Pohde it’s called Japex. Now, with the backstory out of the way; Let’s talk tech!
SMART SCANNING AND DATA BASE QUERIES
Digisalix’ smart scanning software harvests order numbers and details about arriving goods from the sender’s notes included in the packages. Then the application consults the orders stored in the Gemini ERP to confirm and improve the results. For example, the app offers the user information on arrived items, the priority of items, and so forth. In other words, the app takes an image of the packaging list and tells the warehouse worker exactly what to do with the package. The user can then plan the sorting and send the details to ERP. Check the video below to see how it’s done!
With all the data gathered to the ERP, it passes the puck to Devoca’s Talk’nPick, a streamlined mobile system for rushing each item to the correct shelf or recipient. Talk’n’pick is a wearable system that sports a hybrid pick-by-voice and barcode scanner interface. It helps the user to pick all the right items for an order quickly.
Hannu Valtanen, Logistics Project Manager from the hospital and one of the masterminds behind the process evolution says: “After the usual initial suspicions, people have appreciated the reduction in typing and increased mobility of the work. Although the savings per package don’t seem that spectacular it does add up to real gains in throughput and flexibility. Also, having more detailed and timely information about arrival contents reduces the need to do time-consuming searches for specific items that might be still in transit. On, and not to forget the cherry on the top; The reduced amount of mistakes is a great thing! ”
ALGORITHMS, SOFTWARE AND SEAMLESS COMMUNICATION
Besides complicated algorithms and ever-smarter software, the digital future needs seamless communication between systems. Scandex supports moving the whole ecosystem toward a fully digital future. It passes the sender’s information to the Gemini ERP using electronic Despatch Notice messages, part of the PEPPOL standard. Gradually, most suppliers will start sending the same messages themselves and the recipient needs to do even less work to store the contents of each shipment.
We feel the key success here has been a relentless focus on what the people are trying to accomplish and co-operation between all the parties.
Not all superheroes wear capes and spandex. For warehouse superheroes, all you need is Scandex.