July 16, 2024

Advancing Digital Excellence

Pioneering Technological Innovation

Healthcare distributor employs voice-directed technology

3 min read

With a history spanning nine decades, Henry Schein of Melville, N.Y., is a Fortune 500 firm that serves more than one million customers around the globe. Dental and medical practitioners, specialists, labs, government and institutional healthcare clinics, and alternative care sites rely on the company to deliver a range of medical and dental supplies.

Henry Schein’s core U.S. distribution network encompasses five distribution centers spanning nearly 2 million square feet. Each day, these facilities dispatch 36,000 orders; 98,000 cartons; and 156,000 line items, with the majority of those orders delivered next day. “

Customers get exactly what they want, exactly when they need it,” says Ed Igrisan, vice president of U.S. distribution for the west, south and Canada.

In sticking to that commitment, Henry Schein forged a partnership with a developer of voice and artificial intelligence (AI) optimization technologies (Lucas Systems). In 2006, the distributor implemented voice-directed software in its Jacksonville mega center with the goal of enhancing high accuracy in item picking and quantity.

As a healthcare distributor, Henry Schein integrates precise requirements and regulatory standards into its products and processes to enhance quality and customer delivery. These include strict compliance with lot number checking, expiration date verification, serial number capture for regulatory purposes, and other specialized instructions.

Voice picking ensures a consistent workflow and necessitates specific validation points during picking, such as checkstring or scanning validation. Managers use the system to ensure that all tasks are assigned, match up any exceptions, and get orders fully completed.

“The real time data is fantastic,” says Sarah Zepeda, production supervisor. “I always know who’s working on what, what part they have, what batch they have, and what time it should be finished.”

Henry Schein was already picking in the 99% accuracy range, but the new technology boosted that number to 99.94%+ accuracy. The distributor achieved ROI on that technology investment within 18 months.

Since then, Henry Schein has implemented voice-directed software in all five of its U.S. distribution centers. The technology has helped the growing distributor reduce its employee training time by 20% to 30% and fulfill 95% of its orders with next-day ground delivery. “We’ve grown the company to over $12 billion dollars,” says Igrisan.

The brains, orchestration engine and voice of the voice recognition software is Jennifer, a solution that enables faster distribution worker training, especially in the case of multiple languages, accents and dialects present on the warehouse floor.

“Jennifer is a comforting presence to workers as they step through their training,” says Arnie Roberts Sr., director of distribution. The technology has been embraced both by younger generations and tenured Team Schein employees alike, providing more control for workers and helping them do their jobs more efficiently.

The voice-directed picking system’s language options have been game changers in terms of user comfort, training and morale. “We have several team members picking in Spanish now, which is a first for Henry Schein,” says Ingrisan, who also likes the lightweight nature of the Bluetooth headsets. “They’re cord-free and they give our team members a new range of motion. It’s been a home run.”


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