Getting off to a smart start
If you haven’t explored voice technology for your warehouse applications, this is a good opportunity to learn a little more about the reasons why over a half million users think it’s the best thing since sliced bread. Of course, you’ll need to get buy in within your organization, so making sure that warehouse personnel understand the concept of voice and how it can benefit them is a first step. Then next step is to incorporate voice as part of your overall strategy in the warehouse. Putting pen to paper helps justify investing in the technology and how it will help achieve your overall goals and objectives (increasing worker productivity, decreasing errors, etc.).
Once you’ve got your program in order, it’s smart to discuss the project with your IT group before you get too involved in selecting a product. Adding voice support may be a struggle if your WMS does not support a selected product; however, many vendors are aware of the increasing popularity and have made voice integration part of their feature set.
How does voice recognition improve warehouse operations?
Speech recognition has improved dramatically over the last 3 decades, with voice-directed solutions becoming increasingly popular over the last 10-15. With thousands of new users adopting the technology each year to fulfill warehouse and distribution center task management goals, today’s voice applications combine the flexibility and configurability needed to improve workflow processes that already utilize automated barcode data collection technology. Termed “multi-modal”, these solutions increase operating efficiency and improve overall accuracy; driving up profitability and increasing customer satisfaction.
Leveraging today’s Internet of Things (IoT), the combined use of multiple technologies provide greater visibility into inventory position, provide detail on item history, product traceability, ensure picking accuracy and much more. In addition to the obvious advantage of enabling a hands-free workforce, voice applications include management reporting tools that increase the value of your typical WMS (warehouse management software). These tools provide even greater depth for management so they can make informed decisions that allow them to anticipate workflow scenarios, react more quickly to changes and ultimately increase their competitive position.
What is voice picking and how does it work?
Now that you have a general idea of how the technology can help you improve processes and provide a strong tool for management, here’s a quick example of a typical voice picking application:
- The warehouse employee scans a barcode on their picking card and/or pick sheet.
- The system then tells the worker where he/she can locate the first pick item.
- Once the worker arrives at the location, the worker will speak the location number into the microphone to confirm he/she is at the correct location.
- From there, the system will tell the worker how many they need to pick (this could be for a single order, or for multiple orders); once the item(s) are picked, the worker will confirm the quantity(ies) picked by speaking into the microphone.
- At that point, the system will advise the worker of the “put” location for the items that have just been picked.
- Once the worker is at the “put” location, he/she will speak the location and location code for the bin where the items will be placed.
Bottom line, this keeps the worker focused so they can work faster and more accurately. Most headphones are even noise-canceling, so they don’t have to concern themselves with distractions around them. The constant confirmations and check digits are added measures to ensure accuracy for picks and putaways.
Voice benefits in a nutshell
- Increased Productivity (more tasks completed in less time)
- Improved Accuracy (constant feedback and check measurements)
- Increased Safety (hands are free if needed, location-to-location movement is purposeful)
- Improved Demand Management (faster, more productive workers allow for greater capacity)
- Empowers Employees (more efficient workers are happier workers; reduces turnover)
There are a number of device options to choose from, like Zebra’s TekSpeechPro4. With TekSpeech Pro 4, you can easily marry speech with your Zebra mobile computer and peripherals to create a flexible solution. If voice picking sounds like just what you need for your warehouse, we can help you put a smart strategy together. Simply email us or call 937-498-2700 to set up a no-cost consultation.