As voice has grown in popularity in many people’s personal lives, it has also become more common in the warehouse. Today, millions of warehouses across the world are running their picking processes, receiving, put-away, interleaving and more with voice. Trade journals, vendor product literature, and other industry publications are full of customer case studies and client testimonials making a compelling business case for the technology.
Why do most warehouses focus on picking?
Compared to other stages like shipping, storage, and receiving, order picking forms as much as 55% of operation costs in a fulfilment and distribution centre. Consequently, voice picking systems’ ability to increase safety whilst reducing labour costs are becoming increasingly popular.
Additionally, picking is the part of the fulfilment process that can directly enhance or jeopardize customer satisfaction; customers loath receiving the wrong product or learning their order will not arrive by the promised time. Voice picking improves efficiency and productivity resulting in faster turnaround speed and higher precision. Fast and accurate delivery equals happy, loyal customers!
So how does it work?
Voice picking is the process of creating a direct dialogue between your mission critical systems and team members through the simplest means possible: a conversation in plain language they use every day.
Like the traditional RF-based scanners, voice solutions centre on a small, wireless mobile device. The difference is that voice delivers instructions verbally through a headset and captures responses using a microphone, eliminating the need to stop, look at a screen, and key in a quantity or scan a barcode. Coupled with a wireless headset, voice users can completely remove the need to have the mobile device on their body, offering even more freedom of mobility compared to traditional RF units.
The voice system connects to the mission critical systems running your warehouse (whether that be a WMS, ERP, or something else), and translates the orders through a headset. The workers hear the orders and respond with commands recognized by the voice software, which are then pushed back into your system.
This process made picking a natural fit, as the call and response format was very simple. The process looks like this:
The voice system directs the picker to a specific location
The picker reads off a set of check digits specific to that location to confirm they are picking from the correct place
The voice system provides the quantity of the item to be picks
The picker picks, then confirms that quantity
The voice system directs the picker to the new location
Order fulfilment is a fast-paced game with high-stakes and little margin for error. Voice picking eliminates the distractions created by hand-held scanners or lists, allowing the picker to dedicate their full focus to the task. This significantly reduces errors and mispicks, leading to up to 85% increase in accuracy.
Voice directed work allows users to concentrate on the task they are performing, while keeping their hands and eyes free. This reduces the steps required to complete a pick, improves safety and ergonomics by eliminating the necessity of picking up and putting down a device or instruction sheet.
After removing the obstacles from the picking process, pickers will often see up to a 35% increase in productivity.
Quick adoption and training
“With voice, supervisors leverage unique, easier training and support capabilities to quickly scale up new, part-time or seasonal workers to meet and exceed corporate productivity targets. Especially useful during peak season, innovative training features help facilities quickly integrate seasonal labour into picking operations.” – SupplyChain 24/7
Companies using voice-directed work site significant reductions in the cost of new-hire training. The training tools provided with the voice system enable workers to self-train using web-based tools and provides trainers with the ability to monitor and coach multiple workers in the same or less time than one-on-one training previously took.
Moreover, because each task that a worker performs is driven by voice, there is no need to train workers on reading printouts, applying labels, or confirming information through a keyboard. This reduces training time by 67% on average.
With voice, workers’ eyes are up and looking ahead at their work and their surroundings. They are completely aware of their environment, including the lift trucks and other hazards that can cause injury. They no longer have their eyes glued to a piece of paper or a screen, and their hands are not occupied holding clipboards or scan devices, freeing their eyes to focus on the task at hand. Workers are not only more productive and accurate; they are safer in the warehouse.
Support a multilingual warehouse
Today’s warehouse has become a melting pot of different cultures, races, and languages, which can cause a unique challenge when trying to implement voice. There is a common misconception that having workers that speak different languages (or even speak with heavy accents) will disqualify you from using voice in the warehouse, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Robust systems like Vocollect have a language-independent recognition engine, meaning the system recognizes responses, not the language it is spoken in.
For many warehouses, workers will all understand one language, but may struggle to speak it. Vocollect’s unique voice-recognition system allows workers to hear the system in any of the 35 different languages offered, and respond in another, if the response language is consistent with the voice profile they created during training. This is the most common way to adapt to a multi-lingual warehouse, as it only requires one language to be loaded into the system.
HighJump and Vocollect
HighJump WMS offers full-integration with Vocollect Voice, giving you real-time, voice-enabled communication between your workers in the distribution centre and your warehouse management system. The voice integration offers HighJump customers a great chance to extend their competitive advantages.
iWMS Australasia utilizes HighJump technology to produce solutions that can be scaled and tailored to meet any business needs. The core software architecture can be easily adapted in a fraction of the time of conventional systems, and at a fraction of the cost! And because all changes are external to the core software, upgrades and support are not compromised. This guarantees low total cost of system ownership.
Contact us today to discuss your business requirements.
Click here to download the full HighJump Voice Enabling Your Warehouse e-book.