The use of Voice solutions in the workplace dates back to the early 1980s. Since that time, Voice solutions have evolved and quickly found a place helping businesses achieve higher levels of productivity, efficiency and accuracy in the supply chain.
Despite worldwide adoption of Voice solutions – with more than one million users daily – Voice technology is still not fully understood in the supply chain industry. This lack of knowledge is limiting the deployment of Voice, resulting in many businesses continuing to rely on paper-based work processes. Many Australian and New Zealand warehouses are still not investing in the technology because of a number of common misconceptions, including:
Warehouses can be noisy places. From trucks being loaded, to forklifts collecting goods and loudspeaker announcements – it can sometimes make hearing someone talking to you from a few feet away a challenge. This can in turn lead to the misconception that a Voice system may not be fit for task in such a noisy environment. However Voice systems have purpose-built headsets, with sophisticated microphones that carry reliable noise cancellation characteristics. The headsets eliminate noises that originate from afar, while capturing sound spoken directly into the microphone.
Importantly, for noisy warehouses that employ workers with varying degrees of English proficiency, Voice picking solutions have no language barrier. Workers have a choice of following Voice instructions delivered to them in either English or a variety of commonly spoken languages from around the world. This reduces the chance of any operator confusion which could result in mistaken picks and incorrect customer deliveries.
Voice systems are designed to integrate with all commonly used warehouse technologies, including scanning. Pairing Voice with scanning can assist with capturing large amounts of data, or inputting large numbers of orders for batch picking. The Honeywell A700 device seamlessly integrates with Bluetooth scanners wirelessly so that when a product or carton ID number is too long to easily read, the voice system will prompt the worker to scan the barcode.
While Voice solutions are best recognised as delivering higher productivity and accuracy results in warehouse picking, in recent years industry-leading businesses have also used Voice to achieve efficiencies across all warehouse workflows. These businesses have recognised that what happens in one area of their facility can quickly impact other parts in a cascading manner. By investing in Voice solutions, businesses gain one real-time information source looking at their entire operation so they can better manage warehouse workers to ensure product keeps flowing.
The biggest gains achieved, however, are when voice is coupled with process optimisation in all areas of a facility in order to reduce time per job, combine tasks between workflows and interleave assignments to eliminate unnecessary dead-time between tasks. Once a business has realised the benefits of Voice in picking they can take the highly scalable Voice technology into receiving, put-away, replenishment and cycle counting.
One of the greatest advantages of deploying Voice technology in a warehouse is its ease of use. As workers receive verbal commands for tasks via the Voice system, all they are required to do is follow the clear instructions to complete their work.
Voice systems are also very easy to train warehouse workers on. Within 30 minutes the Voice technology learns individual workers’ accents and unique speech characteristics. By using a mobile device the operator can also browse into the Voice unit giving them visual instructions and training. The worker is then ready to be directed through each step of the work assignment. Because of the designed simplicity of Voice systems, training is literally cut from weeks to just hours.
Warehouse owners and managers using paper-based systems may think that the cost of adopting a Voice solution is prohibitive for their business. However, this is not the case as the return on investment (ROI) of a Voice solution is often rapid. This is achieved through immediate results including accuracy rates of up to 99.995 per cent and productivity increases of up to and in some cases exceeding 25 per cent. And due to the availability of real-time data, the impact of Voice technology is not difficult to calculate. In labour-intensive, high-volume, high-SKU warehouse operations, Voice demonstrates a direct payback to the bottom line.
For more information on how Voice technology can improve your warehouse operations contact Dematic Real Time Logistics today