The expansion of Voice in the warehouse makes sense as the real-time information the technology provides is useful in every corner of a facility. This is because what happens in one area of a facility can quickly impact other areas, affecting overall performance. For example, order picking cannot run smoothly if replenishment hasn’t occurred, and this can cause delays in packing and shipment. With one, real-time information source, managers can respond quickly to bottlenecks by diverting workers (who are all trained on one common Voice solution) to where they are needed most, keeping product flowing and efficiencies at optimal levels.
So how can your business take your current Voice investment further? Basically, once you have realised the benefits of Voice in picking you are ready to take Voice into other areas of the DC. These other areas include:
Receiving, which typically involves inspection, counting and other manual operations, can be performed more efficiently if the workers’ hands and eyes are free rather than holding or looking at paper or scanners. Using Voice, a worker can immediately read into the system an identifying code that alerts the WMS of shipment arrival.
Voice also has the flexibility to gather additional information about the product to assist operations further downstream. Lot codes, for instance, may need to be recorded for track-and-trace purposes. This information is required in many parts of the world for products such as foods and pharmaceuticals; data which Voice can easily relay to the WMS.
Additionally, Voice can prompt workers to measure the temperatures of incoming products or refrigerated truck beds, which is recorded in the WMS to ensure that nothing has been spoiled or damaged during transit. Voice can also record dimension and weight to be used for slotting, cubing, weight verification to help picking, loading and invoicing.
Once information is gathered on the shipment, the Voice system can direct a different worker to pick up and put-away the load using a fork-lift mounted with a Voice device. The device communicates with a headset wirelessly so the worker can leave the vehicle without a tether.
The system can direct products to be put-away in several destinations – reserve storage racks, automated storage or directly to pick faces, if the WMS determines a slot is currently low.
With Voice, the driver receives instructions and provides confirmation while driving, which is safer and faster compared to using a scanner or viewing a vehicle-mounted screen. Accuracy also is improved because a Voice system won’t allow users to move to the next task until the goods have been put in the appropriate location.
With Voice, replenishment processes begin with a worker being directed to the location where the needed pallet is stored. In optimised designs, the WMS will assign the closest driver available to the storage rack. Once there, the driver confirms the right amount of product is being collected from the right location. While pulling the product, the worker is instructed on the destination of the load, which is confirmed when deposited.
An operation can expect to see improvement of up to 20 per cent over paper in staff productivity for put-away and replenishment, while also increasing accuracy. Compared to using handheld devices, Voice can show as much as a 35 per cent increase in productivity. Additionally, training time is reduced by up to 50 per cent when using voice for these functions compared to other methods.
Many DCs also see a dramatic flow-on improvement in picking productivity because the WMS can direct replenishment workers to stock slots that are running low on inventory before the pickers arrive, thereby reducing their downtime.
It makes sense to introduce Voice in other DC workflows as well such as cycle-counting and inventory control as well as picking as these processes can be made much faster, easier and more accurate using Voice, as workers’ hands and eyes are free to count products.
Additional DC functions that benefit from the integration of Voice include the elimination of periodic inventory audits because of the accuracy of cycle counts, recording product data for tracking purposes or to weigh grocery products for correct billing, as well as value-adding functions such as directing clothing to be placed on to hangers or folded.
Although Voice is most commonly used to expedite picking processes within a DC, there are also many other work flows that can be supported by the technology. It is those businesses owners who apply Voice across a range of work processes beyond picking that stand to gain the greatest benefits.
For more information on what areas of your buisness could benefit from Voice please contact us today >