Warehouse workers use their hands a lot — for picking, putaway, shipping, and other important tasks. While mobile computers have helped increase efficiency in the warehouse, those computers also tie up your employees’ hands. Hands-free, voice-based options can help boost productivity even further by keeping employees’ hands free and their eyes on their work. Using voice in the warehouse can improve inventory throughput, shipping accuracy, and even safety.
The Benefits of Voice Direction
Receiving voice direction from the application and being able to speak location, bin codes, status and activity rather than stopping to scan or key-enter them can increase the speed of each pick and putaway action. Voice software is designed to guard against errors and alert employees when they have entered the wrong code or item.
In a typical scenario, the employee scans a barcoded order number from a picking card or sheet, and then receives audio directions about where to locate the items on the sheet. At each location, they can speak the location and bin numbers to confirm they are in the right place and selecting the right item. The system provides quantity information that is confirmed verbally.
Productivity improves because employees can complete more tasks in less time, while accuracy increases because of the feedback and confirmations the system provides. Workers are safer because they aren’t staring at mobile computer screens to confirm their work. There are ergonomic benefits as well because there is less typing and managing of handheld devices.
Voice + Barcode
Each business has different requirements, of course. There will always be a need for barcode scanning in the warehouse. Other operations may find more benefit in a pick-to-light or other type of system.
Each warehouse will require different levels of technology integration to ensure efficient operation. Voice in the warehouse provides a flexible platform that can be used in conjunction with other technologies (such as barcode scanning). Voice also offers significant speed and accuracy improvements compared to other solutions that can quickly provide a return on investment (ROI), particularly for high-velocity and dynamic warehouse operations.
How to Make Voice Work for Your Warehouse
To be successful, a voice implementation should integrate smoothly with the warehouse management system (WMS) in place and be coupled with process optimization activities that will help eliminate bottlenecks and reduce redundancies. In fact, deploying voice in the warehouse can help uncover some of those inefficient workflows and processes because employees will be more focused on value-added tasks. In order to effectively gauge the potential benefits of voice in the warehouse, companies first must identify the pain points that they want the voice solution to address.
Those problem areas can include:
– Higher demand and inventory volumes
– Picking/shipping errors
– Increased operational costs
Voice technology can often address these pain points by enabling higher accuracy and increasing the velocity of picking/putaway tasks compared to paper-based processed, RF scanning, and pick-to-light solutions.
Implementing voice takes a solid understanding of the processes, the application, and the technology. Some systems may allow for simply voice-enabling existing applications if the applications and operations are already fairly efficient. Other operations can be completely restructured to interface into new applications for best performance. Time and motion studies and an open mind to process flow can provide the optimum new system.
Using voice in the warehouse can provide a strategic platform that helps companies expand their business while controlling operating costs and improving customer service. The hands-free, eyes-free approach of voice will provide the most natural and effective method for your warehouse workers to complete their jobs.