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Industry Solutions Mobility Warehouse and Distribution

Voice in the Warehouse: Tips for Maximizing Performance in Demanding Environments

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.

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Barcode Industry Solutions Mobility Warehouse and Distribution

Voice Picking: 4 Ways Distribution Centers Benefit

Good warehouse managers and distribution center operators are always looking for ways to improve operational efficiency and to implement cost-saving measures. Order picking is a crucial part of the distribution process, and it’s an area that can be substantially improved through one simple change: the use of a voice picking system.

With voice picking, employees receive verbal instructions through the warehouse management system to their wireless headsets. This replaces paper lists and handheld devices such as tablets or barcode scanners that require manual data entry. Using this type of system offers many benefits in four key areas: productivity, accuracy, workforce advantages, and improved safety.

  • Productivity:Time is money, particularly in today’s competitive business environments, where speed of order fulfillment contributes to both sales volume and customer satisfaction. With a voice picking system, employees can work faster because they can be listening and responding while on the move, rather than having to study orders on paper or devices. They can also pick items more effectively because both hands are free — no juggling lists or scanners along with the picks. Another advantage is immediate communication with management, so any problems can be reported and solved on the spot. Companies utilizing this technology report productivity increases anywhere from 15 to 35 percent.
  • Accuracy:While speed counts in fulfillment, accuracy is even more important. It doesn’t matter how fast an order ships if it contains the wrong items. Returns and replacements can be costly, not only in terms of time and money but in customer satisfaction and company reputation. The accuracy rate of voice picking can exceed 99 percent. With a voice system, workers can quickly and easily verify location and item information by repeating key numbers for confirmation. This method also facilitates correct fulfillment of more complex or specialized orders (for example, a liquor distributor dealing with split-case orders). The system can also increase accuracy of inventory counts, which can be updated as each task is completed.
  • Workforce Advantages:The ability to significantly improve productivity and accuracy creates a higher degree of job satisfaction for employees. They also benefit from knowing they are being given the most effective tools and up-to-date technology to help do their jobs. This satisfaction can result in a lower turnover rate, which means less time training new hires. Even when new employees are needed (an increase in seasonal workers, for example), training time and costs can be reduced with a voice picking system. Users can learn the basics of the system in a matter of hours and gain proficiency quickly. In addition, the direct communication of the headset allows them to ask questions at any time and receive guidance as they go.
  • Safety:Warehouses and distribution centers can be full of potential hazards, and workplace accidents can result in major losses of time and money as well as personal injury. Voice picking systems can improve safety records. When employees do not have to focus on paper lists or data on handheld devices, they can pay more attention to their surroundings and be alert to any hazards. The headsets leave both hands free for climbing ladders, using stair railings, handling boxes, and performing other tasks more effectively.

With all of the benefits they offer, voice picking systems are a sound investment that will improve efficiency, accuracy, and safety of your operations. Look for an experienced IT integrator who can help choose, install, and maintain a system and related services (such as a wireless network) that will work best for you.