Technology has and always will continue to transform many aspects of society. To better handle today’s SKU proliferation, warehouse distributors that implement warehouse management systems (WMS) and solutions like voice picking technologies, can save time, money and valuable resources to allocate to other parts of the business, experts say. Voice picking technologies allow warehouse workers to communicate in real-time, pick orders more quickly and efficiently, and receive a higher return-on-investment (ROI).
An article written by Mason, Ohio-based Honeywell Intelligrated highlights the overarching benefits of voice technology for warehouse operations:
- Accuracy – able to achieve up to 99.9 percent fulfillment accuracy
- Productivity – reduces steps required to complete a task
- Scalability – ability to support large vocabularies to automate a greater variety of work tasks
- Rapid adoption of automation – allows for easier training and support capabilities to quickly scale up new, part-time or seasonal workers
- Management visibility – visual interface provides real-time visibility to individual workers, groups and zones
- Multilingual capabilities – many systems offer support for the world’s most common languages, allowing workers to choose their preferred language
- Solution flexibility – flexible voice platforms allow for easy integration with other system components and existing facility infrastructure
“Industrial voice technology, for instance — using wireless headsets to direct workers around the warehouse and guide them through picking and packing tasks — can increase productivity by up to 30 percent and enable picking accuracy rates of up to 99.9 percent,” says Darrell Williams, business development manager for Honeywell Intelligrated safety and productivity solutions.
A connected system
Experts note the key to successful warehouse operations is to implement voice technology through a connected WMS. According to Dematic, Grand Rapids, Mich., voice picking systems allow operators to interact through a headset in real-time with the WMS.
Dematic Pick-to-Voice systems are designed for fast-medium and medium-slow full case and split case products, the company says. The systems are ideal when a large number of SKUs need to be serviced, increasing picking rates as much as 35 percent compared with conventional systems, with a picking accuracy rate of up to 99.9 percent, it adds.
The company also details how voice systems permit ease-of-use for warehouse workers. Voice systems require minimal training. For instance, operators can put on the headset and spend about 15 minutes allowing the system to become familiar with their voice, it says. This is an attractive component in distribution operations where temporary staff is often required, especially during peak periods, the company says.
Zebra Technologies Corp., Lincolnshire, Ill., also highlights the power of voice control. Zebra’s multi-modal and voice-directed picking solutions allow warehouse workers to streamline the picking process, increase accuracy and navigate the warehouse more quickly, it says.
The company offers two products that bring voice technology to life: the RS4000 Corded Ring Scanner and the HS3100/2100 Rugged Headset. Both headsets allow for speech-directed applications in warehouses, manufacturing plants and outdoor yards, and provide noise cancellation for accurate picking, the company says.
Colchester, Vt.-based Vermont Information Processing (VIP) also offers various solutions to increase warehouse productivity through voice control.
Through the use of a smartphone or tablet, the company’s EasyPick software is a picking solution with a voice option that helps distributors achieve gains in accuracy, productivity and accountability, it says. EasyPick also allows operators to install a leaderboard for all employees to see throughout their shift and keep track of their progress, the company adds.
ROI, you say?
According to Honeywell Intelligrated, picking is the most labor-intensive operation within the warehouse. The company points to four key criteria that impact businesses: reduced operational costs; increased workforce productivity; improved customer satisfaction; and enhanced operational agility.
The majority of the benefits of using voice-directed solutions come from the “hands-free, eyes-up” nature of voice technology, it says. Using headsets instead of screens or pieces of paper, warehouse workers are able to keep their eyes [and hands] on the task at hand, it adds.
The company also highlights numerous hard-dollar savings opportunities:
- Accurately filling orders the first time
- More lines picked each hour (less overtime)
- Decreased staff churn
- Increased safety (lower insurance costs)
- Inventory optimization (reduced holding costs)
- Fewer administrative, fixed asset and consumable overheads
- Reduced quality assurance staffing (fewer audits required). BI