Bob Bova | 3/18/19
Voice Picking has been around since the 1990’s (you read that correctly) and, in some instances, hasn’t changed much. It delivers a hands-free picking solution however, the legacy, proprietary, server-based systems have fallen by the side of the road when it comes to agile development and fast deployment for new omnichannel distribution needs; but most importantly, the restrictive nature and total cost of ownership no longer make sense in today’s mobile environment.
Omnichannel delivery has transformed distribution by requiring a cohesive view of multiple avenues and processes to pick, pack, process and deliver goods to stores and consumers in every possible way. To continue down the optimization route, ensuring the right goods get the right place in a timely fashion, companies are looking at constant evolution of their applications, processes and inventory management. Server based voice picking was a solution in the past for a single type of workflow process; but now, with multiple picking processes utilized to deliver to a variety of customers, companies now need a voice solution that can keep up. While the old style cannot, the new guard of device-based voice picking not only can, but delivers in 20% of the time, and at 20% of the cost (or less…).
Voice picking has always been touted as delivering higher productivity and fewer errors – and it does. Adding voice to distribution operations allows for a hands-free, eyes-forward environment. Now, these solutions need to be agile in change management and be able to deliver newer, additional voice picking for additional omnichannel fulfillment requirements. This Click and Mortar challenge that almost all consumer facing companies are now tasked with can take advantage of voice picking now more than ever because, 1) they have developed internal pick processes that are optimized for picking in that specific workflow, 2) They have invested in powerful, multi-capable mobile devices that empower their workers and give them scanning capability along with voice, and 3) by focusing and separating these picking workflows, change management can occur on the fly, implementing agile changes daily if necessary.
This new Click and Mortar omnichannel delivery workflow management is ideal for device-based voice. Everything about it is concerned with continuous improvement. It also lends itself to improving worker performance across the enterprise (as device-based voice can be used for all other warehouse applications as well and is WMS agnostic). Extending the useful life of your scanners, delivering higher performance from your optimized applications, all while executing strategies that are required for omnichannel delivery – extremely compelling reasons to embrace voice in the distribution center.
Looking farther forward, device-based voice can assist in evolving the process, streamlining user interactions by using voice commands that execute multiple manual actions automatically. The ability to collect data, push keys, enact macros, all with a single voice utterance empowers workers by speeding and optimizing workflows. Additionally, the process for every pick is consistent, allowing for better measurement and management, providing a platform for continuous improvement in the process.
Another critical element in omnichannel fulfillment is the dearth of new workers. It has become very difficult to find qualified labor for the warehouse; additionally, to train them, it takes a seasoned, veteran worker who must take the time from their normal job to be “at the hip” to get them up to a sustainable picking rate. This can take weeks. With device-based voice being so flexible, each picking process in an omnichannel environment can be put into training mode. By having the response be more measured, being able to ask for help at any time, or even providing prompts on what can be said, provides a strategy for training that removes the need for an over the shoulder training person. This also provides faster on-boarding and new users get up to average picking rates much faster.
Companies are adopting device-based voice faster than ever before for original voice directed benefits – hands-free, eyes-up operation, increased productivity and reduced errors. But with the advent of omnichannel fulfillment, companies updating/changing their WMS systems compounded by the challenge of finding new workers, device-based voice automation and the speed with which it can be deployed have become the new wave of voice technology in the warehouse.