The Omnichannel Warehouse Gets a Huge Assist from Voice

Bob Bova   |    
July 25, 2018

The Amazon Wagon?

One of the hottest discussion topics for inventory fulfillment today is omnichannel delivery. The Amazon Effect has spurred on a consumer expectation of SAME DAY delivery – apparently, we can’t even wait a day for our new electric toe clipper! While expectations may be driven by consumers that have never known about the Wells Fargo Wagon, the fact is quite simple. With so many generations using multiple purchasing channels, including the retail stores, catalogs and on line purchasing, the need for introspection, analysis and execution of a warehouse strategy that incorporates all three of these delivery mechanisms must be optimized for an exceptional customer experience. So, what’s a warehouse executive to do?

Three strategies lead the prevailing wisdom to tackle this challenge.

1) Optimize inventory picking and delivery for primary product lines.

Now is the time to analyze the efficiency and effectiveness of how you provide your core customers their goods.

Ensure that your WMS and associated mobile applications are updated and current as well as reviewing any handheld devices for possible updates. Explore options to further empower your warehouse team with a hands-free environment by voice enabling the intelligent mobile computers that are already in use. If you have not yet deployed mobile devices, then it’s a great time to explore moving from picking on paper to a mobile picking solution. Investigate options for moving directly to intelligent mobile clients running the Android operating system.

Optimize individual workflows for maximum efficiency.

Do you view each of the workflows as independent systems? While the products are identical, the downstream process for optimizing each workflow will branch off at some point. Don’t assume because your process is optimized for one workflow that it transfers to other workflows. The time has come to view each workflow independently and optimize them individually. Our best customer did exactly this and used device-based voice to deliver through store front, web-based and catalog orders and streamlined the customer experience for all three workflows.

Empower your team for the highest levels of success.

The unique environment that you create for your team can help you achieve the optimal performance and provide unique insights for improvement. Let your employees help you solve problems. Recently, industry press and analysts have begun to trumpet the escalating value of loyal, experienced workers as paramount to process improvement and a smoother workflow. While robotic automation has its place, it won’t offer honest, useful feedback as your business evolves into an effective omnichannel delivery system.

2) Deliver efficiently and flexibly.

Brick and mortar stores are terrific pick up stations for your online shoppers as they bring your customers into your storefronts.

This provides you with an opportunity to encourage additional sales, answer additional product questions and minimize the cost of returns. Fully exploit storefront assets as many on line retailers don’t have them.

Utilize all the options available for last mile delivery and transportation logistics.

Options are expanding and improving so quickly that what you need the most might be what many other companies are looking for as well and could be available at reasonable prices.

Shipping, receiving and returns have all been upgraded in terms of importance to the overall delivery mechanism.

Many organizations are analyzing those processes, adding voice automation to them and lowering costs while providing faster service. After picking, receiving & shipping are two of the most popular applications voice enabled by our customers. Having both hands free significantly accelerates the workflow involved with shipping acceptance, loading and unloading.

3) Maintain agility in an environment that is changing at the speed of light.

Review your WMS to ensure that it can keep pace with the new economy.

WMS vendors willy typically have solid upgrade paths to ensure the viability of changes and mobility that can be the base architecture for the move forward today and in the future.

Review any proprietary applications you may have to see if change management is difficult and expensive.

Many older, server-based, “individual usage” voice applications freeze the WMS, and any changes are very expensive and time consuming. A large majority of our new customers are replacing old, server-based voice applications with our device-based technology which voice enables many applications across their enterprise. This provides them with a cost-effective, flexible, long-term voice strategy moving forward.

Device-based mobility is driven by newer operating systems, stronger more powerful devices and the need for quick change management.

In addition to being much more cost effective, the flexibility allows for multiple application voice support as well as quick analysis and testing on a single device instead of a single point of failure/full system change. We have provided our customers such a strong ROI, the hardware investment becomes more of a moot point.

The good news is that the current market requires new technology and new strategies to embrace these challenges and new solutions are available to address these challenges successfully. Using device-based voice enabling can provide many of the benefits that will improve implementation of your omnichannel environment, as well as provide the basis for agile, change based voice strategies that can adapt as the market evolves.

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