There’s a new trend in the world of warehouse management that’s taking the industry by storm. With the e-commerce industry getting more competitive by the day, more companies are investing in warehouse automation tools as a way of speeding up the order fulfillment process, which reduces labor costs and the delivery timeline.
To get ahead of the competition, companies large and small are looking into what’s known as voice picking or pick-to-voice technologies. Employees use voice commands to automate the retrieval process, getting orders out the door as fast as possible. Learn more about the benefits of this new technology and how the industry is changing as a result.
What Is Voice Picking for Warehouse Management?
Voice picking systems use wireless headsets to communicate with warehouse employees. Staff members simply state the name or number of the product they need to retrieve into the headset and the system will automatically retrieve the product for them. Employees can also enter and request order information verbally instead of using a tablet. The system also allows managers to send and share updates, feedback, and instructions to their crew members in real time.
Like many of the latest picking automation tools, these systems use analytics to optimize nearly every aspect of the warehouse. With voice recognition, the system collects information on employee performance, so managers can improve efficiency over time. They also collect data on product retrieval, ensuring every picker finds the fastest route.
How Voice Picking Is Changing Warehouse Management
● Hands-Free Fulfillment
Voice picking means employees no longer have to worry about using pen-and-paper spreadsheets and even wireless digital devices like smartphones and tablets. They can keep their hands free throughout the retrieval and fulfillment process. This allows them to focus on the task at hand instead of staring down at a screen or clipboard. As a result, they can better watch out for retrieval errors, interface with clients and colleagues, and pay closer attention to order information. In fact, pick-to-voice technologies reduce picking error rates by 67% compared to manual paper-and-pen methods.
● Pick Path Optimization
Voice picking systems are analyzing just about every aspect of the warehouse and the retrieval process, including the pathways pickers use to get to the product in question. Using data analytics, these systems continuously optimize picking paths and search for the best route in the warehouse. They incorporate a range of factors and data points into the decision-making process, including the directionality of the picking path, product dimensions, container preferences, warehouse traffic, user permissions, fulfillment destinations, and delivery timelines. This ensures products are stored in the right shipping containers and get out the door as fast as possible.
● Accurate Voice Recognition
Many of us have used voice recognition software in the past, including voice-based Google searches, voice-input communication tools, and even home-based entertainment systems like Amazon’s Alexa.
If you’ve used these devices and tools in the past, you might’ve found yourself repeating certain phrases and requests until the device gets it right. But warehouse workers don’t have time to repeat their requests over and over again, especially when an order needs to get out the door in just a few minutes or less. Voice picking systems use some of the most advanced speech recognition software programs available on the market today, ensuring the system correctly interprets every word. They can even account for variables such as a sore throat, ambient noise, and accents.
The system can recognize a worker’s voice, creating individual user profiles for each employee. If an employee isn’t getting their message across or the system keeps bringing back the wrong product, the program will flag it in the system so managers can address the issue. They may find the employee wasn’t wearing their headset correctly or the device settings need to be reconfigured.
● Instant Access to Real-Time Updates
Things are always changing in the supply chain. Orders may be delayed due to transportation and weather issues. Customers may make changes to their orders before the order goes out to delivery. Your inventory can change on a dime. But, with voice picking technology, warehouse employees will always stay abreast of the situation, so they can make changes to an order in real time. These systems can track shipping containers, helping managers anticipate delivery Outcomes.
Managers and the voice picking system will alert employees of a change in the system over the intercom, so everyone can go about their business with the latest information. This means that managers will no longer have to worry about flagging down warehouse employees with the latest updates and instructions. They can speak directly into the intercom and learn from the system without taking their eyes off the task at hand.
● Efficient Employee Training
Labor is one of the most expensive aspects of running a warehouse, but voice picking technology improves workplace efficiency, helping managers reduce the overall cost of their operations. The same goes for training new employees. Every warehouse is different, and new hires will need to spend some time learning the ins and outs of the new space, including how to use new technology, where certain products are kept, and how to fulfill orders as quickly as possible.
Instead of holding new employees by the hand, managers can train them remotely using voice picking systems. The employee can explore the warehouse on their own as the system walks them through the order fulfillment process. If they need any assistance along the way, they can easily keep in touch with the warehouse manager by using the intercom. This allows the training process to be quicker and frees up the manager’s time, ensuring a smooth transition as employees come and go. Using the latest technology also helps managers attract new talent.
Voice Picking Is the Future
Trying to use outdated storage, picking, and handling equipment is one of the biggest challenges facing warehouse managers. With e-retailers and manufacturing companies racing to get ahead of the competition, companies of all sizes are using automated technology to better serve their customers. Every second counts when you’re trying to get orders out the door. Consider investing in voice picking technology and take your business to the next level.
David Madden is an efficiency expert, as well as being the Founder and President of Container Exchanger. His passion and business is to save companies money through the use of reuseable and repurposed industrial packaging such as plastic and metal bulk containers, gaylord boxes, bulk bags, pallets, IBC totes and industrial racks. he holds an MBS as well as a certificate from Daimler Chrylsler Qualitity Institute for completion of six-sigma black belt training.
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