A technician using voice-directed technology.

Why Voice-Directed Technology is More Than Just a Sweet Spot for Picking

Voice-directed technology is constantly evolving and improving, especially in the modern warehouse.

While it’s a proven technology that’s played a key role in the supply chain for decades, recent enhancements have helped refine the technology to improve the recognition of their input. (Operators can use normal speech rather than specific terminology). In addition to the quality of the prompts they receive. (Leveraging artificial voices that feel more human and less robotic).

Every operator wants the confidence to know they’re being heard and understood. Some voice-directed technology solutions can even recognise and operate in over 40 different languages. This enhanced approach to a proven technology helps improves staff confidence and overall staff retention. Whilst also making the technology easier to deploy in different areas of the warehouse.

Improvements have come so far that voice can now correct up to 80%[1] of all picking errors. However, it does have a wide range of applications beyond just picking. Which businesses should be looking to also take advantage of to further enhance their operations…


Leveraging voice for goods in

Voice-directed technology enables you to sort goods when they arrive so that they these items can be swiftly unloaded and sorted by their assigned destinations. This means each group is ready to be sent out as one larger consolidated shipment.

By using voice your staff are guided on precisely where to unload each item. Thus, seamlessly assembling multi-line orders to be picked with greater efficiency and minimal resources expended. Voice can even audit orders and prioritise them based on factors such as customer information, product type and even a worker’s experience level.

But voice isn’t just useful for the process of processing the arrival of goods. It can also transform your processes for returns. Returns have always been a complicated process, but they are vital to meeting consumer expectations. By utilising voice picking technology alongside barcode scanning and visual display, however, your staff can quickly verify quantities of goods, identify damages and receive mixed pallets/items faster and with greater ease.


Enhancing the goods out process

In addition to the consolidation of goods, voice also allows for cross-docking. Whereby products can be unloaded and directly loaded into outbound transport heading to their destination. All without the need for storage. This greatly reduces the overall waiting time for customers. As well as avoiding unnecessarily taking up resources.

Moreover, when shipping goods out, voice can optimise truck loading processes by utilising assorted options including system or user-directed loading, and even electronic load maps. This flexibility ensures that you can select the workflow best suited to your operations and easily adapt as needed. Voice can also support your operations by implementing safety, inspection and even documentation steps in these processes for staff to follow.

Finally, by seamlessly integrating voice with your existing WMS or ERP system, you can ensure that when stock is moved it is verified against the amount of stock remaining by the system. Catching out most potential problems early on, the rest of which can be addressed by stocktaking…


Voice as an enabler for stocktaking

Stocktaking is essential to warehousing. As it ensures your inventory management is effective, discovers potential issues or inaccuracies before they can build up, and proves (both for internal use and even potentially for partners and stakeholders) that you are meeting your targets. Nonetheless, the traditional method of grinding everything to a halt for an annual count is simply impossible for many and hugely inconvenient for most.

Voice technology, however, offers the detailed data records and high inventory accuracy necessary for cycle counting. So that your business can take stock of certain portions of your inventory regularly. This not only avoids grinding your business to a halt, but it also provides closer and more regular feedback that is easier to monitor and respond to. This means there aren’t any large variations between annual counts that can be harder to account for.

Usually a complex process, voice-directed technology makes this headache into a straightforward and painless part of your day-to-day operations.


Transforming replenishment within the four walls

Voice’s exceptionally high level of accuracy is also essential to fulfilment tasks such as replenishment. By improving your re-stocking process, you can better manage your stock within the warehouse and more efficiently move it between storage and picking locations. Thus, avoiding over or under-stocking while still maintaining a buffer level in case of variable demand.

Voice technology cuts down on ’empty travel’ by forwarding full pallets or mixed pallets to picking locations. In addition to minimising slow-moving items or ‘dead stock’. Moving your stock efficiently means streamlining your logistics, reducing the resources expended and meeting your delivery targets on time, every time.

However, it’s not just the enhanced accuracy of voice that allows for this. But also, its ‘hands-free’ and ‘eyes-free’ approach. Without having your staff need to constantly refer to a clipboard or even a handheld device, they have much more capacity to simply get on with the task in front of them.


Upgrading the effectiveness of maintenance inspections

As previously mentioned, voice can be used to ensure safety procedures and inspection checks are followed by staff, but it can also be used for maintenance technicians undertaking everything from inspections to repair services. Technicians can utilise the ‘hands-free’ approach of voice to work without having to rely on printed instruction manuals. Moreover, the completion of all these steps is automatically documented in the system via voice input.

Voice’s capability to automatically record precise data on everything happening in the warehouse, and to share this with the system which can compare it against stock, incoming and outgoing shipments and even delivery targets, means a wealth of reliable data becomes available to warehouse and fulfilment managers.

They can track operations in real-time to troubleshoot, set benchmarks and increase uptime. This information also means you can continue to make improvements in the long term. Therefore, making better informed decisions to meet anticipated demands and further your business.


Conclusion: Voice is more than just a picking tool

Voice technology offers a diverse range of applications for the warehouse, and by not fully leveraging these capabilities you risk missing opportunities to increase your productivity, optimise your resources and better meet consumer demands.

This is why, at our upcoming Future of Voice Innovation Forum on Wednesday 5th June 2024, one of our focus topics will be how you can get the most out of your voice deployment. Other key topics for this hands-on workshop include:

  • Voice roadmaps from Honeywell & Renovotec.
  • Integrating Voice with existing systems.
  • How to get the most out of your Voice deployment.
  • Complimentary technologies to enhance the Voice Experience.

Join us in this hands-on workshop style forum by registering your attendance here.


[1] https://sps.honeywell.com/gb/en/software/productivity/order-picking-fulfillment/voice-picking

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