Voice

3 Ways Voice-Directed Picking Delivers Overall Warehouse Productivity Improvement

Blog
August, 2020

Order picking — easily one of the most labor-intensive fulfillment functions in distribution and fulfillment (D&F) operations — is a process most likely to be improved with voice technology. Voice is proven to reduce warehouse picking errors and deliver significant overall warehouse productivity gains in multiple ways:

  • Improves operational accuracy
  • Increases worker productivity
  • Optimizes staffing for greater labor savings
  • Enhances safety to reduce lost time
  • Enables analytics for continuous improvement
  • Supports greater operational agility

In this first of a two-part blog series addressing the ways voice technology improves picking workflows, we’ll explore the first three areas of benefit.

How Voice Improves Operational Accuracy

When orders have items missing, incorrect quantities, unordered items, damaged goods or paperwork that’s either incomplete or inaccurate, inefficiencies ripple throughout the supply chain. Labor and transportation costs increase, repeated pick and delivery activities interrupt and reduce productivity, order fulfillment falls behind schedule, payments are slowed, and — perhaps most costly of all — customers are unhappy. 

Ultimately, picking errors can cost an operation anywhere from $10 to $250 for each error.

Applying voice-directed workflows significantly reduces the number of picking errors associated with paper-based, pick-to-light or radio-frequency (RF) scanning. By leveraging a voice-directed, hands-free/eyes-up technology, order error rates are typically reduced by 50–90%. That’s because the system instructs users to the specific location, identification and quantity, requiring a spoken confirmation upon conclusion of the pick. This significantly cuts the risk of mistakes, such as items picked from an adjacent slot, the wrong product picked, or an incorrect quantity selected.

How Voice Increases Worker Productivity

Applying voice to picking processes allows companies to manage an increase in inventory quantity and diversity — as well as higher order volumes — without adding square footage or staffing. This contributes to overall warehouse productivity improvement, particularly when connecting voice-directed workflows to warehouse management system (WMS) software. 

Voice picking enhances WMS by enabling new picking optimization strategies, which can greatly reduce order-cycle times. For example, an operation performing discrete order picking can use voice technology to deploy batch picking for simultaneous fulfillment of multiple orders. Effective workflow designs reduce travel times between pick locations and the handling of exceptions (shorts, damage, etc.). Further, a WMS capable of task-interleaving enables pickers to perform multiple tasks dynamically, based upon location, skills and current business priorities (e.g., combining cycle-counting with order fulfillment).

Voice also boosts picking productivity through its inherent hands-free, eyes-up functionality. This eliminates handling paper or screens so more work can be completed in fewer steps. With voice, new employees can be trained faster and supported by prompts as they become familiar with new picking zones or processes. Likewise, temporary and seasonal workers can be brought up to speed and navigate more quickly with voice-directed picking workflows. As a result of this increased effectiveness, overtime is reduced.

How Voice Optimizes Staffing for Greater Labor Savings

Voice-directed picking drives dramatic improvements in staffing and labor management by removing the need for the user to read device screens or paper lists while performing tasks. This enables workers to concentrate on their surroundings during picking activities, thereby increasing individual productivity.

Voice also contributes to a reduction in staff turnover, which provides several workplace advantages:

  • Minimizes the need to hire as many new or inexperienced workers (who tend to have the highest churn rates)
  • Increases the productivity of new pickers through faster process training and additional support cues
  • Generates the “cool factor” of using modern technology in the workplace 

Non-native speakers benefit from voice-directed picking workflows as well. Modern voice technologies, such as Honeywell Voice, offer multilingual capabilities that include more than 50 different languages and dialects, allowing workers to hear and respond to commands delivered in their native tongue. This allows all pickers, regardless of their verbal preferences, to be equally productive — increasing the breadth of available labor. 

To learn the multiple ways Honeywell Voice enhances order selection workflows to reduce warehouse picking errors and deliver overall warehouse productivity improvement, read our white paper titled Improve Picking Workflows With Voice Technology

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