Benefits of Voice Picking and Other Applications
Building a Business Case For Voice: More Productive and Accurate Warehouse Processes, Plus Safety, Streamlined Training and Improved Management Insight
Voice picking, receiving, replenishment and other warehouse voice applications deliver significant improvements in productivity, accuracy and efficiency compared to manual processes and other technologies.
In many situations voice picking and other applications can drive double-digit gains in productivity, depending on current systems and processes. The largest productivity gains are achieved in piece-picking processes, while smaller efficiency gains are achieved in processes that typically have a higher percentage of travel time, such as putaway and replenishment, truck loading, and traditional pallet or case picking processes. DCs implementing voice as part of a Mobile Work Execution solution can dramatically increase productivity across activities – sometimes greater than 100% – by transforming processes and dramatically reducing travel. The key drivers for improved productivity with voice are:
- Associates work totally hands-free with their eyes focused on their task. There is no wasted motion from picking up and putting down scanners or turning one’s head to read information from paper or a terminal screen.
- Associates verify locations and quantities as they move. The associate never has to slow down to write or key in data.
- As soon as one operation is completed, the user immediately receives a verbal prompt for the next item. There is no lag time between tasks so associates move quickly and efficiently through assignments.
- Voice picking eliminates or reduces pre- and post-pick time required to handle paperwork.
Beyond the basic productivity benefits of hands- and eyes-free operations, warehouses can achieve truly dramatic improvements in productivity when they are able to transform their processes for voice, rather than simply voice-enabling an existing manual or RF process.
Voice Picking User Example
Picking rates more than doubled at RNDC
Similar to productivity improvements when moving to voice, accuracy gains using voice picking technology range widely. In many DCs, picking and other errors are reduced by 80 percent or more, and it’s not unusual for DCs using voice to achieve 99.99 percent picking accuracy. There are a number of factors that drive these accuracy improvements, including:
- Voice systems eliminate distractions caused by looking at and handling paper lists, scanners or terminal screens.
- Users validate each activity by voice. In a standard voice picking system, the associate will speak a location checkstring (or product code) to confirm he or she is picking from the correct location. For example, Lucas Move voice-directed applications featuring Jennifer can be configured to supplement the standard verification with multiple verification methods (UPC, SKU, description, etc.) to maximize accuracy.
- Users validate the quantity of items for each action, and a countdown feature helps users keep track when picking high unit-count items.
- Lucas Move can also be configured to tell the user the specific pack factor or unit of measure to pick, and users may also be required to confirm the UOM.
- Users are more accountable for their quality, as the voice picking system allows managers to pinpoint the date, time, location, item, and quantity of each action.
- On-line help. At any point, a Lucas Move user can ask Jennifer for any detail regarding their current activity, including location, quantity, description, order number, unit of measure, customer, etc.
Voice Picking User Example
Upper Lakes Foods reduced selection errors 60-70 percent and error-free weeks are common.
Training and Employee Satisfaction
In most cases a new user can be trained and begin using a voice picking or other voice application in less than a day, and most become proficient and achieve standard productivity and accuracy rates in less than a week. This is especially helpful for distribution centers that rely on large numbers of seasonal or temporary workers. Reduced training time saves labor costs and also eliminates training and mentoring time for team leads, supervisors and other staff who are responsible for training the new employees.
While it is more difficult to quantify gains in employee satisfaction among warehouse workers using voice directed applications, the qualitative data is indisputable. When users are asked whether they would give up Lucas Move and Jennifer and go back to previous methods, they universally say “No” (adamantly!).
Some of the factors that promote ease of training and user satisfaction gains are:
- Voice systems tell the associate what to do at every step and offer interactive help at any time. As one of our customers put it, it is like having a coach on the shoulder or driving with a GPS system.
- There are no special function keys or codes to learn. Instructions are given verbally, and the new associate can get help at any time, just by asking for it.
- Many customers have found that because associates using voice maintain a greater focus on their actions and surroundings, their safety records tend to improve.
Voice Picking User Example
User training time has been cut by 80 percent at Do it Best.