Voice-directed picking and other types of voice solutions are proven in warehouse environments. But suppliers are now out to make voice-directed work even more productive with analytics and optimization, as well as improvements to the voice recognition engines.
Suppliers of voice-directed systems are quick to point out how voice fits well with today’s e-commerce picking and fulfillment challenges because of the “hands-free” nature of voice directives versus using paper pick lists or wireless handhelds. By using Bluetooth headsets to hear verbal instructions and validate information back verbally to the system, voice keeps workers’ hands free for work tasks.
But voice productivity doesn’t stop there. In recent years, vendors have been bumping up the productivity of their solutions by doing things like applying analytics and optimization software to find further efficiencies, making improvements on speech recognition, and leveraging new device capabilities.
“You can pick up an additional 10% to 15% in productivity over the hands-free benefits of voice by using analytics to manage your operations,” says Keith Phillips, president and CEO of Voxware, whose suite spans voice automation and analytics. “Analytics lets you take actions like redeploying workers or reprioritizing orders to manage your activities on a real-time basis.”
Krishna Venkatasamy, chief technology officer for Lucas Systems, a provider of mobile work execution and voice applications, agrees that voice-directed workflows carry an inherent hands-free advantage and sees another couple of key ways voice solutions are building productivity.
One of these is with highly capable “multi-modal” devices that can support voice-directed work as well as the occasional bar code scan and then also capture radio frequency identification (RFID) tag data, or offer a screen to display or acquire information. The second path for next-level gains, Venkatasamy says, is through optimization software that does things like create highly efficient pick paths. “If you don’t give workers efficient work assignments, they can only be as efficient as the technology given to them to execute with, be that voice or multi-modal applications,” he says.