Is Warehouse Voice Picking the future for busy warehouses?

Whether you have a distribution centre that specialises in high velocity picking or a warehouse full of pallets and cases, warehouse voice picking solutions allow you to experience both speed and accuracy in either situation. Accuracy is essential to ensure consumer safety and satisfaction, as well as inventory and materials management. Using the power of voice, scanning, and visual cues, workers can perform hands-free tasks and dramatically increase speed, without sacrificing accuracy.

Voice picking is an effective tool for picking operations, and above all, is easy to learn. Voice picking is designed to keep an operator’s hand and eyes free, allowing them to focus more on the task at hand. Each operator is equipped with a mobile device or voice dedicated terminal and a headset with microphone. Voice picking is a vital part of the outbound logistics process and has a significant impact on customer service.

How Warehouse Voice Picking Works

In a complex and high-intensity warehouse where there are multiple picking locations that require pickers to be fast and accurate, a “pick to voice” or voice-directed system can be implemented to improve picking accuracy and the speed of the pick performed by the warehouse staff.

The voice picking system allows warehouse staff to concentrate on the picking process without looking at paperwork and having both hands free to perform the pick. The original voice picking systems were used where items were not bar-coded such as fresh produce, so a handheld scanner could not be used.

The voice picking system uses speech recognition and speech synthesis to allow warehouse operators who are performing the picks to communicate with a Warehouse Management System (WMS). The staff on the warehouse floor uses a headset and microphone to receive instructions by voice, and verbally confirm their actions back to the system.

The warehouse operator will normally read back the last 2 or 3 digits of the item they have picked so that the system can check the correct item has been selected. The WMS will then give the operator the next instruction based on the algorithm in the WMS system.

Key Benefits of Warehouse Voice Picking

  • Lightweight terminal/mobile device and headset for increased operator comfort
  • Training time often less than 30 minutes
  • 99.5%+ accuracy levels
  • Easy to expand by simply adding terminals/mobile devices and headsets
  • Smooth integration and start up
  • Payback often in less than 12 months
  • Less dwell time for operators per shift

Managers play a difficult balancing act of minimising employee turnover to avoid continuous training and re-training, adjusting processes to efficiently balance work volume and planning for demand fluctuation to accommodate seasonal spikes.

Voice technology can scale to match changing business requirements and offers a solution to empower management with greater control, flexibility and visibility into operations on the floor.

Warehouse Voice Picking at its best

1. Voice picking has outstanding ROI

Any warehouse still using a paper pick system will realise serious ROI just by getting rid of all the admin and goods costs needed to maintain a paper pick system.

Yet even warehouses currently using some pick technology will find that implementing a voice picking system is the most cost efficient way to improve the inventory management system. Unlike, for instance, a pick-to-light system, implementing a voice picking system doesn’t require any changes to warehouse floors or installing major hardware. The hardware needed for voice picking is attached to the worker, a headset, and belt radio.  So no great floor reorganisations or installations needed, which keeps costs down and keeps your workers nimble when it comes to keeping the voice picking system current.

2. Improved Accuracy

Distribution is a fast-paced game with high-stakes and little margin for error. Customers place a premium on fast service, but receiving the wrong product renders speed meaningless. Erroneous orders not only cost time and money in the form of returns processing and a replacement shipment, but levy even greater costs by damaging customer satisfaction and reducing repeat business. By implementing voice solutions, operations can achieve more than 99.9 percent fulfilment accuracy — a critical metric in the competitive retail and e-commerce landscape. This keeps the right products flowing to keep store shelves stocked and avoid lost revenue.

3. Increase Productivity

Simplicity is often the best route to productivity. But in order to maintain control of inventory and manage the fulfilment process, operations often arm employees with scanners or paper pick lists, keeping their hands occupied and adding extra complication to the picking process. This enforces an effective ceiling on employee productivity and operational success, risking insufficient stock on store shelves and missed shipping cut off times. In contrast, voice technology reduces steps required to complete a task and keeps pickers’ hands free and eyes up, improving safety, ergonomics and increasing productivity up to 35 percent.

4. Scale Up & Down In line With Demand

If a sharp holiday peak hits or if business experiences sustained organic growth, how can fulfilment operations maintain high service levels while meeting increased order volumes? Voice solutions provide that scalability through simple and cost-effective worker and workflow additions, ensuring operations can handle demand while avoiding wasteful investment. Voice’s ability to support large vocabularies of thousands of words enables it to automate a greater variety of complex mobile work tasks.

5. Easy Adoption & Training

Fast-paced fulfilment operations do not have time to replace out-of-date technology or implement complex training programs. With voice, managers leverage unique, easier training and support capabilities to quickly scale up new, part-time or seasonal workers to meet and exceed corporate productivity targets. Especially useful during peak season, innovative training features help facilities quickly integrate seasonal labour into picking operations.

Managers can also speed site adoption by playing workers’ actual audio back to them at any point in a transaction to advise on the most effective work behaviours.

Going international? For businesses expanding their global footprint or integrating non-native employees, a voice system is a perfect fit, offering support for all the world’s leading languages. Workers can choose their language of preference at any shift.This enables operations to accommodate diverse labour pools and quickly scale productivity levels

6. Easy Reporting & Visibility

Easy access to the right information not only leads to faster management decisions; it also benefits employees on the floor by providing real-time information to help gauge self-improvement efforts. Dashboards provide real-time visibility into individual worker, group, zone, site and company-wide productivity levels, daily progress and time remaining to complete assigned tasks, enabling management to make rapid operational decisions. Workers are also able to ask for their current performance level, especially valuable in locations using incentive plans.

7. Flexible Warehouse Solution

Reconciling systems from multiple vendors can be a challenge, leading operations to dedicate significant IT resources to integration in order to reap the full benefit of technology investments. A flexible voice platform enables easy integration with other system components or existing facility infrastructure. Combined with a WES, WMS, WCS or ERP system, voice solutions can come as a fully-integrated solution that not only provides clear task instructions, but communicates and interacts with multiple enterprise software systems. On the floor, it’s compatible with the broadest range of rugged, non-proprietary mobility hardware, avoiding vendor lock-in while quickly embracing the latest mobility innovations that come to market.

In Summary

When equipped with a mobile voice terminal and headset, worker’s complete tasks quicker and with fewer errors as thewarehouse voice picking solution tells them where to go and what to do. Working hands-and-eyes free also reduces drops and spills and increases worker satisfaction through better ergonomics. Site supervisors can track & analyse progress and reallocate resources where needed. It also helps avoid incorrect shipments and costly credit notes. Combined with a WMS, warehouse voice picking solutions can become a fully integrated solution that not only provides clear task instructions, but communicates and interacts with multiple enterprise software systems throughout your business.

About us:

Speak to one of our team to understand how Clarus’ WMS system can cost effectively support best practice warehouse management processes, better customer service and highly efficient working for a range of warehouse operations with pay per month options and no IT infrastructure needed.

Our platform can scale from a one user, small depot system to a 100’s of user distribution centre operation. The ClarusWMS platform will cost effectively scale with your business based on demand.

ClarusWMS is a UK based supplier of warehouse management solutions with a wealth of industry experience in third party logistics, wholesale / retail distribution, online fulfillment and manufacturing warehousing.