Among the various technologies designed to make the picking process in warehouses more accurate and functional, voice systems, also known as pick-by-voice or voice-directed warehousing, have been shown to have some of the best benefits in regards to streamlining the picking process.
Voice systems work in a unique way to improve efficiency and accuracy of pickers by using directives and confirmations throughout the picking process, and by working as a step by step verification system to assure that items and quantities being picked are correct.
Voice systems are a powerful bit of technology, this is especially true when they are leveraged in combination with a powerful WMS or even with a robust TMS such as RedwoodConnect 2.0. Our innovation team is always standing by, ready to help you strategize, implement, and manage your supply chain tech so you can connect to win. Let us show you how.
How do Voice Systems Work?
The voice picking software solutions work by integrating into the existing distribution center’s WMS to receive order information, data about the picking areas, barcodes or product ID numbers, and any other necessary information. It then uses this data to organize and create work assignments or tasks that it distributes to order pickers on the warehouse floor. How the work is organized, whether the user is directed to pick multiple batches or single orders in a batch, and how the batches are determined all depends on how the system is integrated.
Regardless of the batch ordering method, the picker will receive their shift workload and then engage in work that is monitored and streamlined, allowing them to work efficiently, accurately, and with real-time responsiveness and self-correction. All interactions between the picker and software are tracked, allowing for maximum accountability and up-to-the-minute order progress trackability.
In order to make the most use of voice picking systems, the individual pickers wear headsets with industrial microphones. This headset connects to a mobile device running the voice application. On the other end, the voice of the application tells the picker exactly where their next pick is located in the warehouse along with the number of items to pick.
Once the picker has procured these items, they speak into the microphone to verify their work. The system has voice recognition software that allows it to conclude if the items being spoken about are the correct ones. This is usually done via a checkstring to validate location, by speaking several digits of a product code or some other form of ID printed on the item in order to verify specific items. When the item information is spoken into the system, the application checks it against the information it is looking for and if the two pieces of information do not match, the system will correct the picker.
Although initially, as their name implies, these solutions were designed to improve picking operations with voice-only technology, they have evolved further to include complementary technologies like barcode scanning and RFID. They can additionally be used to automate and verify many other manual processes within the warehouse; receiving, replenishment, cycle count, packing, loading, and so on.
The possibilities are nearly endless.
Benefits of Using Voice Systems
Voice picking systems are popular among retail, distribution, and manufacturing companies across a wide range of industries. The benefits they have shown include:
In addition to increased productivity and accuracy benefits, voice systems have proven helpful in order picking in another, less obvious way - safety...
Compared to traditional paper or barcode methods of order picking, where an employee may often have their head down, not focused on the area and potential risks around them, voice systems allow for a “heads-up hands-free” workflow. When workers have their eyes up and hands-free, simply speaking into their microphones and listening to directions via headset, there is a significant reduction in workplace accidents. Thanks to not carrying around paper and pencil or barcode scanners, there is the additional benefit of employees being more likely to adhere to proper lifting protocols, reducing the risk of injury.
Getting Started With Voice Systems
Incorporating voice technology for picking efforts isn’t a new concept in the distribution and manufacturing industries, but the updates and improvements in the systems that allow for better voice recognition software and additional support integration have made voice picking systems an incredibly valuable tool and welcome support to the distribution centers that use them.
In addition to the benefits associated with accuracy, productivity, and safety, there is the additional benefit of being a system that is relatively intuitive. Thanks to the simplicity and specificity of the instructions given via voice systems, and the inability to proceed until a correct response is given, the systems dramatically reduce training time for employees. This applies whether training a new picker that has been added to your team, or your entire warehouse staff after incorporating a new system.
To conclude, if your distribution center or warehouse is considering adding or upgrading to a voice system for order picking, there are a variety of options out there and a wealth of benefits. If you need help determining what system would best suit your needs or need guidance on how to even get started, reach out to our innovation team here.