Voice in logistics: handsfree, less mistakes, more visibility

Every large warehouse is familiar with them: the handheld terminals that are used for orderpicking. Handheld terminals are used at 90% of all logistics operations worldwide. Employees receive instructions on their screen and walk to the specified locations to collect the items. They scan each item, enter the requested quantity and place the items on the pick cart. One of the advantages of working with handheld terminals is that employees don’t have to walk with paper lists to check off picked items or manually put them in the system afterwards. By scanning the items, the orders and the stock are always up-to-date.

The disadvantages of working with handheld terminals

However, there are also disadvantages associated with this method. For example, your employees don’t have their hands free. They constantly have to put down the handheld terminal or put it in the holster before they can put the scanned items on the cart. Also, the eyes of the employees are constantly focused on the screen of their handheld terminal which could be risky. Especially in a DC with forklifts and reach trucks driving around.  A good alternative would be to order pick with voice technology.

How does voice technology work?

Voice technology is based on voice recognition. Your orderpickers are provided with a headset with a microphone and a handy, wireless computer that can be attached to their belt. Via the headphones they receive instructions, such as “walk to aisle 5, section 8 and pick 20 items of product X.” After following the instructions, the orderpicker confirms his actions by voice via the microphone.

You can adjust the entire logistics process in advance. You can set procedures for every instruction and the confirmation that should be given as a response. For example that the orderpicker should say “20 items of product X is picked” as a confirmation. You can also set error messages in advance. If there’s not enough of product X in stock, the orderpicker reports back that he only picked 10 items instead of 20.  The system will automatically turn this order into a partial delivery. One of the advantages of voice is that order pickers have their hands and eyes free. It makes their work more efficient and pleasant.

Voice solutions can be perfectly integrated into Warehouse Management Systems. Large WMS suppliers such as SAP and Oracle offer standard modules to interface with voice.

Voice recognition in 30 seconds

When deploying a new solution you always encounter some critical attitudes: Will I wear the same headphone tomorrow that my colleague is wearing today? Does that device recognise my voice when I have a cold? How does the systems reacts to my heavy accent?

Voice recognition has become extremely intelligent over the last few years. The system only needs about 30 seconds to recognise a voice. Including an accent, speech impairment and/or a cold. Hygiene is never a problem. Every employee has his own headset that he keeps in his locker. The computers are in a rack. You hardly touch them. You put on a belt, listen to the instruction and start picking.

Don’t switch without a reliable integration partner

Voice has many advantages, but it’s important to prepare well before making a switch to voice. It’s not a matter of handing out the headsets and go. In order to get a good advice and a succesfull implementation, you need a reliable integration partner.

At Dalosy we first examine whether voice can really increase the profitability and efficiency of your business. After an inventory of your logistics operation and the systems, we set up a pilot test. Only then we can show you how it works and what the return on investment could be. In some cases, it turns out that voice isn’t the best solution. For example, for companies with only a few orderpickers or a very low quantity of orders to pick.

In voice projects, Dalosy mainly focuses on the possibilities to work faster and safer, make less mistakes and increase visibility. If these results can’t (or nearly) be achieved, we will advice you not to make the switch. However, if voice can help you increase your profits, we’d happy to help you with the integration.

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