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Five steps to successful pick-by-voice order picking

Increasing order volumes, higher cost pressure and increasing demands on process quality: logisticians are still faced with the challenge of making internal processes in the warehouse cost-effective, efficient and at the same time less prone to errors. But how can the efficiency and above all the quality of intralogistics be increased without accepting cost-intensive redesign of the warehouse structure? The introduction of automated or semi-automated systems is clearly in vogue. However, automation and the costly conversion of infrastructure and work processes is not the right choice for every company. Voice-controlled solutions such as Pick by Voice represent a cross-industry and forward-looking de facto standard that makes a significant contribution to corporate success. Companies use the available personnel resources in the warehouse cost-effectively and efficiently with the software. It can also be easily integrated into any process chain. Five steps have proven to be a best practice solution for the successful integration of voice technology into intralogistics processes.

Voice ensures more efficiency in logistics

By integrating a flexible voice system, enormous time savings and an increase in productivity of up to 20 % can be achieved. Compared to paper-based picking with an error rate of up to 1.5 percent, the average error rate with Pick by Voice is only 0.08 percent. This minimal error rate and the simple connection of the voice solution to the customer's existing IT environment are decisive advantages. Modern Pick by Voice systems support smooth communication with all common warehouse management and ERP systems, either by direct integration or via suitable interfaces. The solutions are also so flexible that they can map industry-specific processes on the customer side without costly adjustments. And the employees in intralogistics achieve improved process quality with less time expenditure thanks to the voice assistance system. Voice has already proven itself in a wide variety of industries: Retail, automotive, industry and production as well as food and beverage logistics benefit from accelerated throughput times and more efficient processing. 


Step 1: Status quo - How great is your potential?

Once a company has decided to integrate the voice solution, it is first necessary to record the object and information flows in detail, so that an overview of all relevant processes is created. An important aspect of this consideration is also the product spectrum of the customer, as well as individual business processes that are to be mapped with the voice solution. The analysis allows the specific requirements of the respective industry and company to be identified and taken into account during the introduction of the voice application. The aim is also to jointly reveal optimization potentials that can be exploited by means of voice guidance.


Step 2: Conception of processes - How do the systems communicate?

In the second step, the results of the test are used to determine the scope of services, the possible applications and the optimal integration of the voice application into the company's business processes and IT structure. In order to ensure the most efficient processes possible, it is decided how exactly the voice-guided picking process is designed in comparison to the previous process flow. To enable the company to work with the voice solution in the best possible way, the program can also be adapted to the processes. Please note that the voice solution supports further input options, especially in combination with barcode scanners, smart watches or tablets. The use of additional devices opens up further optimization possibilities for the user. It is also clarified whether the process logic of the voice application lies in the leading WMS or ERP system or remains on the side of the voice application. The integration of the voice-controlled system into the company's existing IT structure also plays a role in the digitization of the processes. This should be done in such a way that all relevant data is made available in the right form and in the right place. 


Step 3: Implementation: How the voice introduction works

Ideally, pick-by-voice solutions are platform-independent and can be easily integrated into the user's existing IT structure: The voice application is connected to the leading WMS or ERP systems via standard interface modules. Implementation via SAP is even easier: powerful voice systems offer direct integration of the voice application into SAP WM or EWM. In these cases, SAP users can even customize the voice application themselves. Thus process control and management remains completely in the hands of the company. The prerequisite for the work of the voice-controlled software is a WLAN network for data transmission. The wireless connection does not have to be available throughout the entire warehouse. However, complete WLAN availability in the warehouse area is a prerequisite if process data is to be available in real time at all times. Data security in the network must always be taken into account. Here the voice providers must cover the latest security and encryption standards. 


Step 4: Which hardware meets your requirements?

The selection of suitable mobile hardware components plays a decisive role in the integration of the voice solution. Among other things, the system checks how the warehouse environment is structured and which processes and requirements require the articles to be picked in the warehouse. When it comes to frozen food, mobile voice computers that work as voice-only devices are an optimal choice. Since employees work with gloves and functional clothing in extreme sub-zero temperatures, operating a PDC unit is a great challenge. The mobile voice computers are controlled exclusively by voice commands and can also be used under difficult conditions. MDE devices or multimodal devices with integrated scanner and display are, however, in many cases a valuable addition to the voice application: Depending on the type of product and the requirements for continuous documentation of the supply chain, they enable precisely extended data acquisition, for example of batch numbers, serial numbers or shelf life data. Consumer devices with Android or iOS operating systems are a cost-effective alternative to MDE and voice computers. Mobile devices such as Smart Watches can be used in order picking, for example, as an additional display for employees. In many cases, existing mobile computers can also be used in conjunction with the voice software. To communicate with the voice system, employees use a headset with microphone and loudspeaker or a picking vest, into which both components are integrated. The vest is an alternative to the headset when heavy and bulky loads need to be moved or when great physical exertion is required. A decisive advantage of the order picking vest is the ergonomics of the hardware design, as there are no physical one-sided loads as with scanner-based order picking. The PDC units are usually operated with one hand, so that users lean in one direction over and over again, for example to scan storage locations and article barcodes. These steps are not necessary in the voice application, as the process-relevant data is exchanged via voice dialog.


Step 5: Here we go - software and hardware in practical use

Voice solutions ensure a smooth system introduction for employees. At the beginning, order pickers receive a brief introduction to the use of their voice hardware and the voice dialog process. Language training beyond this is not necessary with modern solutions and the creation of an individual speaker profile is not necessary, as the technology is speaker-independent and untrained. Employees simply put on the headset or put on the picking vest at the start of work and then follow the voice instructions. Above all with heterogeneous and strongly changing article spectra the use of Voice pays off. Pick-by-Voice solutions should also support a large number of languages so that the software can be used on an international level in a standardised way. This enables temporary employees to work productively with the system in their national language within a very short time. Order fluctuations, for example during seasonal peaks, can thus be easily managed without time-consuming and cost-intensive induction phases for new employees.


Voice Guided Solutions for Other Business Areas

The integration of a voice solution requires a low overall use of resources and can represent a great benefit for intralogistics processes due to the data obtained and streamlined processes. Voice solutions can also be used in many other areas of the company. In the future, the use of voice-supported employee management can therefore also be expected to increase outside the logistics sector: Possible fields of application are quality controls of products or testing processes, for example in the automotive industry.