Voice in logistics: hands free, fewer errors and greater insight

Background blocks

There is no large warehouse that is not familiar with them: the hand terminals used for order picking. Worldwide, hand terminals are used in about 90% of all logistics operations. The employees receive instructions on their screen and walk to the specified locations to pick the articles. Each article is scanned, the required number is entered and the article is placed on the pick truck. The advantages of working with handheld terminals are that employees do not have to walk around with paper lists to tick off the picked items and then manually process these in the computer. Scanning means that the orders and stock are always up-to-date.

Disadvantages of working with hand terminals

There are also disadvantages to this method. For example, your employees do not have their hands free. They have to put their handheld terminal away or in its holster every time they want to put products on the picking trolley. An additional risk is that the employees’ eyes are constantly on the screen of their hand terminals. With all those forklift trucks and reach trucks driving around in a DC, this results in dangerous situations. A good alternative is order picking with a voice solution.

How does Voice technology work?

Voice technology works on the basis of voice recognition. Your logistics staff are fitted with headphones with microphone and a handy, wireless computer that hangs on their belt or is placed on the pick trolley. Through their headphones they receive instructions, such as ‘walk to aisle 5, section 8 and pick 20 items of article X’. After following the instructions, the logistics employee confirms this by voice through the microphone.

You can arrange the entire logistics process in advance. You can lay down procedures about all instructions to be received and the confirmation that must be given in response. For example, the employee can say in confirmation: ’20 items of item X picked’. You can also preset error messages. If the stock of item X is not sufficient, the employee reports that he picked 10 instead of 20. The system then automatically turns this order into a partial delivery. One of the advantages of voice is that employees have their hands free and do not have to constantly stare at their screens. It is more pleasant and more efficient.

Voice solutions can be perfectly integrated in Warehouse Management Systems. Major WMS vendors such as SAP and Oracle have standard modules for interfacing with voice.

Voice detection in 30 seconds

Of course, the use of a new solution also requires a critical attitude: Will I be wearing the same headphones tomorrow that my colleague is wearing today? Will the device recognise my voice if I have a cold? How does the system deal with my heavy accent?

Voice recognition has become enormously intelligent in recent years. The system needs about 30 seconds to learn a voice. Including accent, speech restriction and/or cold. Hygiene is never a problem. Each employee has his own headset and keeps it in his own locker. The computers are in a rack. You hardly ever touch them. You put on a belt, receive instructions and can start working.

Do not switch without a reliable integration partner

Voice has many advantages, but it is important that you prepare well for the switch to voice. It is not a question of handing out headphones and going. You need a reliable integration partner for a proper inventory and implementation.

At Dalosy we take a critical look at whether real profit and efficiency can be achieved with voice. After taking stock of your logistics operation and the systems, we make a test setup. Only then can we demonstrate how it works and what the implementation can deliver. In some cases it appears after the test setup that there is no (or not enough) efficiency to achieve with voice. For example, at a company with few order pickers or a very low frequency of order picking.

In voice projects, Dalosy mainly looks for opportunities to work faster and more safely, to make fewer mistakes and to have better insight and overview. If there are no or hardly any possibilities, we will advise you not to make the switch. But is there money to be made for your company with voice in your logistics process? Then we will be happy to guide you towards a full integration of voice in your business operations.

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