Voice versus Scanning - Is Voice Really Quicker?
I visited a company this week who are running a well known ERP system alongside a WMS solution with voice picking technology. They invited us along because their implemented solution, particularly for the warehouse operation isn't working, in fact the voice picking part of the system has been switched off and they have reverted to paper pick notes and re-keying into the ERP system. So voice was definitely not a success in this case.
Why you may ask? Voice is reported to be the new revolution in picking efficiency. Not the case from this user's experience. It was found actually to slow the picking operation down.
Let me explain - When the picker arrives at the directed location they have to "speak" the location check digit, if this is accepted, they listen for the item to be picked and then "speak" the last 5 digits of the product code (which they of course have to read first), then they are told how many to pick and then confirm they have picked the correct quantity. Compare this to scanning one or two barcodes and in reality it's slower and more mentally taxing for the picker in terms of concentration levels. Over an 8 to 10 hour shift, productivity levels actually fall as concentration levels reduce due to operator fatigue.
It may be in this example that it's just down to a poor implementation of voice technology as this particular business has a diverse number of SKU's (around 10,000) coupled with an ever changing "pick face" set-up based on customer and seasonal demand. Voice may be better suited to a more stable environment with fewer SKU's and simpler location strategies, but in this customer's experience, it wasn't right.
Now consider a business where batch/lot control and expiry dates are important and voice picking technology would really struggle. Imagine having to confirm by voice commands the batch details and expiry dates, it's just not going to work in the real world of the warehouse, the picker would probably lose their voice and the will to live after a couple of hours. Compare this to scanning a couple of 1D barcodes or a single 2D barcode which contains all the relevant information i.e. Product ID, Batch Number and Expiry Date and it must be faster to use the humble barcode.
So an expensive lesson learned for this user, voice picking wasn't the best solution for them and now they are looking for a smart WMS system based on barcode scanning technology. I hope we can engage with them to help improve their warehouse operation with our barcode driven Dexterity WMS system, it makes sense and would definitely improve their efficiency levels in the warehouse.
We have a wealth of experience in implementing our specialist Dexterity WMS Systems to help clients realise the benefits of a smart barcode driven Warehouse Management System. Please get in touch for a no obligation and no pressure discussion on how Dexterity WMS could help your business.