Voice picking is a form of hands-free picking. While using a voice picking solution the user wears a headset which is connected via Bluetooth to a mobile computing device. The WMS system communicates with the selector through audible commands. The fundamental value of a voice picking solution is the user is hands-free and eyes-free. Hands-free means the user is unencumbered by obtaining and securing a mobile computer while conducting their work.
Hands-free eliminates valuable seconds in the pick process as the user does not need to acquire the mobile computer to review screen data. The user listens to the commands from the voice picking solution and completes their next task.
Hands-free also shortens the time from completion of one pick to the beginning of the next pick as the voice system immediately states the next pick location once the user completes the prior pick assignment.
This is known as inter-pick dwell time. Inter-pick dwell time while using traditional barcode scanning or paper-based picking solutions can be significant depending on the associate.
Voice picking solutions eliminate virtually all the inter-pick dwell time by acting as virtual supervisor speaking into the user’s ear telling them to complete the next assignment; taking away the self-selection of when to start the next assignment. Eyes-free means the user is looking at the point of work rather than viewing a screen. This alleviates the user from picking products from the wrong location as they are constantly looking at the pick face. An additional aspect of Eyes-free is worker safety. By having their “Eyes-free” the user is more aware of their surroundings and the “texting while driving” effect is reduced while the user is driving a pallet jack or other potentially dangerous equipment.
Another exceptional quality of Voice picking is reduction of training time. Because the user is guided via voice commands for each step of the picking process, the amount of time for a user to be “up to standards” is significantly reduced. Most customers see an 80% or greater reduction in training time for new associates as they do not have to learn button presses and keystrokes.
Voice picking customers see an increase in productivity of 30 percent or more and a reduction in errors of 50 percent or higher and reduction of training time of 80%.
Voice Picking Accuracy
Although the accuracy of voice picking is consistent with the accuracy of mobile device scanning, there can be differences, depending on pick confirmation style and operation. For example, voice picking can ensure accuracy faster than mobile device scanning in applications such as picking a full case or full bags, when it is inconvenient or even hazardous for an operator to pull a mobile device out of a holster to make a confirmation. Voice picking can be integrated with scanning, but as always, the goal must be to find the solution that can best ensure accuracy while also enhancing productivity.
Voice Picking Optimization
Voice operations are typically picking, however voice supports workflows for put-away, cycle counting, and even receiving. All of these can be automated and optimized, providing a voice system can be integrated with the automation and other technologies in your environment. In addition, it’s important to understand the extent to which operators need to be hands-free to perform their tasks and whether or not the dialogue they will have with the voice system could negatively offset the advantages. If dialoguing with the voice system for confirmations and workflows is too complex, picking times can increase. That’s why it is essential to review all of the parameters and strike the right balance of dialoguing to achieve accuracy while maintaining productivity improvement. In addition, the software to control the voice hardware and a WES/WCS element will be required as part of WMS package to support it.