Learn how voice picking technology — also known as pick by voice, voice-directed warehousing, or speech-based picking — can improve efficiency, accuracy, and safety in the warehouse.
Over the past decade, voice solutions have become increasingly popular as more industries have discovered how they can improve warehouse productivity while reducing errors and safety risks for workers. In the modern warehouse, voice picking is one of the best ways to boost warehouse visibility and meet the ever-growing demand for fast product delivery. As voice picking solutions become further intertwined with technology like robotics and augmented reality, those numbers will only grow.
This article is a good starting point for discovering the ins and outs of voice picking and countering any myths you might have heard. With the continuing growth and development of the technology, we’ve decided to update this post to keep the learnings as relevant as possible and make sure that they reflect the new directions of voice solutions.
What Is Voice Picking?
Voice picking is the process of creating a direct dialogue between your mission critical systems and team members through the simplest means possible: a conversation in plain language. Voice picking eliminates the need to burden workers with RF scanners or paper by translating picking orders through a headset. This allows pickers to move through the warehouse with their hands and eyes free, increasing productivity, accuracy, and safety, and decreasing training time and damages.
With voice picking, the picker is directed to a specific location where they must provide a set of check digits. These digits confirm that the picker is in the correct aisle, and looking at the correct bin location. Once the check digits have been confirmed, the picker is provided with the pick quantity. After the quantity is confirmed, they are given the next pick location. The voice system will optimize the pick path as this process continues, ensuring that the picker is maximizing their efficiency as they work through the warehouse.
The Benefits of Voice Technology
Voice directed work allows users to concentrate on the tasks they are performing, while keeping their hands and eyes free at all times. This simplifies the function and streamlines physical movements by eliminating the necessity of picking up and putting down a device or instruction sheet. After removing the obstacles from the picking process, pickers will often see up to a 35 percent increase in productivity.
Voice picking eliminates the distractions created by having tools in your hands, allowing the picker to dedicate their full focus to the task. This increases accuracy up to 85 percent by reducing the chance of a mispick caused by looking away from the picking area to look at a scanner or piece of paper in your hands.
Safety and Damages
When dealing with a box-cutter or lifting a heavy object, it is imperative that the picker be able to easily use their hands. With voice picking, the picker keeps their hands free at all times, eliminating the potential for injuries or damages caused by lifting or cutting an item with a scanner or piece of paper in hand.
Because each task that a worker performs is driven by voice, there is no need to train workers on reading printouts, applying labels, or confirming information through a keyboard. Once a worker attends a one-time training session and creates a voice template (which takes as little as 15 minutes), the entire work process is driven step-by-step through voice commands. This reduces training time by up to 50 percent on average.
Utilizing voice simplifies the picking process and makes it much faster and easier for pickers to do their jobs. This becomes highly important in incentivized picking scenarios, where workers are compensated based on the results of their picking. In many cases, the switch from RF or paper to voice picking results in a 50 percent decrease in employee turnover.
At a time when more than 20 percent of U.S. residents speak a language other than English at home, having voice picking technology that works with multiple languages is more valuable than ever. Fortunately, modern voice picking tech works with up to 40 different languages that it can both speak and detect. In fact, the technology can even speak in one language and detect responses in another. This means that, if all your workers can understand English, they can all hear directions in English, but then respond in the language of their choice. Multilingual voice picking provides all of your workers with the productivity and safety benefits of voice picking no matter what languages they speak.
Voice Picking and Robotics
When it comes to warehouse technology, some may worry that robots will take jobs away from people. However, voice picking used by human workers can actually make robotics even more efficient in the warehouse. Because voice picking solutions have an interface that is very intuitive for workers to understand and operate, when robotics are incorporated into those existing interfaces and structures, they too can become more efficient and effective. In this way, humans and robots can work together to enhance productivity and reduce overhead costs.