Speech-based picking gives a significant boost to warehouse efficiency

In the warehouses of modern companies the arrival of advanced processes was witnessed long ago.

Picking from paper-based lists is history. Today speech-based picking (Pick by Voice) is relied upon by those responsible for logistic centers. With the introduction of this innovative technology warehouse efficiency can be increased by more than 15%. 

Such an increase was reported by the pharmaceutical company Berlin-Chemie AG who introduced speech-based commissioning in co-operation with Peak Technologies and topsystem to their Genshagen warehouse in Germany. Sources of errors were eliminated by bringing together articles in the warehouse. The flexibility of the innovative Pick by Voice technology easily met the demands of this fast growing company.  Berlin-Chemie is owned by the Italian pharmaceutical company Menarini which has an annual turnover of more than 2 billion Euros (2004). Menarini has approximately 11,100 employees worldwide and 3,900 are employed by Berlin-Chemie. 

Another company that saw its efficiency increase by more than 15% when it introduced topssytems speech-based picking was Delicatessens Dittmann. The company, founded by Carl Dittmann who laid his companys foundation stone in Wiesbaden, Germany, over 100 years ago, prides themselves on supplying fine top quality food.  Since that time the workforce has grown to 250 employees and there are branches around the Mediterranean.  The introduction of speech-controlled commissioning in the warehouse Diez, Germany increased sales volume despite limited storage space and at the same time reduced the amount of administration and the number of customer complaints.

Picking in traditional ways, depending on the number of shipments, items and products, can result in warehouse personnel requiring a significant amount of time and extensive effort. The concentration / focus of employees who work with paper-based lists is certainly put to a hard test. The mistakes that result under these circumstances can be substantially reduced if the picker is able to exclusively concentrate on the compilation of the order instead of also having to organise workflow. 

Communication via Speech

The solution deployed by both Berlin-Chemie and Dittmann is called Pick by Voice.  With help of topSpeech-Lydia, from the leading European supplier, topsystem GmbH in Aachen, Germany the employee is able to communicate by means of a headset and standard PDA, or in  especially harsh warehouse conditions with the VOXter  warehouse management system. Initially the employee gives an order number over the microphone, which he takes from a list that he only receives once from the ERP system at the beginning of the picking process. He is then guided to the location where the corresponding stock can be found. He quickly confirms that he has arrived and subsequently receives the picking instructions.

The complete process takes place in a continual speech input and output dialogue which requires the employee to confirm every step with the system. Dealing with paper-based lists is completely obsolete, so that the employee can wholeheartedly concentrate on the picking process. A study from the Professorship for Production Planning at Dortmund University, Germany came to the prognosis that companies which have introduced voice picking have increased efficiency by at least ten per cent. This is a result of the time saved because it is no longer necessary to read or memorize and the potential to focus on the actual picking task. 

High Functionality with Pick by Voice Software

This presupposes a high functionality of the software. Such demands are unequivocally fulfilled by the new speaker-independent speech recognizer. It distinguishes itself thanks to its ability to rapidly adjust, even by quick and unclear pronunciation, which means a higher recognition rate.  Speech dependent systems normally require special training, but with the implementation of topSPEECH-Lydia this is not necessary leading to further reductions in costs. Employees, who due to their dialect or strong accent, do not achieve adequate recognition, can optimize the speech system by means of a simple speech test. The solution from topsystem directly takes into account the individual speech idiosyncrasies of the picker. The Hebrew version of topSPEECH-Lydia for example functions without a problem when it is used by an Ethiopian employee. The systems command selection is also extremely flexible. On completion of a successful picking procedure the employee has the option to choose to finish the process using End or Finished.

Above and beyond this a whole range of features is offered by topSPEECH-Lydia which supports the long-lasting efficient use of Pick by Voice in daily warehouse life. With this in mind the novel audio filter in cooperation with a specially developed speech model removes general background noise such as loud sounds from the warehouse environment. The advantage: a high recognition rate despite the normal noise level in a warehouse. Nevertheless, in isolated cases, should a mistake be identified the cause can be quickly identified and subsequently eliminated by means of a speech test. Should the speech client need to be maintained or newly configured the topSPEECH-Lydia service module has a tool which allows convenient and problem-free adjustment of the system. 

This intelligent solution for the speech-controlled commissioning was coupled to the enterprise software SAP R/3 by tool manufacturer HAZET from Remscheid, Germany. The company set an ambitious goal of dealing with more orders and at the same time working faster, more economically and more reliably when they integrated their external stock warehouse into the logistics center in Heinsberg.  The dispatch procedure needed to be fast and reliable as the company has over 5,000 different products in its portfolio from general workshop needs through high-quality torque wrenches to special tools.  The company was delighted that the resulting increase in efficiency was a full 50 per cent.


With the Pick by Voice solution the leading European supplier topsystem from Aachen, Germany has made it possible to execute the collection of different items quickly and to a large extent accurately. Pick by Voice affords a noticeable increase in warehouse efficiency while at the same time reducing administration outlay and customer complaints.

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