Raising the profile - voice-directed picking

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By Tony Hampson, managing director, BEC (Systems Integration) Ltd.

Blackburn-based BEC (Systems Integration) Ltd. has always historically kept a fairly low profile in terms of marketing and promoting an overtly public persona. Established for 20-years, with continual year-on-year growth due to the provision of technical expertise and proven solutions, coupled with a loyal customer base which has provided perhaps the best marketing tool available – word-of-mouth recommendation – BEC has recently decided to take the plunge and raise its public profile to showcase its wares.

What with the official appointment of myself as managing director, the recruitment of a new sales & marketing director, a new marketing manager, an updated corporate image and website, as well as the accolade of achieving the much sought-after Total Solution Provider (TSP) status with Vocollect – the Voice-based solutions provider for mobile workers – now seems as good a time as any.

Boasting a strong background in the food & beverage, manufacturing and engineering industries, and with a notable list of customers that includes Kerrygold, Pilgrims Choice, Xerox, Dairy Crest, Delice de France and Sellafield, BEC's expertise has always focused primarily on the supply chain.

Quietly confident in its abilities, BEC is a highly stable, secure and well-grounded business, and as the brains behind the eSmart Datacapture suite of software modules designed to integrate seamlessly with any ERP host system, BEC has a lot to shout about.

Full potential

As the UK's largest independent Infor M3 integrator, BEC's knowledge of a range of ERP systems – which also includes SAP, Oracle, Microsoft Dynamics and IFS – has meant that its customers are empowered to drive the full potential of their business systems. Its range of eSmart Datacapture products are flexible enough to accommodate customisation, but at the same time are based on a robust, core software architecture that has the ability to cover the complete range of key supply chain applications.

As the only provider of seamless real-time Voice into M3 ERP systems, perhaps one differentiating factor about BEC is the strong advocacy it has in terms of the promotion of Voice technology and Voice-led applications, in particular Voice-directed picking.

This stems from a firm belief that the requirement for real-time and dynamic solutions is on the increase, as customers are forever seeking tighter, integrated solutions as opposed to batched or time uploads. Clients want to see updates as they happen, in real-time, and perhaps most importantly, these updates need to be accurate.

For those who are not wholly familiar with Voice technology and in particular Voice-directed picking, in practical terms, it shares similar attributes to traditional RF scanner picking; however the precise method in which data streams are converted into Voice commands, prompts are provided and responses received, is different. With the ability to increase worker productivity up to an astonishing 35 per cent while reducing errors up to 25 per cent, Voice-directed picking is an order selection method which is used widely in warehouse or distribution centre environments.

In a Voice-directed warehouse system, operators use a compact, wearable computer with a headset incorporating a speaker to receive instructions by Voice. The computer is connected to the host business system (ERP or WMS) over a wireless network, and the operator is able to confirm his or her actions verbally back to the system in real-time. With the ability to operate regardless of language, accent or dialect, Voice technology also allows users to operate hands and eyes free; a useful benefit within fast-moving picking environments.

Seamless, real-time integration

BEC's USP in Voice applications is the ability to offer seamless, real-time integration into any given ERP system, offering a complete end-to-end solution right the way through a distribution centre – from goods in all the way to goods out. In essence, a comprehensive door-to-door Voice offering.

There is absolutely no question that voice-directed picking can produce impressive ROI results in the correct application. For fast moving picking environments with a broad SKU list and more than ten warehouse pickers, Voice-directed technology can, in BEC's view, produce game changing results, which is a good enough reason as any to back this technology to the hilt. In BEC's professional opinion, Voice is quite simply the way forward.

So what does the future hold for BEC? With the creation of a new team, a new image (which was brought in to coincide with our 20 year anniversary in 2014), an exciting and evolving product offering and additional prominence in terms of its Vocollect Total Solution Provider (TSP) status, the future certainly looks bright. The main focus for the future however is growth. BEC is seeking to actively increase its turnover and presence in the next year, as well as looking to secure more international sites and become more effective within the IFS space.

In line with today's ideology that collaboration is key in achieving aggressive growth in a tough economic climate, the establishment of mutually-beneficial partnerships within the industry is also underway, as BEC seeks to broaden and grow its product offering and reach within the ever-expanding AIDC umbrella.

Of one thing we can be certain, however. BEC's focused approach to providing exemplary levels of customer satisfaction and market-leading solutions will no doubt build upon their already solid reputation, as BEC looks to move into the next phase of its long-standing history.

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