Voice: Not just for simple case order picking

INFORMATION: Free information is available from VOITEQ on the subject in this story. Click here to request a copy

Many people may be under the impression that pick-by-voice is only used for straight-forward case picking and who could blame them? Here we look at different scenarios that demonstrate how this amazing technology can offer a lot more.

VoiteQ has supplied around 70 per cent of the UKs voice-enabled warehouse operations with either hardware, software or support services and the majority of those operations use voice for simple pick-by-location case or item picking.

These operations involve a picker being guided from location to location by voice through their headset and told how many to pick each time until they have completed that assignment, they are then told which despatch lane to take their cages/totes to and given another similar assignment. The picker verifies they have picked the correct item verbally by either reading out the check digits at that location thus proving they are picking from the correct location, or alternatively reading out the last three digits of the case/item barcode thus proving they have picked the correct product. This replaces the paper picklist, the hand held terminal or the wearable scanner they previously used to achieve less in more time.

Voice converts

VoiteQ has converted many other picking tasks to voice too, such as at Brake Bros who have voice picking in 19 of their depots many of which pick multiple orders simultaneouslyone picker picking several orders on a single trip around the ambient warehouse or freezer, this type of picking task is perfect for voice. Other voice users such as Nisa-Todays in Stoke and International in Glasgow use voice for their pick by line/cross-docking operations. This involves an operative picking up a full pallet of a single product, or a pallet containing multiple products, and pulling it around a matrix of customer slots where they drop off the correct quantity of each product for each customer in a single trip. At the start of their assignment the operative confirms which products they are picking by voice. They are then directed to each customer slot requiring each product in turn, they prove they are in the right place by reading out the check digits in that location and then, if they read out the correct check digits, they are told how many cases/items to place there and then moved on to the next location.

Enabling visibility

And of course voice is not just restricted to picking, Au Naturale in Glasgow, for instance, also uses voice to build pallets of cases that have been cross-docked by voice. The operative simply goes to one of the customer slots with an empty pallet, moves the picked stock onto the pallet and reads the last few digits of the style code through their microphone, the voice system registers what has been placed on the pallet giving visibility of what is being despatched on that particular pallet to which customer and what is remaining in that customers slot awaiting to be palletised and despatched, a facility the company did not have pre-voice.

Bells Stores (now Sainsburys @ Bells), in Middlesbrough, and other convenience operations also use voice for receiving goods, putting those pallets away, replenishing the pick face and counting stock, as well as voice-picking. Bells fully voice-controlled WMS, implemented in 2001, enabled them to improve productivity by 21 per cent and reduce overall warehouse staffing levels by 27 per cent.

The VoiteQ team has been supplying these alternative voice directed warehousing tasks since 1998 and has already proven that voice is not just about simple picking, there is a place for voice within most warehouse operations.

John Harper is sales executive at VoiteQ, a leading expert in the delivery of voice-directed supply chain solutions for the distribution sector with extensive knowledge of the food services and grocery industries.

INFORMATION: Free information is available from VOITEQ on the subject in this story. Click here to request a copy

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