Lets talk about voice recognition systems

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Duncan Smillie, managing director of Psion Teklogix (UK) describes how three diverse operations have brought significant efficiencies to their supply chains by implementing voice recognition systems

More and more companies are realising voice recognition systems that enable order pickers to have their eyes and hands free during their daily routine can have a dramatic impact on productivity levels. Voice technology is not only beneficial in an order picking scenario, such a system can also achieve significant efficiencies throughout the entire supply chain operation from goods-in to put-away, replenishment and even dispatch. One of the leading players in the food service industry, 3663, recently overhauled its processes and supporting IT infrastructure. Out went the manual pick and stick labelling system that had been running at 3663s four strategically located UK logistics depots at Banbury, Lichfield, Royton and Heywood to be replaced by voice picking technology supplied by Psion Teklogix and our partner Vocollect.

Real-time advantage

Order picking staff at 3663s logistics depots now wear lightweight Vocollect T2 headsets which transmit a prioritised list of jobs from the warehouse management system. Pickers are guided through the stages of the warehouse cycle from goods-in, to replenishment, picking and marshalling via the headsets, and the hands- and eyes-free solution instantly updates the WMS by sending data from the headset in real-time.

Implementing a voice-directed system has enabled 3663s workers to move stock more quickly and accurately through its depots. The system is designed to ensure that employees actions are right the first time and pickers are unable to move on to the next task until they have completed a job correctly. The voice directed system also gives the wearer greater flexibility to complete more picks in a day.

The WMS, which was upgraded as part of the project, also allows 3663s management team to access real-time information showing the precise time a product arrives at the depot, how quickly it is stored and picked, and the period of time it takes to load onto the lorry before being delivered to the customer. This has greatly improved management information enabling jobs to be prioritised and work rotas planned more effectively a particular benefit during busy periods.

Meanwhile, Irish supermarket chain Superquinn has replaced a label stock picking system with advanced voice picking technology supplied by Psion Teklogixs Ireland-based partner, Heavey RF. The solution also included a wireless network, handheld and forklift mounted computers and full integration into the host SAP system. To date, the system has improved Superquinns pick rate by 20 per cent and increased picking accuracy to levels of 99.8 per cent with further improvements expected.

The system which was installed at Superquinns Blanchardstown warehouse in Dublin (managed by Wincanton Logistics) enables electronic orders to be automatically converted to speech by Psion Teklogixs MIS interface platform and directed to the warehouse operators via a Psion Teklogix wireless network. The new system will have paid for itself within a 12 month period and Superquinn has found an improvement in stock pick rates, worker productivity, accuracy, savings in stationery costs and greater transparency of what is happening on the shop floor.


Greater efficiency and accuracy

A fully integrated warehouse management solution at East Anglia Federal Co-Op Societys (EAFCS) 140,000 sq ft Ipswich-based warehouse, features voice picking technology  alongside our Workabout Pro handheld mobile PCs. It has delivered a 20 per cent increase in efficiency and accuracy. The Workabout Pros are used to check-in and scan newly received goods. Once the items are ready for picking, workers use Vocollect Talkman T5 speech terminals to guide them through the process informing them of the required pick location and how many of each item to pick. When all the products have been selected, the Workabout Pros will be used again to check the cages onto waiting lorries. 

Precision is absolutely vital for an operation the size of EAFCS, which dispatches ambient goods to 200 stores across East England. By opting for a mobile wireless solution with automated data capture and the very latest voice picking technology, the company expects to gain a significant return on its investment within 18 months.

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