Dec 03 2021

Voice Picking Solutions Are Modernizing Retail Warehouses

The technology can help improve supply chain visibility.

Times and technologies are changing. The ways in which consumers purchase goods require large storage spaces, intricate organization, and quick retrieval and processing of items. Using dated, paper-based systems to manage supply chains can reduce efficiency and cause employees to fall behind in filling orders. Voice picking, however, is challenging the status quo and helping optimize supply chain and warehouse management.

Organizations across industries can benefit from voice picking technology. These solutions provide hardware and software that integrates easily with warehouses and their existing infrastructure. The goal of voice picking is to modernize warehouse technology, support floor staff and enhance warehouse management.

What Is Voice Picking Technology?

Voice picking uses voice prompts to instruct fulfillment workers the picking tasks and their locations. An organization must understand its existing digital supply chain before incorporating new technologies. Having a complete supply chain view in real time is instrumental in identifying gaps in the process. As Jim Dempsey, director of U.S. business development and partnerships at Panasonic North America, explains in a company webinar, “I can look at the single pane of glass, and I can see in real time everything that’s happening within my system.” This helps consolidate information across multiple applications and environments into a single display.

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Once organizations understand where gaps exist, voice picking technology can help improve the process. These solutions are paperless, hands-free systems that incorporate varied technologies. They rely on voice prompts to direct warehouse workers to specific locations and then indicate which products to pick to fulfill customer orders. Panasonic, Honeywell and Voxware are among the leading providers in the space.

How Voice Picking Combats Modern Challenges

As order fulfillment has gotten faster and more complex, consumers can receive goods as quickly as the next business day. Picking is the most expensive component of warehouse operations and where the most errors occur. With a paper-based system, this process is slow and even more prone to error.

Voice picking combines headsets and microphones with speech recognition and warehouse management system or enterprise resource planning solutions, Dempsey explains in the webinar. The software and hardware work in tandem to send directions to workers, and workers then send voice confirmations back to the system. This reduces time spent manually scanning barcodes and entering information and frees workers’ hands and eyes, helping increase efficiency, accuracy and safety.

MORE SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT: How digital transformation can help.

For voice picking to reduce errors and increase productivity, accuracy is key. “There’s a lot of rework that has to happen, and the most costly part is the warehouse environment, when you start having to rework picks and then deal with returns,” says Dempsey in the webinar. One way to improve accuracy is through choosing the right technology. Mobile devices that rest on the hip or wrist and are connected to Bluetooth headsets can provide the most flexibility for workers.

Customizing Voice Picking Solutions

With voice picking, “Warehouses are going to improve their efficiencies,” Dempsey notes in the webinar. However, he also points out that “there might be different technologies that are better suited for different tasks.” In some cases, radio-frequency identification (RFID) or barcode scanning might make more sense over voice picking and related technology. The key is finding the right solutions for each organization to increase optimization.

Panasonic approaches voice picking technology by combining handheld computers, Bluetooth headsets and a customizable software template to create a cost-effective voice picking system.

With the right technology and customization, organizations can transform their warehouse processes, increase visibility into their supply chains and support workers.

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