What is voice picking? You may have heard of it before, but you're not sure what it is. Voice picking is a term used in the material handling and warehouse industry. It describes a picking where the worker uses a voice recognition headset to speak the item's location rather than keying it into a hand-held device or keyboard. Take a closer look at voice picking and its pros and cons.
What Is Voice Picking, And How Does It Work
Voice picking is a technology that enables workers to pick products from warehouse shelves using voice commands instead of hand-held scanners. The hands-free and eye-free voice-picking system use speech recognition algorithms and an intelligent voice agent to direct users through tasks. As implied by the phrase "voice picking," organizations initially used these technologies to improve picking processes using speech-only technology.
The voice-picking system captures and records the worker's voice commands and then transmits them to a computer that interprets them and sends instructions to the robots moving the products around on the shelves. This technology is more efficient than traditional scanning methods because it eliminates the need for workers to stop what they are doing to scan barcodes. It also reduces errors and helps to speed up the picking process.
How Does Voice Picking System Work?
Voice-picking software uses simple, ordinary language to communicate with your mission-critical devices and warehouse personnel.
- Each operator has a voice-picking tool, frequently a headset and microphone.
- Orders are captured, put in order, and then released for processing as they are imported from your host system.
- Instructions regarding which picking jobs must be completed and where will be spoken by the operator's voice-picking device.
- Voice devices also have multi-modal feedback, allowing your operator to input data into the system using their voice, text, or a barcode scanner.
- When your voice-picking system issues commands and vocally sends an operator to a warehouse location, the operator must input check numbers to ensure they are in the right aisle, section, and bin.
- The voice-picking system will verify the location before giving your operator the number of picks. Then, your operator verbally confirms that amount.
- The system will direct your operator to the following pick site once picking is finished. To increase productivity and reduce walking across your warehouse, the system will optimize the pick path at every stage of the process.
Related: How to Optimize your Warehouse Picking Process
The Pros Of Voice Picking
Improved Accuracy And Speed
One of the most significant benefits of voice picking is its ability to improve accuracy and speed in a warehouse environment. With voice picking, workers can quickly and easily scan items using voice commands, significantly reducing the likelihood of errors due to manual scanning or keying errors. Additionally, voice-picking systems are often designed to be faster than traditional picking methods, helping to reduce labor costs and increase overall efficiency.
Reduced Training Time
Another advantage of voice picking is that you can often implement it with minimal training requirements. Because voice picking utilizes voice recognition technology instead of manual scanning devices or specialized software interfaces, workers can start using it immediately without extensive training on how to use it. This makes voice-picking an attractive option for warehouses with short-term needs and needing a picking method that can be quickly adopted and abandoned.
Reduced Labor Costs
One of the main benefits of voice picking is its ability to reduce labor costs in a warehouse environment. Compared to traditional picking methods, voice picking systems allow workers to complete tasks more quickly and efficiently, reducing the need for additional staff or increased work hours. Additionally, voice picking can help streamline workflow processes by minimizing human error and improving inventory management, reducing labor costs.
Increased Worker Productivity
In addition to reducing labor costs, voice picking can help increase worker productivity in a warehouse environment. Because voice-picking systems allow workers to complete tasks more quickly and accurately, they can minimize downtime and help them focus on their primary duties. This not only helps improve efficiency and reduce bottlenecks in the supply chain but also improves worker morale by allowing workers to feel more in control of their work and less like just another cog in a sizeable logistical machine.
Scalable and Customizable
Finally, voice picking is a highly scalable and customizable warehouse management system. Because voice-picking systems can be easily integrated with existing warehouses or adapted to suit the needs of specific work environments, they are well-suited for use in warehouses of all sizes. Additionally, voice-picking systems can often be configured to capture additional data beyond item numbers and barcodes, allowing them to serve as more comprehensive inventory management tools. This makes voice picking an attractive option for warehouses that need a cost-effective way to manage their inventory and improve workflow efficiency. Whether you're looking for greater accuracy, reduced labor costs, or increased worker productivity, voice picking may be the right choice for your warehouse operations.
The Cons Of Voice Picking
Expensive To Implement Or Maintain
One possible downside of voice picking is its cost. Compared to traditional picking methods like manual scanning or keying in item numbers, voice picking can be expensive to implement and maintain. This may be a concern for smaller warehouses or businesses looking for a more affordable way to manage their inventory and workflow processes. In addition, voice-picking systems often require high-quality training and support to ensure workers can use them effectively and minimize the risk of errors.
Potential Security Risks
Another potential issue with voice picking is the risk of data breaches or other security concerns. Because voice-picking systems typically rely on voice recognition technology, they may be vulnerable to hackers who could access sensitive warehouse data by impersonating workers using voice commands. Additionally, voice-picking systems may be susceptible to physical tampering or interference if they are not carefully calibrated or maintained.
A final drawback of voice picking is its potential incompatibility with other warehouse management tools and processes. Because voice picking is a relatively new technology, it may not always work well with existing scanners, computers, databases, or other technical infrastructure in a warehousing environment. This can make voice picking less desirable for businesses that have invested significant time and money into optimizing their existing infrastructure and workflow processes.
While voice picking can be an effective and efficient warehouse management tool, it may not always be the right choice for every business or warehousing environment. However, voice picking could be an excellent option for companies looking for a more accurate and cost-effective way to manage their inventory and workflow processes.
Related: 5 Ways Poor Inventory Management is Hurting You
How To Decide If Voice Picking Is The Right Choice For Your Business?
There are several factors to consider when deciding whether voice picking is the right solution for your business. Some key considerations include your warehouse operations' size and complexity, voice recognition technology's availability and quality, budget constraints, and other logistical needs.
To determine if voice-picking is the right choice for your business, you may want to consider consulting with industry experts or conducting a cost-benefit analysis to assess the pros and cons of voice-picking in more detail. Ultimately, the best way to decide whether voice picking is right for your business will depend on your unique warehousing environment and goals. With careful planning, research, and consideration of your individual needs, however, voice picking can be a powerful tool for optimizing the efficiency and productivity of your warehouse operations.
Almost any product category, even those picked and sent by weight or length, including everything from clothing to nuts and bolts, can be managed by voice (wire coil, for example). Today's voice-use industries include, but are not limited to:
- Beverage Wholesalers: Beer, Wine & Spirits, Soft Drinks
- Retail and eCommerce Fulfillment Centers
- Grocery and Food Distribution: Fresh, Frozen, and Packaged Food
- Foodservice and Convenience
- Healthcare Products and Pharmaceuticals
- Manufacturing, Industrial, Parts, HVAC, and Electrical Supplies
- Extensive distribution facilities and warehouses with an area of one million square feet or more make excellent candidates for voice.
- A minimum of 300–500 SKUs should be available. However, there is no top limit, as some voice-enabled manufacturing plants have more than one million separate parts.
- The majority of voice-based DCs have ten or more concurrent pickers each shift. This is because the number of users in a single facility has no upper limit.
Alternatives To Voice Picking
In addition to voice picking, several other warehouse management solutions may better fit your business, depending on your specific needs and goals. Some possible alternatives include traditional scanning or keying in item numbers, RFID tracking, inventory management systems, or automated order fulfillment robots.
Ultimately, the best way to choose the right solution for your warehousing operations will depend on your unique business environment and goals. Whether you're looking for greater accuracy, increased worker productivity, or lower operational costs, it's essential to carefully consider your options before deciding on voice picking or any other warehouse management tool. With careful planning and research, however, you can find the ideal solution for managing your warehouse operations and achieving your business goals.
Voice picking is becoming increasingly popular in the material handling and warehouse industry. It has several benefits, including reducing worker fatigue, improving accuracy, and speeding up the picking process—however, some drawbacks to consider before implementing voice picking into your operation.
At Conveyr we build the tools 3PLs use to compete and win new business. Inventory & order management, returns, mobile pick, and pack, & more. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you improve your inventory management technology in your business.
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