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Voice Picking: Common Misconceptions

Supplier: RF Barcode Systems By: Timothy Muir
15 October, 2015

Quite often during meetings, we find that potential users of voice have prematurely ruled it out as a technology based on a misunderstanding of how the solution actually works. Here I want to talk about some of the most commonly misunderstood aspects of Voice technology.

Misconception: Voice won't be able to understand my workers, who have an XYZ accent.
Industrial voice systems require that users train a voice template - allowing the system to understand the particular accent of each and every worker. 

Misconception: Voice isn't as accurate as scanning. 
Actually, our customers tell us that the opposite is true. With a scanner, the worker's attention constantly switches between product and scanner to check for error messages. If the picker looks away from the product they have scanned to holster their device, they can pick up an incorrect item. With voice, the picker's attention is focused on the product at all times and once the check digit is verified, the correct product is picked.
Misconception: Voice is just like Siri. 
Voice applications for the warehouse work in a fundamentally different way to Siri. With Siri, when you speak into your phone, a recording of your voice is taken and sent to a server on the internet. The server tries to match your voice (which is may never have heard before) against a database of several million items. It then makes a 'best guess' about the answer to your question.
Warehouse voice solutions, only listen to a fixed number of words. They do not attempt to match against the entire dictionary. Prior to go-live, the system takes a recording of each user speaking the words the system will use day-to-day (for example, the numbers 1 to 10, the word 'ready', 'print label', 'short pick' etc). 
This means the system understands your unique speech patterns and is equipped to convert your speech into text on your belt mounted computer (your voice is never sent to a server on the Internet).
When you use an industrial voice system the system is asking you a question, and better yet, it already knows the answer. The voice system accurately converts your response into text and compares your answer with the information it has. In most cases, industrial voice systems are only providing a 'yes/no' answer to the question - have you picked the right item!
Misconception: Voice is like a GPS system. 
GPS systems constantly read instructions to the driver of a vehicle - resulting in constant distractions. Industrial voice systems, on the other hand, read an instruction out once and wait for the user to respond. They do not distract the worker by constantly interrupting their current activity.
Misconception: Voice is only for large warehouses.
Not true - the financial benefits of a voice-directed warehouse can be achieved by warehouses with as few as three pickers. Generally, it is not the size of the warehouse or the number of pickers which is the factor - it is the number of errors voice can eliminate.
Misconception: Voice is only for picking.
Voice solutions can deliver value in any workflow where users are being given directions and must confirm they are performing the task correctly. Additionally, any process in which from workers must have both hands and eyes free will benefit from voice technology. Examples include:
  • Unloading shipping containers and recording stock on to pallets
  • Moving pallets from one location to another
  • Replenishing picking locations
  • Cyclic counting
Voice Picking: Faster, more accurate picking