What is Voice Picking?

Supplier: RF Barcode Systems By: Timothy Muir
06 March, 2009

Voice directed picking is a technology which allows your workers to communicate with your warehouse management system in real-time using speech commands.

Voice directed picking is a technology which allows your workers to communicate with your warehouse management system in real-time using speech commands. Picking is the most widely used application for voice - so much so that the term Voice Picking is sometimes used to describe environments in which all warehouse tasks are performed using a voice-enabled computer.
Voice Picking is: Wearable Technology
Instead of a hand-held scanner, warehouse pickers wear a belt-mounted computer and a headset. The main advantage of this approach to picking is that the user does not need to carry any technology in their hands, allowing them to pick items and cartons quickly and accurately. There is no need to interrupt the workflow by picking up then holstering a scanner or writing on a paper pickslip.
Voice Picking is: Accurate Picking
Voice picking helps pickers to work more accurately by:
  • Providing precise directions to the picker about the aisle, bay, level and position of the location holding the product.
  • Challenging the user to speak the correct check digit from the product (or the racking) BEFORE they are told how many items to pick.
A typical conversation might sound like this:
Talkman: "Aisle 9, bay 2."
Picker: "ready"
Talkman: "Level 1, position 4. Check digit?"
Picker: "331"
Talkman: "Pick 4"
A check digit is typically the last three numbers of the product barcode. While it is not unique across the whole warehouse, it is unique within a shelf. Through a combination of precise picking directions and check digit confirmation, voice picking systems easily reach accuracy rates of 99.95%.
Voice Picking is: Improved Warehouse Throughput
Voice picking systems allow you to cut out unproductive steps from your workflow. For example, in a paper picking environment, pickers will stop for a few seconds after each item is picked to:
  • find the pick line they were working on
  • write down the quantity picked
  • find the next line to be picked
  • walk to the pick location
If the user has a scanner, they will stop for a few seconds to:
  • type in the quantity picked
  • carry the goods to the pallet while they wait for the transaction to process
  • read the next pick location from the screen
  • put the scanner down
  • walk to the location
  • pick up the scanner again
  • scan the product
Voice allows the picker to do more than one thing at a time, and removes several non-productive steps from the process:
  • speak the quantity picked while they are carrying the goods to the pallet.
  • hear the next location while they are walking
  • speak the check digit off the racking
A 'hidden' performance boost in voice and scan picking is the removal of the 'checking' step. Paper warehouses will typically double or triple check outbound goods to confirm accuracy. Using technology to check as you pick can remove 5-10 minutes of checking time from each order processed.
In simple picking environments you should expect a performance increase of 10-25% when moving from paper or scanners to voice technology. If you implement smarter picking strategies like batch picking, you should expect a 40% performance boost.
Voice Picking is: Improved Safety
Voice picking provides improved safety for warehouse workers by removing sources of distraction. Unlike a GPS system, voice systems in the warehouse do not speak continuously to the worker. Instead, voice systems speak an instruction and then wait for a reply from the user. Workers do not need to look at a screen or paper while driving to find the next job, allowing them to keep their eyes on the road.
Voice Picking is: Improved Training Time
Voice picking provides precise directions to the picker on where they should go, and what they should do. When the picker is sent to a location, there is only one product in the bin and the check digit response confirms they have the correct item. Pickers no longer need to have extensive product knowledge - because this information is centralised in your WMS. For a new picker, training time is reduced from weeks to hours. In an environments with a transient workforce, voice represents a significant competitive advantage.
To arrange a demonstration of voice picking in your warehouse, call RFBS on 1300 136 419.