Voice technology has come a long way since it was first adopted in warehouse operations in the 1990s. This first generation of Voice technology was characterized by cumbersome speech recognition methods, proprietary device lock-ins and a limited vocabulary capable of supporting only a small range of mobility tasks. Today, speech recognition technology advancements have ushered in a new era of Voice applications in our day-to-day lives — and expanded potential for Voice in the warehouse. In our second On The Move webinar, Doug Brown, product manager of order fulfillment (Voice), Intelligrated Software, and I discussed this potential in detail.
The webinar, titled "Unshackle your DC operations with modern voice recognition technology," demonstrated how the technology used in modern warehouse Voice solutions has leap-frogged legacy Voice systems to deliver positive impacts to businesses. Not only do modern Voice systems deliver 99.99 percent accuracy and up to 45 percent productivity improvements, they also provide key differentiators that allow Voice to be used in a much more meaningful way in the warehouse, including:
- Rapid new user onboarding (no speech training required)
- Unparalleled remote support capabilities
- Powerful coaching options coupled with the ability to listen and replay any end user's audio tag
Modern speech technology changes the game
Doug and I explained that these impacts are made possible by modern advancements in speech recognition technology that are found in our smartphones, smart TVs and other Voice-enabled devices. We demonstrated how these technologies are leveraged to deliver significant improvements in modern warehouse Voice applications. Here are few of the transformative capabilities enabled by the current generation of technology that were discussed:
- Network-based service - Rather than being limited by the computing power of a mobile device, this cutting-edge speech recognition technology leverages powerful servers and advanced algorithms. This eliminates the need for expensive, proprietary devices and opens the door to features not previously available. Now DC operations managers can monitor and support multiple distribution centers from a centralized location in real time, including individual end user interactions with the system.
- Out-of-the box speech recognition - With more than 70 leading languages and dialects built into the system, Voice solutions can be immediately put to use without requiring cumbersome creation of "voice templates" by each individual employee. This enables rapid user acceptance and achievement of corporate productivity goals.
- Advanced warehouse capabilities - Large vocabulary and advanced, configurable software enables the automation of complex mobility tasks. Modern Voice technology also improves warehouse efficiencies through the consolidation of multiple pieces of information into a single spoken response, by interleaving separate work tasks into a common flow. They also allow multiple users to be active on the same task together, to facilitate role-modeling from the best workers, streamlining training initiatives.
What all this means to typical warehouse operations is that modern Voice systems more easily and rapidly achieve success when compared to their predecessors. As a result, DC managers can immediately put Voice to work on a larger selection of critical processes, instead of dealing with the distraction of trying to implement outdated technologies. Finally, because it is scalable and flexible in nature, modern warehouse Voice systems can blend a broad spectrum of different mobile worker technologies, including: pick- and put-to-light; RF scanning; robotics; and location-based services.
With the increasing complexity of omnichannel fulfillment scenarios, DC managers can utilize modern Voice systems to usher in a new era of productivity and efficiency. To learn more about how you can exploit Intelligrated Voice in your DC operations, please visit the archives section on our website to view this webinar in its entirety. While there, be sure to register for our next episode that will explore how to maximize your material handling system’s ROI with effective lifecycle management.
In recent years, speech recognition technology has become more commonplace in our everyday lives. From mobile devices and computers to car navigation systems and TVs, voice-enabled interfaces are tapping the potential of hands-free efficiency and mobility. Distribution center (DC) order fulfillment processes are no exception.
For the past 20 years, warehouse voice systems have helped improve order fulfillment pick and put-away accuracies, as well as increase workforce productivity. Unlike the personal voice assistants in our smartphones awaiting our beck and call, the utilization of voice technology in order fulfillment is much more structured. And with recent advances in speech recognition technology, it's now even easier for DC operators to leverage the power of voice-enabled systems to transform the efficiency of their operations.
On Jan. 12 at 2 p.m. EST, Doug Brown, Intelligrated's voice product manager; and Sean Wallingford, senior director, strategic operations for Intelligrated Software will present our second On The Move webinar entitled, "Unshackle your DC operations with modern voice technology." In this informative webinar, Doug and Sean will discuss the current state of voice technology and explore its many benefits in warehouse order fulfillment and labor management processes.
Unshackle your DC operations with modern voice technology
The primary advantage of today's speech recognition technology is the integration of network-based processing power that utilizes Internet servers to translate voice input. Instead of being constrained by limited device-level resources - such as CPU, memory and battery - leading warehouse voice systems tap into a network of servers equipped with best-available speech recognition technology. This provides advanced mutliple language support, even adapting to regional dialects and individual speech patterns.
The upcoming webinar will discuss how this network-based technology can be used to transform warehouse accuracy and productivity:
- Automate work processes to accomplish more with greater accuracy - its large vocabulary enables DC operators to perform the most complex tasks within or beyond the four walls, without the restrictions of Wi-Fi networks. This opens up the potential to interleave worker tasks to improve process accuracies, such as cycle counting and real-time replenishment.
- Integrate quickly and easily - network-based voice technology works right out of the box and drops into existing operations, enabling rapid user acceptance through simple role-modeling and remote support from DC experts. Order fillers have the option to pause and ask for help, while DC operators can review audio playback to evaluate productivity and troubleshoot issues.
- Avoid technology lock-ins - unlike voice technology that's enabled at the device level, network servers are upgraded as new technology becomes available. This eliminates the problems of being "locked in" to stagnant technologies and dictated to use specific mobile devices or operating systems. This flexibility allows voice systems to easily scale with changing business needs and blend with other order fulfillment applications - all while remaining compliant with speech industry standards.
So if you're interested in learning more about the latest voice technologies and how you can use them to improve warehouse processes, join us on Jan. 12 at 2 p.m. EST for our next On The Move webinar. Click here to register and save the date for this informative and timely event.
We recently presented the first installment of Intelligrated's new On The Move webinar, an educational series designed to address the fulfillment challenges and trends taking place in the material handling industry. In our inaugural episode, entitled "Responding to labor management challenges in an omnichannel world," Jason Franklin discussed how the convergence of a dwindling warehouse workforce with increasing consumer product delivery expectations is creating a perfect storm for distribution center (DC) operators.
In a world where online shopping, in-store pickup and same-day (and free) shipping are typical consumer scenarios, DC operators are facing complexities on both labor and order fulfillment fronts. But as Jason explained in the webinar, these are problems that Intelligrated's GoalPost® labor management software (LMS) is specifically designed to address. This blog is a summary of the key aspects discussed.
Meeting the challenge of omnichannel consumer expectations
Whether online via a computer or mobile device, picking up the telephone or going to the store, today's consumers purchase goods from multiple channels and expect a seamless shopping experience at every turn. This adds complexity to the order fulfillment process, and subsequent strain on the labor force to meet customer service level agreements (SLAs). With multiple channels to deliver product through, a diverse mix of order priorities and the challenge of e-commerce driving more labor intensive "each" picking scenarios, DC operators must maximize the productivity of their workforce.
Adapting to an evolving workforce and labor shortages
The complexity of omnichannel order fulfillment requires a higher skill level than traditional DC labor tasks. While order fulfillment and replenishment account for 50-65 percent of labor costs in warehouse operations, the industry is in the midst of a labor transition due to several factors:
- Aging of traditional workforce and loss of "tribal" knowledge
- Introduction of millennial generation with a different set of workplace expectations
- Increasing wage competition
- Difficulty retaining employees and recouping lost training efforts
- Accommodating a multigenerational workforce
LMS is the key to addressing modern labor and omnichannel challenges
This combination of market forces is driving retailers to improve the speed and accuracy of measurable tasks such as picking, packing and replenishment and develop clear performance standards. Retailers are also deploying DC-like processes in their stores to maintain these efficiencies and help meet customer SLAs. To tackle these converging challenges, LMS helps DC managers implement a culture of accountability while creating an attractive workplace where performance is incentivized. Here are just a few of the ways Intelligrated LMS can be used to achieve these objectives:
- Develop engineered standards to create clearly defined expectations
- Communicate shared objectives to get employees working toward common goals
- Establish a fair and transparent evaluation system to urge employee accountability
- Incentivize performance through monetary and other reward programs
- Uncover areas of improvement and deploy them to the rest of the team
- Predict staffing requirements and precisely match labor needs to incoming orders and tasks
One of the true advantages of an LMS is its flexibility to adapt to your process requirements and provide immediate improvements. To realize its full potential, DC operators should seek out an LMS provider with both software and labor management expertise.
If you were unable to attend this webinar, please visit the archives section on our website to view it in its entirety. While there, be sure to register for our next episode that will explore how modern voice technology can unshackle your DC operations.
In the final Executive InSight video blog of 2015, John Sorensen, senior vice president and general manager, Lifecycle Support Services, talks about the service and support necessary to keep automated systems running during critical holiday peaks.
On Dec. 10 at 2 p.m. EST, Intelligrated will launch a new webinar series called On The Move. This informative educational platform is designed to address the many fulfillment challenges and trends that are taking place in the material handling industry. Our intent is to give attendees access to insights and unique perspectives from Intelligrated's many internal experts and distinguished guest speakers.
On The Move will utilize an interactive webinar format that allows attendees to submit questions to the presenter throughout the event which will be answered during a Q&A session immediately following the presentation. If a question is not addressed within the allotted time, attendees will receive an answer via email. In addition, we will post previously aired episodes in an archived section here on our website and on our YouTube channel for on-demand viewing.
As fulfillment operations adapt to major transformative forces, such as e-commerce, omnichannel retail and supply integration, we're excited to provide the industry with an educational forum to help us assess the challenges and collaborate to create effective solutions. We hope you'll join us in this important effort. Now, on to our first webinar...
Responding to labor management challenges in an omnichannel world
Our industry is experiencing significant labor challenges. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 60 million baby boomers will exit the workforce by 2025, while only 40 million will be entering the labor pool. Another report by Bain & Company states that 25 percent of warehouse supervisors are older than 55 years old. The result is what's referred to as a "hollowed-out" workforce.
Jason Franklin, our labor management and business intelligent expert, will lead the first installment of On The Move. Jason has a deep understanding of labor challenges modern fulfillment operators face. From the skilled labor shortage and competitive wage pressures to high turnover and seasonal demands, distribution centers are experiencing a labor crisis at a time when service level expectations are higher than ever. He will discuss several approaches to maximizing the engagement of the available worforce through labor management system (LMS) technologies that drive a commitment to accuracy, speed and productivity.
Among the topics Jason will discuss include:
- Incentivizing performance to deliver increased productivity and accuracy
- Creating an environment of employee engagement through commitment to their success
- Leveraging LMS systems to improve the onboarding process
- Rewarding high-performing associates to instill healthy competition
- Using analytics to identify employees who may need additional training
- Providing equipment and tools to help employees thrive
We hope you'll join us on Dec. 10 at 2 p.m. EST for our inaugural On The Move webinar episode. To learn about the latest labor and performance management technologies, click here to register for this important and timely event.