Monday, October 1, 2012

Voice Technology in Warehouses

After watching the video on Kiva's automated bots moving around Gilt's Warehouse made me start thinking about other solutions that have been invented. Long before Siri became famous manufacturers and suppliers were already investing in Voice Technology to maintain and manage their warehouses. Voice technology utilizes speech recognition algorithms to automate the interaction between workers and the Inventory or Warehouse Management System. This technology works over the warehouses existing wireless or radio frequency network. Each worker is given a headset and a small device that can be worn along the waist. The system gives the worker spoken instructions and also confirms and keeps a track of the actions. This has been widely adopted for Order Picking purposes but can also be used for Stock Checking, Receiving Goods etc.

The Problem:
Managing and maintaining a warehouse requires heavy investment in space, resources and energy in handling and managing items. Multiple series of complex processes and procedures go behind the scenes of running a warehouse. Since a lot of the work is still done manually there is a large dependency on efficiency of the workforce.

Traditionally speaking the order picking routine involves a worker manually picking up orders. The list of orders is usually given to the worker on a sheet of paper with instructions of what products to pick and what location to place them at. Each worker would manually locate the item and then place it on the appropriate. While this seems like a rather simple procedure it is bound to be erroneous if the picker reads a number wrong and picks up a wrong item or places the right item in the wrong location. These mistakes can reduce payoffs and increase delays and inefficiencies in the system.

Voice Technology has revolutionized the way order picking is done currently. It reduces error rates by reducing time and eliminating the hand eye co-ordination required in a paper based method. It has been noticed that using voice synthesis reduced error to 99%. This is a dramatic difference from what is usually observed in a paper-based technique. Using a system like this allows workers to pay more attention in picking up the items as opposed to focusing on maintaining a checklist of products. This voice picking system also collects user response on the item status such as a simple “Check”. Apart from the benefits mentioned above, the voice picking systems also allows warehouse managers to know what the pickers are doing and whether they are using the system. This way the managers can keep track of their progress in real time. Voice technology is being adapted in ways to get trained by the worker in order to match the workers accent and language.

The Future of Voice Technology:
After learning more about this technique my mind wandered to think of the future of voice technology. I'm inquisitive to know if any of these could be viable ways for the technology to progress
  • Could we calculate most efficient routes and accordingly order lists to minimize time spent in picking?
  • Could Voice Technology in combination with smart algorithms benefit warehouse management by giving instructions to workers based on their location? For example, using real time notification systems could it alert a worker when it passed an order that needed to be picked?
  • With advancement in warehouse automation and warehouse bots what will be the future of voice technology? Could the two be combined to offer services that revolutionize the way things are done currently?

3) Photo:

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this post. It is very informative and insightful. Warehouses play a very important role in shipping conies. My shipping company uses a consolidation center for businesses and it works great. I have been using the same company for a while now and have no home direct complaints at all.


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