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Good warehouse managers and distribution center operators are always looking for ways to improve operational efficiency and to implement cost-saving measures. Order picking is a crucial part of the distribution process, and it’s an area that can be substantially improved through one simple change: the use of a voice picking system.
With voice picking, employees receive verbal instructions through the warehouse management system to their wireless headsets. This replaces paper lists and handheld devices such as tablets or barcode scanners that require manual data entry. Using this type of system offers many benefits in four key areas: productivity, accuracy, workforce advantages, and improved safety.
- Productivity:Time is money, particularly in today’s competitive business environments, where speed of order fulfillment contributes to both sales volume and customer satisfaction. With a voice picking system, employees can work faster because they can be listening and responding while on the move, rather than having to study orders on paper or devices. They can also pick items more effectively because both hands are free — no juggling lists or scanners along with the picks. Another advantage is immediate communication with management, so any problems can be reported and solved on the spot. Companies utilizing this technology report productivity increases anywhere from 15 to 35 percent.
- Accuracy:While speed counts in fulfillment, accuracy is even more important. It doesn’t matter how fast an order ships if it contains the wrong items. Returns and replacements can be costly, not only in terms of time and money but in customer satisfaction and company reputation. The accuracy rate of voice picking can exceed 99 percent. With a voice system, workers can quickly and easily verify location and item information by repeating key numbers for confirmation. This method also facilitates correct fulfillment of more complex or specialized orders (for example, a liquor distributor dealing with split-case orders). The system can also increase accuracy of inventory counts, which can be updated as each task is completed.
- Workforce Advantages:The ability to significantly improve productivity and accuracy creates a higher degree of job satisfaction for employees. They also benefit from knowing they are being given the most effective tools and up-to-date technology to help do their jobs. This satisfaction can result in a lower turnover rate, which means less time training new hires. Even when new employees are needed (an increase in seasonal workers, for example), training time and costs can be reduced with a voice picking system. Users can learn the basics of the system in a matter of hours and gain proficiency quickly. In addition, the direct communication of the headset allows them to ask questions at any time and receive guidance as they go.
- Safety:Warehouses and distribution centers can be full of potential hazards, and workplace accidents can result in major losses of time and money as well as personal injury. Voice picking systems can improve safety records. When employees do not have to focus on paper lists or data on handheld devices, they can pay more attention to their surroundings and be alert to any hazards. The headsets leave both hands free for climbing ladders, using stair railings, handling boxes, and performing other tasks more effectively.
With all of the benefits they offer, voice picking systems are a sound investment that will improve efficiency, accuracy, and safety of your operations. Look for an experienced IT integrator who can help choose, install, and maintain a system and related services (such as a wireless network) that will work best for you.