When it comes to warehouse picking systems, there are few as more widespread as voice picking, a system that employs radio frequency identification (RFID) and/or WiFi to relay easy-to-understand verbal instructions throughout your warehouse.
What is Voice Picking?
Voice picking, also commonly known as voice-directed warehousing (VDW), pick by voice, and speech-based picking, is a paperless, hands-free, and eyes-free system that employs easy-to-understand voice prompts to direct warehouse operators to picking locations, and to instruct them in picking tasks.
How Does Voice Picking Work?
First and foremost, voice-picking systems are designed to keep warehouse operators’ hands and eyes free: they don’t have to glance down, hit buttons, or complete any other system tasks that could otherwise distract them from picking.
Think about it this way: Voice picking uses easy-to-understand, everyday language to converse between your mission-critical systems and your warehouse operators. Here’s how it works:
- Each operator is equipped with a voice-picking device, often a headset + microphone, a mobile device, or a voice-dedicated terminal. Often, operators also carry a barcode scanner for increased efficiency.
- As orders are imported from your host system (for example, your existing warehouse management system (WMS) or enterprise resource planning (ERP) software), they are recorded, sequenced, and then released for processing.
- The operator’s voice-picking device will speak instructions regarding which picking tasks must be performed, and where.
- Voice-picking devices are also equipped with multi-modal feedback, so your operator’s voice (or text entry, or barcode scan) can feed information back into the system.
- When your voice-picking system verbally directs an operator to a specific warehouse location, the operator must then provide check digits upon arrival, to confirm s/he is in the correct aisle or section, and in the correct bin.
- The voice-picking system will confirm location and then provide your operator with pick quantity. Your operator verbally confirms that quantity.
- When picking is completed, the system will send your operator to the next pick location. Notably, the system will optimize the pick path throughout the process, to maximize efficiency and minimize walking through your warehouse.
As mentioned above, many voice-picking systems integrate with your existing warehousing systems. In this case, as each operator carries out his or her assigned order processing/picking tasks, the voice-picking system sends real-time updates to your host system, indicating completed picking, batch completion, and other updates.
Warehousing Applications of Voice Picking
Typically, voice-picking systems are designed for warehouses that manage are a large number of SKUs, and that also require a low number of reaches to pick. A few applications include:
- Picking for kit assembly
- Picking in cold storage
- Full case picking
- Picking in environments that require special clothing (ex. unwieldy gloves) or other protections
What Are the Benefits of Voice Picking?
As far benefits go, the advantages of voice-picking systems are many. To begin, you’ll see an immediate uptick in efficiency: Expect improvements in hourly pick rate and work pace, as well as increased picking accuracy and fewer errors.
Shorter Training Time
Traditional picking can take days (or more) to learn. By contrast, because voice picking uses plain, everyday language, your warehouse operators won’t have to learn data entry, or how to read complicated paperwork, or get up to speed on the process of applying labels. After a few training sessions, operators will be ready to hit the warehouse floor.
With fewer distractions, no devices in hand, and armed with better, easy-to-understand instructions, you can expect your warehouse operators to increase their picking accuracy by up to 85%. That’s not only better for your warehouse but also yields satisfied end customers.
Voice-picking systems are hands-free and eyes-free, so your warehouse team will have only to concentrate on the task at hand (literally). This boils down to simpler processes – no more handling instructions, leafing through paperwork, or grabbing devices – and enables eyes-on picking. In other words, voice picking eliminates physical obstacles and can, therefore, increase productivity by up to 35%.
When you take devices and other distractions out of hands and away from eyes, a direct benefit is greater safety and fewer damages. Think about it this way: Is it safe to use a box cutter when you’re simultaneously trying to navigate paperwork, or is it safer to operate that box cutter when your hands are free and your eyes are 100% focused on your task? Voice picking eliminates the risk of injury caused by distraction.
Happy employees are better, more motivated employees. When you simplify your warehouse operations, you cut down on common frustrations, incentivize better work, and create more satisfied, happier employees. And that means decreased employee turnover.
So, does your warehouse already use voice picking? Or, are you considering converting your current system to a voice-picking system?