Today we are sharing a recent interview with Jim Donahue, Advanced Mobile Group’s resident expert on Voice Collection, who has some thoughts about trends we should expect to see in 2018.
Q. – “We hear a lot about ‘Modernization’ this year as well, but in terms of businesses moving out of the legacy ‘green screen’ technology into modern touchscreens. Where does Voice Collection play a role in this?”
Jim D: That’s a great question. You’re correct in asserting that most people think of the “modernization” movement is mainly about upgrading their scanners, but it goes much deeper than that. Ten years ago, bar codes and scanners were pretty much the entire conversation, and that assumption still holds for many today as well. But with the recent explosion of resurgent RFID technology, voice collection and other adaptive technical solutions like “pick-to-light” and similar applications, the definition of “modernization” is definitely much broader than it may have once been.
It’s perfectly logical now for a facility that has run on barcodes and scanners for years to consider “modernization” to include upgrading their Receiving and Putaway processes to an RFID system, implementing Voice Collection for their Replenishment and Picking processes and upgrading their traditional scanners in their Packing and Shipping areas where they might still use barcodes. It’s all a factor of what is best for the business, including everything from ROI to improved accuracy to better ergonomics for their teams.
Q – “Is it a situation where the different solutions are competing for funding?”
Jim D: Not necessarily. When you get into a facility and analyze the major processes and sub-processes, it’s important for consultants like us to be somewhat “solution agnostic,” because the technologies are complementary in most cases, and as I mentioned in the example earlier, have their own advantages and disadvantages by process area and industry.
Q – “Where do you see Voice Collection playing a role that might not be on everyone’s radar?”
|1 - Lufthansa now uses Voice Collection for their inspection process|
Jim D: One of my favorite new applications that I’ve seen popping up recently and expect to see a lot more of, is in “Maintenance and Inspection.” This is an area not quite associated with the Supply Chain/Logistics world, so it might be news to some to see airlines and trucking companies starting to implement this solution. With Voice Collection, the inspection process is simplified as it allows the inspection team to leave behind their clipboards, as the system guides them to each item for inspection, and they can report its status in real-time by voice. Aircraft maintenance at Lufthansa, for example, has reduced its inspection times by HALF. The inspector goes through the checklist verbally, and for each item can state “dirty,” “broken,” “cracked,” etc.
This is something also being implemented for trucks too, by Penske and possibly United Rentals. I would be surprised if this didn’t become the norm for the airline and trucking industry within 3-5 years.
Q – “Is there a possibility this is something big that could go well beyond inspections?”
Jim D: Absolutely. I imagine that this could get implemented further down the process and become the foundation of the entire maintenance operation. For example, someone inspecting an airplane engine indicating “cracked” in reference to a part, and the part itself immediately becomes part of a batch of things being collected by someone else collecting them for the maintenance team, with that person doing their picking and sorting by Voice as well. The maintenance person (if different from the parts picker), could also then use Voice to move in order to each area requiring maintenance – including any standard items like re-lubricating, cleaning, etc. - and be given instructions where to replace which part. You can already envision the entire process being paperless this way.
Q – “The impact of ‘paperless’ seems like it would be attractive to others, who else would benefit?”
Jim D: The Retail industry actually stands to make big gains with this technology. Right now, the industry has undergone a huge transformation that is still in progress. With the explosion of e-Commerce over the last twenty years, every retailer has had to evolve to build facilities that let them serve customers directly anywhere, with or without a store, much in the way traditional catalogers like L.L. Bean and Land’s End had been doing for decades. The result has been a huge amount of investment in direct-to-consumer facilities which will typically be using more traditional bar-coding systems for picking, sorting, packing and other processes.
While the traditional definition of “savings” for retailers who start shipping direct is focused on the “lower overhead without the brick and mortar” rationale, that isn’t relevant any longer now that the direct business is a standard part of the operation. Voice Collection is a great option for processes like Replenishment, where cases can be picked without paper, as well as Picking, which allows them to eliminate the need to apply labels. Depending on a business's specific picking process, this isn’t going to work for everyone without re-engineering their picking and sorting processes, but the speed and accuracy improvements will generally justify the work involved to implement it in those cases too.
Q – “While the rationale for Voice Collection inside the warehouse seem logical, what about the processes outside of the warehouse?
Jim D: Yes, there are some areas outside of where I see this taking off as well. One particular example is in extending the reach of the physical retail store in its own neighborhood. For example, a large retail chain could have a high-performing online ordering system, but those orders are usually fulfilled from large warehouses far from the retail territory where the customer is living. Rather than have the customer wait 3-7 days or more for a delivery, orders can be fulfilled at the store and delivered next day, or even same day. A driver with a low-profile Bluetooth headset can be directed to addresses, provided relevant information on the box/product in the truck and not have to sort and search for the package when he arrives at the destination. Likewise, the same driver could be directed to do his own picking in the retail store-room or shelves making it a seamless, end-to-end process, also without paper.
|2 - Expect to hear more about "Connected Freight" in this space...|
The hands-free experience means that both the picking selection is more accurate, AND the driver is safer not having to be distracted by anything visual while driving to an address.
So, to summarize, here are three sectors I see as being big beneficiaries of Voice Collection in 2018:
- Inspection and Maintenance (airline, trucking industries)
- Retail direct-to-consumer operations
- Local Retail and Delivery operation
Q – “Finally, what are you going to be looking into as another potential growth area beyond 2018?”
Jim D: I’ll finish with two words: “Connected Freight.” There are some really interesting things coming to fruition here that leverage the integrated scenario I referred to when we started earlier. The combination of passive sensing technology and other technologies, combined with some sophisticated BI tools will lead to big changes in the freight industry, initially for high-value goods including anything from an entire container to a single package.
About Jim Donahue
Jim brings more than 20 years of experience delivering primarily supply chain solutions, including hardware and software. Jim also has extensive experience with the voice data collection and expects to provide these services to Advance Mobile Group’s customers.
Jim Donahue most recently worked for Honeywell under the VoCollect division. Jim is a Certified Project Manager and Six Sigma Green Belt with expertise in optimizing Supply Chain, Merchandising and Retail efficiencies for maximum profitability.
To find out if your business might be the next industry trending in Voice Collection and Modernization, contact Jim here.