Voice Collection Sounds Great – But How Does It Really Work?

Posted by Advanced Mobile Group on May 8, 2018 7:30:00 AM

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As we’ve noted on multiple occasions in this blog, there are some big advantages that businesses are starting to discover about Voice Collection. While we have walked through a lot of the potential processes that can be improved and the “how to” of how it works, it is perfectly reasonable that many of our readers have asked “Does it really work like that?” or “Is it REALLY that easy?”

We heard you. Seeing is believing, we get it. So, this week, let’s walk through a few videos of the tools in use, which tell the story much better than we may have.

We’ll look at the following scenarios, and share some excellent video representations out there on YouTube:

  1. Picking to pallet with a pallet cart
  2. Aerospace (engine) Inspections
  3. Batch Picking
  4. Put-away
  5. Piece Picking to Carton

Picking to Pallet (With a Pallet Cart)

In our first example, workers are directed to bin numbers by the voice system, and the sequence goes something like this:

VOICE: “Bin 427”

Picker: [arriving at bin] “427”

VOICE: “One (as in “pick 1”)”

Picker: “One (as in “I picked 1”)”

VOICE: “Bin (next)”

Picker: [Driving to next assigned bin]

As the video shows, it makes everything VERY easy – and eliminates the paper.

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Note in the second example, the Bin numbers you hear can be seen on the video too. A reminder that when you eliminate paper and want to improve speed, not only will voice help, but you can maximize the impact by leveraging other senses (like sight) by ensuring you have big visible labels, as well as adequate lighting.

Put-Away Your Cartons – and Your Bar Codes?

Our next example is a great one for re-thinking how you label things. If you are like most facilities, you have a Receiving process that requires everything be labeled with a standard 4x6 label with bar codes and other data on it, much of it scannable. But if you did not need barcodes for put-away, would you need to label them at Receiving at all? Or would you label them differently to speed things?

In this example, Voice Collection directs the lift driver to an available bin where the goods are to be stored, then directs the case count as well. This nice twist in this example, however, is the “override” command the driver responds with because he saw that the bin had the capacity for much more than what the system was aware of. 

Now imagine an even more dynamic approach where the driver simply finds the first available space and then records into the system by voice only where it was stored. When the next round of case picking begins, Voice Collect will know where everything is and can set up the routes for the pickers automatically maximizing efficiency for both put-away and picking.

In this scenario, how would you label your cases in Receiving?

Aerospace Inspections

Now for something very different. An airline doing engine inspections (in this case, a generator harness) is using Voice Collection to speed up inspections not only by guiding the inspector through the process but integrating with the other equipment they use to maintain a high level of quality control over the whole process.

Also, in this example, you can see the security protocol at work as the inspector needs to say a password to start the process:

Other notable features:

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  1. The inspector has a camera that the system asks him to use to “take pictures all around the engine.”
  2. Confirms the receipt of a logbook with the equipment.
  3. Confirms the presence of the hardware, the type, model# and even the information from the container it came in.
  4. Inspector also has a tablet (conveniently mounted on a stand) that displays exploded diagrams of the area being inspected to make parts numbers visible.
  5. The entire operation is very customized and dynamic – it requests extra photos of any damaged part, asks for additional observations, not on the standard list, accepts subjective evaluations of wear and tear, etc.

And within minutes, the inspector is finished, and a maintenance order, parts list, and schedule can all be processed and forwarded to the maintenance team immediately, getting the harness back into circulation faster than ever. 

Picking – by Batch

Our two examples of picking include a Batch and Piece Picking example.

In the Batch scenario, the voice on the video is hard to make out due to its speed, but the Picker in the video is narrating a bit for us as she goes along and demonstrates some specific examples of how they’ve become more efficient. The best example here is one where she indicates she can pick boxes for two stores at once (with similar orders) rather than one at a time.

The other notable aspect of this process is the way the facility has been designed so that no one has carry their totes around, they can move from station to station on a roller conveyor.

Picking – by Piece

For piece picking, the process is generally the same. The point in showing two examples of picking here is that the Voice Collect tool is extremely flexible. Given that Picking is one of the most variated processes between businesses that is notorious for not having any single piece of equipment that can be used by everyone, having a solution with the flexibility and adaptability of Voice Collection is unique in this space.

While this warehouse does not provide standardized bins on roller conveyors, (but uses cardboard boxes instead with a conveyor at the end of the aisles where it will get placed once full), the products being picked here are clearly very lightweight and small. More importantly, this example works almost exactly like our first one, the pick-to-pallet process we started with.  So, while the Voice Collection system is incredibly flexible in its adaptability to any process, it also shows that one good method for one process can be copied for others to keep things simple.

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Finally, the one other feature that comes to mind in this situation is the ability to adapt to the workforce, and workforce diversity. Voice Collection can reduce errors while also allowing you to expand the pool of your labor force as you can now easily train workers who may not be native English speakers. Much in the same way the Engine Inspection process required the login protocol for the inspector, imagine also querying the Picker with the following:

VOICE: ”Employee ID?”

Picker: ”Number 10924”

VOICE: ”Pin Number?”

Picker: “091873”

VOICE: ”Language?”

Picker: ”Vietnamese”

VOICE: “Chào mừng. Bạn có thể bắt đầu. (Welcome. You may begin.)”

Is That Better?

Hopefully, the visuals shared here will help not only to understand how Voice Collection is being used today but to drive the imagination on what the possibilities are. As noted in many of the examples, the adaptability is key. When you take the paper out of everyone’s hands, it not only frees their hands to work more efficiently and productively, it reduces fatigue as well. Combine that with some imaginative use of other senses (like a more visual warehouse using large labels and colors for guidance), the integration of other tools (like cameras, inspection or quality control equipment) and language possibilities, and a vision for a very different type of Distribution Center and some very big possibilities start to become visible.

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Topics: Inventory Managment, Voice Technology, Technology Trends

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