This column was originally posted in March 2015 and has been updated.
We talk about voice enablement with enterprises throughout the supply chain a lot, and here a lot of stories about their prior experiences with traditional voice applications. Their stories are maddening. Their stories are horrifying. Their stories are the kind that make anyone with P&L responsibility want to scream. Too often, these recounted experiences are stories of large up-front investments and then a bunch of unforeseen expenses post-deployment. The problem is the traditional voice application model, which adds costs in these four common areas:
Voice-dedicated hardware: Traditional voice apps require a separate, proprietary computer (typically worn on the belt or shoulder of the worker), that houses the speech-to-text and text-to-speech processing. However, if the barcode scanning mobile computers you’re deploying are fairly current (introduced to market in 2008 or later)), they already have the audio capabilities and computing horsepower to handle the voice processing, so you don’t need to buy proprietary voice hardware.
Middleware or “System Interfaces”: In most warehouse applications, you’re workers are already interfacing to a host system – your WMS, ERP or other supply chain management system. And, in most of these cases, your workers are using Terminal Emulation on their mobile computers to interact with this host system. There is no need to wedge additional middleware in between your host system and mobile device client in order to enable voice. You’re interest is to recognize productivity gains by adding voice to your existing mobile application, so there is no need to buy middleware to enable voice.
Host System Modifications: Recently, I wrote about the problems that can arise when your voice vendor wants to make changes to your host system. You’ve invested a significant amount of money in your host system, and you don’t need another vendor putting their hands in there (and changing you consulting services fees to do it). Adding voice to the mobile application should simply pass data back to the host system in the same way that barcode scanned or key-entered data is communicated. Your host system shouldn’t even need to know which method of data capture was used for a given data field, so adding voice shouldn’t require changes to your host systems.
Post-Deployment Host Modifications: Once your workers are voice-enabled and you’re realizing the productivity gains of voice-enablement, should you discover a process change that will further optimize your workflow, many traditional voice vendors will require that you contract them to contribute to the changes you want to make to your host system. They want to be included because they’ve already made changes to your host system to make their voice application work, so if you want to make any changes, they’ll need to ensure their application isn’t adversely affected. Deploying voice-enablement shouldn’t require host system modifications, so you shouldn’t have to pay professional services fees to your voice vendor every time you want to make a change to your host system.
If you’ve encountered any of these issues when considering adding voice to your picking or other warehouse workflows, it’s time to look at Speakeasy. It’s 100% mobile device driven (no proprietary voice hardware or middleware required), and does not require any modifications to your host system (which also eliminates the associated post-deployment costs). You get the productivity benefits of full-featured voice-enablement, but without all these additional costs that often make traditional voice applications cost prohibitive. Plus, you can deploy in as little as 30 days, so the productivity gains and cost savings can start adding up quickly.
Posted by Robert DeStefano
At Wavelink, we’re all excited about our most recent release of our Velocity platform. In case you missed it, with version 1.2, we have extended our Android modernization experience beyond telnet to also include web applications. But, you may ask, what does this really mean?
Think of it this way: If you have been running a web-based application on your Windows Mobile/Windows CE mobile devices, and are considering refreshing your devices, you might be considering new mobile devices that run Android. Then, you have to think about the compatibility of those web applications with a different operating system, browser, and the change from stylus/pen entry to touchscreen navigation. There’s a huge leap from Windows CE/Mobile 6 to Android, and you only take advantage of the intuitive user experience if your apps are designed for that touchscreen experience.
Just as Velocity helps terminal emulation users avoid the costs, risks and effort of application migration, the platform now offers similar advantages for companies that use web-based apps. A couple of cool things that make Velocity a great next-generation solution for your mobile web apps:
- Modernize without changing your host application: Velocity does its magic to bring your mobile web apps to the Android platform, without messing with your host application.
- Keep workers on task: Just as Wavelink’s Industrial Browser and VelocityCE products have done for the Windows Mobile platform, the Velocity Android Browser gives you the ability to lock down the browser so workers aren’t tempted to exit the app/task their supposed to be using.
- A path forward for Windows browsers: Whether you’re existing web apps are running through Wavelink’s industrial browsers or Naurtech CETerm, the Velocity platform is designed as the path forward – bringing these web apps to the latest mobile operating systems. This is especially important for users of SAP’s ITSMobile application, where Naurtech CETerm had been the SAP-recommended browser.
We’ve got a lot of cool things going on with Velocity, with even more exciting features on the way. Are you ready to help your workers do more?
Productivity is a global language, and the challenge to continuously realize gains year-after-year is universal. Over time, I’ve covered several of the myths about voice applications, hidden costs to watch out for, and also how to add voice to mobile solutions you already have in place. Another topic to consider is how to realize the productivity gains you’re targeting – even with all the dynamics in warehouse technology. For this, I’ll share an excerpt from an article published by MHD Supply Chain Solutions in Australia, authored by Wavelink’s own Simon Storey, country manager for Australia and New Zealand:
From the article: Wearables and Voice, MHD Supply Chain Solutions, January/February 2016
“Significant productivity gains
Equipped with a wearable computer and voice capabilities, the productivity improvements for warehouse and DC staff can be seen instantly. Rather than having to pause to refer to a
screen for a pick list and enter commands, details can be communicated to them as they move about the facility.
Termed “motion flow”, such an advance can have a large impact on staff productivity.
For example, staff at 3M Australia’s warehouse in Sydney have been using voice capabilities for more than 12 months. In that time, the staff have embraced the technology and find it helps them improve accuracy and efficiency.
Distribution centre manager for 3M Australia, Daniel La Greca said the high pick rate within his warehouse is extremely complex and labour intensive.
‘Our people love the fact that they can now keep their eyes on the ball by speeding-up the scanning stage,’ he said. ‘I’m confident that the ability for us to do all of our picking functions without setting down and picking up devices will save a significant amount of time, resulting in significant savings and new efficiencies.’”
Check out the full article (registration required), including perspectives on the “perfect storm” of change that warehouse operators are facing, as well as suggestions for how to incorporate these technologies with a layered approach. How are advances in mobile technology influencing your future plans for maximizing productivity? Email me or contact me on Twitter at @Rob_DeStefano
Posted by Robert DeStefano
A few weeks ago, we released an update to the on-premise and SaaS versions of our Avalanche product. With three decades of managing mission-critical mobile devices under our belt, one might think the release of a service pack is a bit mundane. However, the recent activity around Avalanche has been quite the opposite.
Along with this release, we took a moment to celebrate the most recent validation we received from a long-time device manufacturer and partner. Although Avalanche has been validated numerous times over the years by Zebra, we’re extremely proud to have received Zebra Enterprise Validation on their latest mobile computers. As customers choose the recently released TC70 series or the brand new TC8000 for their mobility deployments, they can rest assured that managing those devices with Avalanche is more than “just another-third-party enterprise mobility management product”.
Zebra Enterprise Validation “confirms an application works as intended on a particular Zebra Technologies device. Application developers participating in the program work closely with Zebra Technologies’ engineers to validate their application’s functionality under common customer usage scenarios. This thorough evaluation provides assurance that devices will perform as expected when used with the application.”
Wavelink is honored to receive such recognition. While our own extensive knowledge of mission critical productivity inspires the products we build, the extensive, independent testing performed by a device manufacturer provides our customers an even higher level of assurance. Enterprises don’t have time for vendor finger-pointing, or products that offer “limited support”. Businesses depend on all of us, as solution providers, to deliver compatibility as part of our partnership. Wavelink delivers on that promise with each of our products, and we’re proud to add this badge of validation as a symbol of our continued commitment to our customers and partners.
Posted by Robert DeStefano
I’m a fan of auto racing. Stock cars, specifically. I’ve always been fascinated by the adjustments teams make over the course of a single race that can make the difference between a car that is capable of running mid-pack, and one that can be a top-10 car or race leader. Dialing in everything from tire air pressure, to adjustments that can loosen or tighten up handling in the corners, a driver can start a race with a car that feels one way, and by the final few laps, have a car that’s handling a completely different way.
Drivers can adjust the way they drive, but only so much. When the throttle is on the floor, but the car just won’t hold the bottom line coming out of the corners, there’s data that can tell the crew what adjustments need to be made – and that data doesn’t just show up as the team’s position on the track. It comes in the form of telemetry: RPM from the car’s tachometer, fuel consumption stats, driver commentary. Then there’s data that comes from outside the car: air temperature, weather changes (cloud cover alone can impact how a car is handling), oil on the race track, etc. That data comes from a variety of sources, but, when put together, allows pit crews to make intelligent, data-driven decisions that improve the chances of winning the race.
It’s very similar to how dashboards help you make decisions that can improve business processes. You want to be sure your workers are as productive as possible. This information comes from a number of data sources across your business (some from your WMS, more from your IT service desk, sprinkle in some from your mobile device population, etc.). When you pull the information you need from across these sources and look at them together, you get the important data you need to make decisions that optimize your business workflows.
Two more similarities: First, speed. You need to be able to access and interpret the data quickly, so powerful visualizations are important so that you can spot trends and make adjustments quickly – just like a crew chief having the data so that he can instruct the pit crew on what adjustments to make to the race car before it arrives on pit road. Second: shared use. Different team members – on the track, and in your business, need different reports from a common mix of data sources to be able to do their job at their very best.
Want to win the race for productivity gains in your business? Take our Xtraction data reporting solution for a test drive. With so many available data connectors, you’ll soon have all the visibility you need to take the lead!
Posted by Robert DeStefano
Drones, M&A activity, a crash in oil prices – these topics and more helped shape 2015 for all of us who work throughout the supply chain. There are always unexpected events that force change in our markets, and certainly the past year hasn’t disappointed. So, as we bid adieu to 2015, it’s time to set our sights on what we might expect in 2016.
- Device manufacturers set the stage for an Android/Windows decision: Several manufacturers of rugged mobile computers are introducing devices with some skus that run Windows and others that run Android. Android’s share has been growing in our space. The question is: whether a Windows 10 release will slow the momentum, and make some who have been waiting to upgrade, feel confident doing so.
- Wider deployment of mobility in consumer-facing use cases: It’s been discussed for years, but the choice of larger-screen mobile devices available for store associates to carry on the showroom floor has reached critical mass. Now is the time when retailers will be looking at apps like guided selling and mobile POS to provide an enhanced customer experience.
- The Internet of Things will get more vertical: Both literally and figuratively. We’ve seen a few examples of IoT in our world – things like robotic warehouse shelving, but as the hype continues, we’ll see some interesting concepts introduced in the coming year. Drones will be part of this. Whether or not you agree, they are part of the IoT. The concepts and use cases for these devices are getting attention.
There are also the numerous surprises that will come during 2016, and we’re looking forward to evaluating these alongside you! What predictions do you have for the mobile productivity space in 2016? Email me with your thoughts and/or wish list for the upcoming year.
Finally, all of us at Wavelink that you for trusting us as your partner for mobile productivity. We wish you all the best for a healthy, happy, and productive 2016!