Author: Kelly Ungs
Posted by Kelly Ungs
In this brief, I am going to tell you three signs that you can easily spot that will tell you if you can optimize your warehouse or distribution center operations. I am going to make an assumption here that you are already using a terminal emulation or browser based materials management system. I don’t care which one, just that it is based on Telnet (TE) or a browser. Wavelink can easily and quickly enable voice for almost any of those in the market today. It can be a WMS, ERP, CRM, or any other system that drives your workers and allows them to feed work information into as they do their job.
- First, watch your workers. If they are frequently stopping to read their paper or the display on their mobile computer/scanning device, then you can likely reduce the amount of time it takes for them to do their job. The more they stop, the more you can easily improve it. The device display is still critical because it can contain so much information vital to competing the task or be used in configuring and troubleshooting, but if workers are often stopping to read we can help. Tasks assignment and reminders can be spoken to the worker allowing them to continue moving toward their goal as they listen.
- Next, does it take a long time to bring people on board in your operation? Is most of the time spent trying to explain what all the parts and exceptions are, and are those already in your IT systems you use to collect data as they work? If the answer is yes to either of those, then Speakeasy can likely help you improve productivity. It has the ability to break the task down to small explainable parts. Workers can ask the system to repeat commands, locations, and data sent to them by the host that is required to do their job. Workers who formerly went through three-day training sessions now are frequently productive workers in less than a half day of job training. The end time depends on your processes and automation but we almost always can reduce this time.
- Finally, are your workers more productive when they have both hands free to work? Headsets and ring scanners attached to mobile computers allow workers to dive in with both hands and optimizes worker productivity. As a benefit this reduces lost and broken devices as workers are not setting them down to do the work before recording and updating systems with their work in process or completed tasks.
This is the second blog in a two part series on the benefits, and the quick and easy install, of Wavelink Speakeasy.
After all of the updates have been made to your system, it is time to demonstrate Speakeasy in your environment.
We recommend bringing up two workers initially; first someone who is a capable worker at the enabled function should be introduced to the system. Since we are using your software, they won’t need a lot of training, and will be familiar with the terminology, methodologies, and work steps used in the system. These first workers typically show a 25-35% improvement after the first couple days of using the system.
The second worker should be someone who is a marginal worker, someone who can barely make work standards. Once enabled and onto the production floor, we have found these workers to gain a 60-75% increase in productivity while reducing errors to <1%, and improving safety. Since their eyes are off the display of their device and are on where they are going or the items they are working with, their incidents of crashes and accidents drop off dramatically.
Wavelink has discovered that reduced training time of new workers is a huge side benefit, often reducing training times for new employees from days or weeks down to hours or even a single day.
Most customers that install Speakeasy roll out quickly, and add in other voice functions soon after their initial installation. Since changes and updates can be made in minutes moving to other facilities can follow the same 30 day or less process as the original facility and be receiving their return on investment before competitive systems can even get a test client out for basic validation.
The differentiators our customers and partners see in Speakeasy systems from traditional solutions include:
- All of the voice function is on the mobile computer device, and the speech function is speaker independent. That means no new servers or WLAN infrastructure is required to support Speakeasy voice.
- Customers can use their choice of mobile computer devices, not proprietary hardware required by the speech vendor, reducing their acquisition cost and ongoing maintenance costs and fees.
- Speakeasy allows for multimodal data entry, which means workers can input using voice, scanning, key presses, or even screen taps, however you choose. Any single method or combination you specify can be supported by Speakeasy. Adding or deleting a method is easier than you can imagine.
- There is no corporate system integration or middleware required. Speakeasy eliminates the complexity of system implementation. In fact if you monitor the traffic between your mobile computer and host systems, there will be NO CHANGE when you add Speakeasy to your corporate data systems.
- You more than likely already have productivity measurement systems in place to monitor and manage your mobile workers. NO CHANGES are required to continue to use those systems. Why would you pay someone for ANOTHER new monitoring system when either you have one in place, or your WMS or ERP provider offer one specifically for their system.
- Since Speakeasy is confined to the mobile device, it won’t run up huge data bills on public networks. Your web app can easily adapt to Speakeasy and allow your field mobility workers speech applications using the same application you have employed today.
In closing, one of the biggest problems Wavelink has to overcome is that Speakeasy voice systems sound too good to be true. I challenge anyone who wants to make their workforce more productive, more accurate, and safer to contact their Wavelink rep today!
This is the first in a two part series on the benefits, and the quick and easy install, of Wavelink Speakeasy.
Everyone involved in warehousing or distribution center operations knows there is a clear, sharp focus on increasing productivity and accuracy. The market is full of companies that offer optimizing solutions, but most want you to throw away most of what you have and start over. The Wavelink solution, Speakeasy, is a lot of fun to bring to the market because it is evolutionary rather than revolutionary, allowing you to capitalize on the system you have spent so much time optimizing and training your employees to use.
It may come as a surprise to you, but chances are good that if you are in warehousing, distribution, or even manufacturing that your system is already a voice solution. If your systems offer a terminal emulation (telnet) or web interface Wavelink can show you that you already own a voice solution. It will lead to increased productivity, improved accuracy, and a safer work environment to save you in many ways.
Wavelink’s promotion of Speakeasy says that you can have a speech solution in place in 30-days or less. For most in the industry that sounds too good to be true because traditional systems require a lot of analysis, coding, integration with host based systems, testing and validation, and then training for users and systems support staffers.
With traditional voice systems, IT typically has to be deeply involved to install the required servers, verify the WLAN can carry the extra new traffic the voice systems create, and then resolve all of the extra new issues with feeds to corporate IT systems. Things like the productivity measurement systems you use today will likely go out the door to be replaced by something new from your voice provider.
If a spec is slightly off mark or a process changes between the time of spec and implementation the process grows longer and most of these steps need to be repeated. Some traditional voice implementations can drag on for years before customers can either add more functions or move to additional facilities even though they run the same corporate IT systems.
The Wavelink Speakeasy voice implementation method starts the same way, but the end is very different and in a very good way.
The initial engagement is a study of your current programs and methods used in your operations. An analyst will perform an interview over a day or two to learn about the methods you use, and how your workers work in your systems. They will seek to learn the standard methods, and identify the exceptions of what happens when things go wrong or off the standard track.
Your application screens, workflow, and error messages will be captured with Wavelink tools. Each step of your process is captured to help integrate voice into your application to optimize the voice enablement.
Depending on the complexity of your systems, this interview and the analysis can take a week to 2 weeks. The result is a WebEx type meeting where the captured processes are walked through. The processes are verified, solutions are proposed and demonstrated, and the voice enablement of your current system is displayed before your eyes and ears. You have freedom to modify anything being discussed with a goal of locking down your application flow.
The changes you discuss are reviewed and a follow up meeting is set with a goal for one more WebEx discussion, and then the initial validation in your facilities on your systems in 2-3 weeks.
Once the updates are made to your satisfaction and the dates are set, it is time to demonstrate the system in your environment. Since we use your system, there is no huge cutover to a new system, we can test and validate with one worker in your current production environment. All of the work is done on the device, so your systems won’t even know a worker is using voice.
Visit us on Friday, February 28th for the second part in this series – How employees are brought on board and all the additional benefits, including reduced training, Speakeasy brings in 30-days or less.
Posted by Kelly Ungs
The consumerization of IT gets a lot of attention these days. BYOD is being seen as a headache by that virtually every IT department is struggling with it, and it the problem is quickly escalating. Users are doing more than bringing in their own devices; they’re downloading applications and using services – some free, some not – without IT’s permission, or even knowledge.
What has gotten much less attention but is equally important is the reverse trend: the IT-ization of the consumer. Employees may be bringing their own phones and laptops onto the network, but they’re also doing more to address issues they would have taken to be addressed by IT in the past. Gen Y is blasting into entering the workforce with a vengeance. They grew up with computers, and many prefer to fix their issues themselves. And they’re not the only ones. The pervasiveness of smartphones and other tech has made everyone from baby Johnny to Grandma Sally more familiar and comfortable with technology.
There are upsides and downsides to this, but the bottom line is that these two trends – consumerization and IT-ization – are presenting IT with a golden opportunity to transform their value to the organization and move from a firefighter role to a business enabler that provides value to the bottom line.
The primary downside that keeps many organizations from embracing the IT-ization trend is the loss of control. When users are in charge of fixing their own problems, finding their own applications and installing their own solutions, who knows what they’ll end up installing? However, empowering your end users doesn’t have to mean totally giving up control. There are solutions on the market that will enable you to provide easy and pre-approved solutions to your end users, ensuring that workers they find the tech they need without resorting to potentially insecure software. LANDesk is one provider of such solutions, with their shopping cart feature.
On the other hand, the upside for IT is big. By empowering the end user through IT-ization, IT folks free up much of their own time. Instead of focusing on closing tickets or fighting fires, IT can is able to work more closely with the business units to determine where there are inefficiencies, redundancies and opportunities areas for improvement. IT can use that “extra” time to develop custom applications to solve fulfill the unique problems of your organization.
IT is on the cusp of a major change. Even though many fear that BYOD, consumerization and the increased self-reliance of IT-ized end users may eventually cost them their jobs, the exact opposite is true. Now is the time for IT to make itself an indispensable business partner by giving workers access to what they need when they need it.
With the rise of speech recognition technology such as Siri for the iPhone, Dragon for PCs and OnStar in vehicles, it seems voice-enabled technology is becoming ever more prevalent for consumers. In fact, Melanie Pinola of PCWorld states “It isn’t hard to imagine a near future when we’ll be commanding our coffee makers, talking to our printers, and telling the lights to turn themselves off.”
As with the BYOD trend, once consumers become accustomed to using specific technology in their personal lives – they expect the same functionality in the workplace. We see this as many bring smartphones and tablets into the corporate space and we can expect that voice functionality will follow the same path.
But does voice technology even make sense for businesses? Absolutely. This is especially true in a back-office environment, such as a warehouse. Adding voice capabilities has been proven to deliver 99 percent accuracy, as well as a 10 percent improvement in productivity to warehouse applications such as data-entry, picking and processing. Voice also dramatically improves safety by allowing workers to work in a hands and eyes-free environment.
While the benefits for voice-enabled technology are many, both consumers and corporations alike are sometimes fearful that there may be negative implications as well. Slate Magazine recently reported that the country of Ecuador has successfully completed installation of “the world’s first biometric identification platform, at a nation-wide level, that combines voice and face identification capabilities.” While the technology behind such a massive project is impressive, many are worried about the issue of privacy for Ecuadorian citizens. In addition, Sherry Tufts, a professor at MIT, recently told the New York Times “I’m not saying voice recognition is bad. I’m saying it’s part of a package of attachments to objects where we should tread carefully because we are pushing a lot of Darwinian buttons in our psychology.” Tufts believes that by speaking with inanimate objects, humans behave differently than they would if they were simple typing or clicking a mouse. “Humans are wired for speech and tend to respond to talking devices as if they were kindred spirits,” she told the Times.
But don’t the positive outcomes outweigh any potential negatives? In my opinion they do, especially when it comes to applications where typing or manually inputting data into a machine can be detrimental or even hazardous. This applies to a number of types of jobs – from a warehouse worker taking inventory from a tall ladder to a doctor recording patient vital signs.
I believe that the applications for voice-enabled technology are limitless and will skyrocket in the coming years. As consumers interact with this technology more and more in their personal lives, they will expect it in the workplace too. I think we’ll see speech recognition move beyond the few business applications where it currently resides, such as supply chain, healthcare and field services, to the desk of nearly every end-user in the corporate enterprise. They’ll be commanding their computers, phones and other objects with their voices and fingertips. And the keyboard may just become obsolete. So, tell me, do you think voice-recognition technology makes sense for your business? Leave a comment below and explain why or why not.
Posted by Kelly Ungs
As IT organizations everywhere are restructuring their budgets for 2013, figuring out where their company should be spending and how much, it’s no secret that one of the areas that will require some careful consideration is BYOD. While there is certainly not a “one size fits all” approach, with clear-cut benefits to guide your organization’s decision on whether or not to support personal devices, there are certainly many aspects and even myths to mull over.
In the spirit of the holiday season (and finalizing IT spending for next year), I’ve made a naughty and nice list, which takes a quick look at a few pain points and things to look forward to, as you work toward implementing or fine-tuning a BYOD policy within your organization.
Hidden Costs: On the surface, BYOD comes across as a cost cutter, with the $70-ish per month required to operate the device falling to the end user. What organizations need to remember is that increased personal devices translates to increased mobile device management, which means you’ll need to invest in a reliable toolset to power and manage your BYOD environment – whether that means hiring additional manpower, or deploying an MDM solution that will help you safely and efficiently roll out your BYOD program.
Security Scares: As personal devices will consistently come and go, in and out of the corporate network, BYOD reasonably presents some concerning potential scenarios, such as external exposure of confidential emails, contact lists or sensitive company financial information. While IT can certainly take steps to safeguard information once the device is known to be lost, many employees don’t set up a password to secure their device (in a recent survey, only 29 percent of users reported they set passwords to keep their devices locked), and several minutes or hours can pass before he or she knows the device is lost. Employees holding out hope that their device will be found may even wait days before reporting the device missing to IT.
Too Many Toys to Track: Shiny new devices are popping up all the time, especially around the holidays. This can be especially problematic as it seems employees are walking in with new tablets right after IT has made a buying decision on which operating systems they’ll support with their MDM solution. IT has a tough decision to make: “should I focus on keeping up with the latest and greatest to satisfy all of my end users personal preferences, or only support a select number of systems and hope my end users don’t attempt to connect unsecured devices to corporate resources?”
Hidden Savings: After carefully considering the total cost of ownership of mobile assets, some companies have actually managed to capitalize on their decision to allow BYOD, such as Cisco, which recently told InformationWeek they’ve been able to reduce costs per user by 30 percent, despite a 98-percent increase in device count.
Controlled Productivity: While there are certainly risks associated with granting employees access to company info while on the
go, mobile device management has also come a long way in enabling IT to govern when, where and who can access the files needed to get the work done. Most MDM solutions now come with policy-setting features that allow IT to grant or disable access to specific applications or files. With devices that enter the enterprise without IT knowledge or consent, there are also default policies that can be applied to give the unknown device basic access to company Wi-Fi but maybe not email or enterprise apps.
You Can Satisfy the Majority: While some organizations may deem it more productive to support each employee’s individual device preference, most companies run a successful BYOD program by managing the most popular operating systems – such as iOS, Android and Windows. A quick survey of your employees’ device OS “wish lists” should help you identify the majority rule for your company.
As you can see, there are opportunities and concerns associated with several, if not all aspects of BYOD. The key to rolling out your BYOD plan for 2013 is in evaluating how your company could potentially benefit versus how much you’d need to invest to maintain the benefits and safeguard against the potential pain points. Are the benefits really “nice,” or could they end up turning “naughty?”