We talk about voice-enablement with enterprises throughout the supply chain a lot, and hear 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 house the speech-to-text and text-to-speech processor. However, if the barcode-scanning mobile-computers you’re currently deploying are fairly new (developed in the last 8-7 years), they already have the horsepower to handle voice processing, so you don’t need to buy proprietary voice hardware.
- Middleware or “System Interfaces”: In most warehouse applications, your workers are already interfacing with 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 between your host system and mobile device client in order to enable voice. Your 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 charging 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. 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 percent 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.
Coming to ProMat 2015 (March 23-26) in Chicago, IL? Come see Speakeasy in action at the Wavelink booth #4864.
Posted by Robert DeStefano
In this post (which is loaded with American football references), I’ve taken a few notes from the playbook of our good friends and strategic partners over at Zebra Technologies and added a bit of additional color commentary to build a kind of “can’t lose” game plan for optimizing your warehouse productivity and operations. Taking a look at the recent post from Mr. Mark Wheeler at Zebra Productivity Does Not Increase by Voice Alone, several key points are brought to the forefront:
- “Voice picking technology can be significantly increased with complementary solutions that aren’t necessarily voice-driven…” this is, indeed, correct. For optimal worker productivity, add voice where voice makes sense. Voice should be one part of a multi-modal warehouse picking solution, alongside barcode data capture and keyboard/touchscreen data input, for example. These methods of data interaction team up to build the strongest solution – each contributing its strengths to the overall performance of your mobility deployment.
- “Reporting tools can access [individual worker productivity] data and provide insights to the current process, identifying ways to streamline and improve it.” Tracking is a key to optimizing productivity. Sure, there is the need to track for ROI purposes, but optimization includes continually measuring the performance of each worker and finding ways to get even more productivity by making small adjustments to the workflow. This is an ongoing pursuit of perfect productivity – scoring the most output and tackling inefficiencies.
Here’s another big play: For your multi-modal warehouse picking, consider the benefit of implementing this solution without having to make changes to your host application (your WMS, etc.). That’s a game-winner! With Wavelink Speakeasy, all the voice-processing is handled on the mobile device, so there is no need to touch the host system to accommodate voice. For more about this, you can check out my recent blog post “Hey Voice Vendor: Hands off my host system!” By keeping your existing host applications intact, you’ll realize significant cost savings, and score some extra points by easing the implementation. Now, go in there and score that productivity touchdown!
Posted by Robert DeStefano
What a wild ride 2014 has been in the mobile productivity space! We’ve seen sizeable mergers, watched the mobile OS roller coaster ride continue, and been thankful to see the economy continue to increase demand for business throughout the supply chain. I’ve recently taken a look back at my predictions for 2014 and found not too much was far off, though surely occurring in a different manner than I expected. Now, with 2014 about to come to a close, let’s have a little fun picking what’s to come in 2015:
- There will be more mergers and acquisitions among mobility vendors. In 2014, hardware vendors changed logos and several industry solution providers merged. 2015 will bring more consolidation as companies combine expertise to better serve specific markets and industries.
- Mobile productivity meets the millennials. As more Millennials start joining the workforce, enterprises are going to focus on equipping them with technology that is familiar to them – reducing the learning curve so they can be more productive, more quickly.
- As Android multiplies, Microsoft’s mobile strategy will be determined. The number of Android devices designed for mission-critical mobility has accelerated in 2014. While that trend is expected to continue in 2015, the market will influence Microsoft’s direction for mobility. We will find out if the market accepts 8.1 for mobile, waits for a Windows 10-based operating system, or shifts its confidence further toward Android.
Whether these or the numerous surprises 2015 will have in store for rugged mobility market, Wavelink will be here with you speaking the language of Mobile Productivity. Got predictions of your own? Email me at email@example.com with your expectations for mobile productivity.
Finally, on behalf of all of us at Wavelink, thank you for choosing us as your partner for mobile productivity. We wish you all the best for a happy, healthy, and productive 2015!
It amazes me how complex some traditional voice applications are to implement. Looking at some of the workflow diagrams publically available from these vendors, I’m left scratching my head. Voice is an additional mode of data capture. It is the vocal equivalent of pressing a few keys on a device’s keypad or scanning a barcode. It takes place at the point of activity – where the worker is picking product in the warehouse, for example. It offers huge productivity gains for the business by making that mobile worker be able to complete tasks faster. So, why do some voice vendors make it so complex? It baffles me that a voice vendor would require access to make changes to your host system (your warehouse management or ERP system) in order to implement their voice application. Think about it: at some point, you made a significant investment in selecting the host system that best fit the needs of your business, and now, your voice vendor wants to make changes to it in order to make their system work. Once they’ve made these changes, they’re locked in. Every time you want to make a change to your host system software, you now need to include your voice vendor in those discussions (and expect to be billed for their services), to make sure any changes you make anywhere in your host system don’t break their voice application. That’s frustrating. To draw an analogy, if I want to have my electrician put a new light fixture in my house, I don’t want to have to pay my air conditioning contractor to be involved – just because the air conditioning system also happens to use electricity. Voice can be implement easily, and much more quickly, when voice is enabled at the point of activity. With Wavelink Speakeasy, all the voice processing is done on the mobile device. What does this mean? From the perspective of your host system, the fact that the data was entered via voice is irrelevant. As I mentioned earlier, voice is one method of data entry – part of a multi-modal approach to capturing data. All the voice-enabling technology can take place at the point of activity, just as it does for the other means of data entry. There is no need for your voice vendor to be touching your host system, nor charging you recurring fees every time you want to make any host system changes.
Posted by Robert DeStefano
In a previous blog post, I wrote about the challenges that must be considered before diving into writing your own enterprise mobile applications. However, there are a good number of reasons to write a custom application. This route need not be riddled with challenges or regrets – provided you consider the options and keep your objective in focus. You’re choosing to develop your own enterprise application with an objective of increasing the productivity of workers. In the face of a volatile market for mobility hardware and operating systems, you can deliver a solution that yields huge gains for your operating margin. There are four considerations I recommend keeping in mind as you scope your own application: security, standards, compatibility, and performance.
Security: consider how data is going to be secured on the device. Here, browser-based apps can have advantage over native applications because your browser is essentially providing a window to a host-based application. Need to lock it down? Shut the window. However, also be sure to avoid compromising the user experience to meet security requirements, and make considerations for the ease of offloading local data.
Standardization: there is a concurrent shift in mobility clients with the shift in mobile devices, so writing an app once and making it deployable on many device can be a challenge. “That’s why I’d use HTML5” you might think. Sure, but remember that HTML5 does not offer a standard in itself. And here again, the continuous churn of updates to mobile operating systems can be a cause for application failures.
Compatibility: What happens when the next OS or new device platform is introduced? How flexible is your application across devices, operating systems, and don’t forget host systems. Native apps often result in vendor exclusions – where the application is compatible with, say, one supply chain management system, but not another. This can lock you into systems you didn’t intend.
Performance: your investment in your supply chain management system is significant. Don’t ruin it with a sub-par mobile experience. This is especially a challenge when developing a browser-based app using the default browser on the mobile device. Often these browsers were written for desktops and then squeezed into mobile devices. Rendering issues can be a huge time waste for users (picture the warehouse worker standing around for 5-10 seconds between screens, just waiting for the browser to present the next screen in their workflow). Make considerations for locked-down network environments.
If you’re going to write your own mobile application, take advantage of Wavelink Velocity – our secure enterprise browser. Velocity’s super-fast rendering lets your mobile app work faster, and session-persistence lets workers resume tasks right where they left the workflow. It’s secure, since application data is streamed from the host system (not stored on the mobile device). Velocity interfaces to all leading supply chain management systems, so compatibility concerns are eased. Finally, Velocity delivers on the promise of a single development platform across mobile operating systems, so you can equip users with the device type that best fits their task.
Posted by Robert DeStefano
Enterprise mobility is so fast-moving that many companies find themselves seeking any means they can to introduce some stability into their deployments. Changing hardware, operating systems, evolving security and mobility management requirements and more can make anyone feel like they’re in a whirlwind when trying to create a mobility strategy. One of the few areas where you might feel more control is the mobile application, and there’s that moment where the thought creeps in: “Why don’t we just develop our own mobile apps? Then we’re in control.” There are times when an internally developed or custom mobile application can make sense, and I’ll discuss that in another post. However, there are many times where this ambition to Write-Your-Own can lead to disaster for your worker productivity – especially for consumer device operating systems like iOS and Android.
First, consider how you’ll write your own mobile app. What OS platform will you target? If you begin writing for iOS, are you certain you’ll never want to go to any version of Windows? Are you that certain of the demise of market-leading Android?
Next, there is the OS version you’ll choose. If you begin developing for Android Kit-Kat, are you sure your app will be compatible with Android “L” when it is released? How about “M”, “N”, and “O” – all of which will undoubtedly be released during the life of your enterprise mobile deployment. Even minor OS updates need to be considered: sometimes OS updates break stuff. Will you be ready for that continuous support?
Are you using any peripherals in your mobile deployment? If you’re deploying for mission-critical tasks, you might be deploying barcode scanning attachments, or mobile payment accessories. The providers of these accessories make changes to their own SDK’s, and managing these revisions warrant the same level of attention as OS updates.
Then, there is the overarching issue of resource investment. Writing an application for a specific task may not be the best way to optimize the productivity of workers performing that task. It may also not be the best use of internal developers’ time – time that may be better served on projects that optimize the very business processes you’re looking to standardize on with a custom application.
Among the great advantages of Wavelink Terminal Emulation (TE) is that it can offer the stability you’re looking for in your mobile application. Wavelink TE clients are available for all the leading mobile operating systems: from Windows CE/Mobile to iOS and Android. You don’t need to worry about managing the OS updates – Wavelink offers day 1 support for most new OS versions, and works with device and peripheral manufacturers to ensure compatibility with their SDK releases. Finally, TE already works with your supply chain management systems, so you don’t need to invest in integration. If you’re looking to bring a level of security and stability to your mobile strategy, Wavelink TE is the way to go.
No matter how you say it, productivity gains are the objective of mission-critical mobility deployments all around the globe. From New York to Beijing, and Frankfurt to Seoul, enterprises all over are looking for ways to help workers be more productive. These gains can’t be realized only in pockets of the world economy, but must be accessible everywhere. How can companies accelerate the realization of the benefits of enterprise mobility?
- Speak the worker’s language: provide mobility solutions that are easy for workers to understand. This starts with presenting mobility software clients in their local language. (more…)
Last month I had the opportunity to tour a facility where Speakeasy has been in use for quite some time. It’s always an awesome experience to see and hear why people are happy with our products, and the reasons always vary. I’ve written before about how ROI is defined differently by different organizations, but this time I got the visual demonstration of how productivity is defined.
I listened to a general manager at the company give a history of the company’s search for enterprise mobility – dating to rugged mobile computers chosen ten years ago, and how they continued to seek ways to extract more productivity from mobility deployments in the years that followed. One of the really compelling things he said was how he studied the behaviors of his warehouse workers and noticed one very simple productivity inhibitor: while barcode scanning was delivering productivity gains and was easy and intuitive, workers would still look down at the mobile device screen to read instructions in their workflows, and every time they looked down the worker’s feet would stop moving.
How much time could a worker lose by stopping and looking down at a device screen? It may be a second or two…or three or four. The bottom line was – if there was a way to address that delay, it could significantly improve productivity. How could a second or two really make such a difference? We were watching the activity in a regional warehouse, where pickers scan roughly 400 items per hour, each (the general manager suggested this was actually a low estimate). Lose a second on each scan because the user has to stop to read the location/quantity information for the product and that’s 400 seconds (nearly 7 minutes) every hour. Over an 8-hour shift, that worker spends nearly a full hour (53:20, to be exact) looking at the device screen. Now, multiply that by the number of workers on the floor, and you have the number of man-hours spent looking at the device screen in a day. Multiply that by how many shifts in a year, and you have a significant productivity gain by adding voice.
Sure, one of the promises of voice-enablement is the ability to have hands-free and eyes-forward safety for workers and productivity gains for their business. However, consider that Speakeasy can be implemented in 30-days. Traditional voice application vendors require 12 weeks or more, and some actually require 12 months or more. Your ROI with Speakeasy could be realized before a traditional voice application might even be deployed!
Watching the speed with which workers in this warehouse were completing their tasks, and how they were able to navigate their carts and forklifts was impressive. Knowing that Wavelink was helping them get their job done more safely and more quickly was awesome. Understanding, as I watched the activity that was happening all around, how important this solution was to the success of this warehouse operation, was an amazing experience.