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.
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.
We’re all familiar with distracted driving (or distracted walking, which can be just as dangerous. If you don’t believe me, see here and here for examples). We’ve all seen that teenager texting away while simultaneously blowing through a stop sign or the businessman anxiously typing out an email while his car drifts into the next lane. Maybe some of you have even been that person. We all know it’s dangerous to use our mobile devices while driving, and yet many of us continue to do it.
When Siri was released, it was hailed as a possible solution to the texting and driving problem. Now, smartphone users could dictate emails, text messages, tweets, and Facebook posts without looking away from the road! How wonderful!
And yet, it doesn’t seem to have worked out that way. I went back to an article in the New York Times about how Siri and other voice technology could actually be a safety risk for drivers. The article described a study by AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety that concluded speech-to-text systems created significant distraction that severely impairs reaction time and the ability to monitor and process what is happening on the road.
The more I read about the study, the more convinced I became that mobile phone use should really carry the stigma of drunk driving. But I also wondered if the same conclusion applied to the use of voice technology in the warehouse.
There are several key differences between using voice technology in your car and using it in the warehouse. For one thing, in your car, you’re asking Siri (or your voice technology of choice) to dictate longer messages, which the voice technology is attempting to transcribe word-for-word –which you then have to double check against what you actually wanted it to say. Compare that with the way voice is used in the warehouse, which tends be less complex spoken requests and commands. There is typically minimal screen interaction when voice is used in the warehouse and most screen interaction, such as scanning items, is done while the vehicle is not moving.
For another thing, you don’t actually have to use your mobile device in the car. If you just can’t wait until you get home to post that tweet, you should maybe consider your priorities. On the other hand, voice in the warehouse provides measureable productivity and efficiency benefits through hands-free device use. Customers have also reported that they’ve seen workplace accidents reduced following the implementation of voice technology. For me, it’s that which decides the issue of whether voice technology is really safe or not. After all, a reduction of accidents is really the best measure of safety.
Posted by Robert DeStefano
Enterprises of all sizes and across industries require different levels of onsite control of their enterprise mobility deployments. Couple this with the unique restrictions that corporations place on mobile internet access and there’s a compelling need for choice among the deployment options when considering an enterprise mobility management solution.
The benefits of a cloud-based deployment are centered on simplicity. Selecting a cloud-based (or SaaS) deployment method frees up internal IT staff to focus on other initiatives. Server components are managed externally by product experts, making a cloud deployment simple and fast. This is in addition to the most obvious benefit of a SaaS deployment – immediate access to software updates.
However, there are enterprises around the world that require, or simply prefer, to have the greatest amount of control over their enterprise mobility management system. An On-Premise deployment method provides this, in a more traditional, shrink-wrapped installation. Companies choose this model often because they like the security of having the entire deployment completely within their corporate intranet. It also provides IT teams with complete control of scheduling updates and patches.
Which option is best? Start by determining the security compliance and control requirements your organization has in place. Next, determine the level of IT staff that will be working with the enterprise mobility management console, and the time they have to handle maintenance to it. Follow that with some considerations related to control. Does the company prefer the accelerated access to software updates and enhancements? Or, does it benefit the business to have IT control the timing of updates to fit in between peaks in the operations cycle?
With both SaaS-based and On-Premise options, Avalanche 6.0 provides businesses with the ability to select the method of deployment that fits each business best. Whether mixed device deployments or BYOD, operational task workers, customer-facing workers, there is no need to compromise. When you’re deploying enterprise mobility, manage those deployments with the enterprise mobility management solution that has been trusted by corporations for decades, ready to be deployed in the method that fits your business.
The Mix of Consumer and Rugged Mobile Devices in the Enterprise
Has your experience at retail stores been different lately? Or perhaps you’ve had a different experience at a medical facility? Maybe your own work has changed recently. A significant change across industries has been in the number and types of mobile devices being used by all sorts of workers. Whether you’ve completed a sales transaction by signing on a smartphone, or checked in at your doctor’s office using a tablet, there is no denying that mobile devices are proliferating in enterprise use cases.
In most mission-critical mobility deployments, enterprises have deployed rugged mobile computers. Consider the devices carried by parcel couriers, stockroom workers and others. There’s an obvious need for durability, so that these mobile computers can withstand frequent drops, extreme temperatures, and in some situations, hazardous environments (think oil rigs). Technologies that help these workers accomplish their tasks include advanced data capture capabilities, such as barcode scanning, RFID, and perhaps payment transaction capabilities.
As consumers, we don’t often interact with these workers as they complete their tasks. The use cases are not typically consumer-facing. However, there is an increasing contingent of enterprises that are placing more mobility into the hands of workers who are visible, and directly interacting with consumers. These workers are still performing mission-critical activities – particularly in revenue generating roles, for the enterprise.
Over the past few years, companies have explored the evolving smartphone and tablet options for these workers. In some cases, the benefits of these consumer-grade devices have proven not to be the best fit for the business, due to fragility, theft, or other limitations. These enterprises have generally opted to revert to the familiar – the rugged mobile computers that are likely being used in traditional task-based use cases. By contrast, there are enterprises across industries that have chosen and successfully deployed consumer smartphones and tablets into consumer-facing use cases.
There is no denying the selection of enterprise mobility hardware has expanded significantly over the last five years. Whether going with traditional, rugged mobile computers, or consumer-grade devices, it is exciting to see the accelerated adoption of mobility across enterprises – especially as it gets into the hands of the workers with whom we, as consumers, interact. However, this also creates a new IT challenge: Some workers are carrying rugged mobile computers, others have consumer devices. There is overlap in applications and content access as well. For all these users, there is a bottom line benefit to their mobile productivity. Fortunately, Wavelink Avalanche is there to be able to ensure all these users – task-oriented and customer-facing, are optimally productive.
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!