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.
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 Robert DeStefano
Mobility has been a part of the enterprise for three decades now. However, the ubiquity of mobile use for workers from the warehouse to the corporate office has never been more dynamic. Many companies are not implementing first-time deployments, but replacing older solutions with new, and expanding mobility to a wider range of tasks.
As this wave of mobility refreshes occurs, enterprises are looking for simplicity in their deployments. Hardware options are vast and dynamic. It is hardly feasible to have a single mobile computing platform for all enterprise users. On the software side, point products for a specific task are no longer the most desirable option. Instead, IT teams across businesses demand fewer vendors with more unified solutions that scale across mission-critical applications.
Mission-critical mobility is all about productivity—getting things done in the most efficient way possible. This can be visible in such ways as streamlining current worker tasks, or accelerating decision making. As these examples suggest, enterprise mobility is not about which device is best or how that device in managed. It’s not about the content a user can access or a specific software application used on a device. Instead, enterprise mobility is about implementing all these components to deliver maximized user productivity.
Mobility solutions are becoming strategic for businesses. A reactive, “quick fix” for a narrow, specific task is no longer proving to be beneficial for long-term business performance. Point products and their disconnected support are proving to be too costly and are not designed for the entire enterprise. Instead, a unified mobility strategy is desired; offering a faster, easily quantifiable ROI, seamless implementation, and a long-term strategic solution for mission-critical enterprise mobility.
I invite you to sign up for one of our webinars, where you can learn more.
It’s obvious that companies only implement technology when it will benefit the business in some way. Most often, it is the hope that technology yields some financial benefit – perhaps in the form of increased productivity and efficiency. However, every technology vendor also recognizes this and therefore makes their sales pitch around the promise of some great savings. But talk is cheap – so how best to separate the promises made in words, and those that are based on factual evidence?
Selling technology has been tied to an ROI for decades, and today, nearly every company has an ROI calculator with which they can show how your investment in their product will put your business in the green. What’s more credible? Consider reference companies that already use the solution and explain the return on investment in their own terms. Just as the reasons a business will choose to invest in technology may vary, so do the primary components of their own ROI calculations. (more…)
Posted by Brandon Hill
The supply chain of most companies is long and complex. It’s often difficult to get a complete picture of your company’s supply chain, which involves not only direct suppliers, but also the suppliers that supply your suppliers. And so on down the chain.
But even though this lack of knowledge is common and, in many cases, unavoidable, it’s still cause for concern. Many companies share sensitive corporate data with those in the supply chain, such as intellectual property information, customer data or employee info. This information, some of it crucial for business to move forward, some of it not, is often shared without any regard for the information security practices of the company receiving the info.
It’s a risky move. On the one hand, the vendor you’re sharing info with and everyone they’re sharing info with might have great security in place. Their systems might be as tight as a drum. On the other hand, just because your systems are secure doesn’t mean those of the companies you work with are equally secure, and data might be leaking from your organization like a sieve. (more…)
Posted by Brandon Hill
The Android platform is rapidly growing. According to recent estimates from analyst firm IDC, Android had 75 percent market share in Q1 of 2013, shipping more than 163 million smartphones during that time. While IDC doesn’t break down how many of those were shipped to consumers vs. enterprises, it wouldn’t surprise us to learn that a big portion of those devices are being used in ruggedized environments.
After all, the Android platform is a good fit for specialized environments like the warehouse. David Johnson of analyst firm Forrester recently told Network World that Android devices were now being considered for a whole host of non-consumer applications, “from movie ticket scanning at the theater front door, to electronic on-board recorders (EOBR) for truckers.” The Android platform is flexible enough to support specialty devices and applications, unlike iOS devices, which only run on Apple products. It can also be difficult to create new applications for iOS, because of the closed nature of the system. Android, on the other hand, offers more flexibility in designing and publishing new applications and has worked hard to improve the security features of the platform to make it more suitable for business users.
There are also plenty of ruggedized devices that run Android, including devices made by Motorola, Panasonic, Samsung, Honeywell and more. In fact, just last week, Samsung announced their newest ruggedized Android: the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active. Samsung is the leading provider of Android devices, owning 41.1 percent of the market, according to IDC. Though much of the marketing for the ruggedized Galaxy S4 Active has targeted those who lead an active lifestyle (hence the name), its ruggedized features make it a good fit for the warehouse. The Galaxy S4 is sealed against both dust and water and can be operated while wearing gloves.
All this combines to make Android a great option for ruggedized environments – or even the not-so-rugged, such as the retail floor or mobile POS system. As it continues to grow in popularity among consumers, it might spur a stronger push for BYOD in the warehouse, which has not traditionally been a BYOD environment. However, according to Forrester, 37 percent of smartphones used in the enterprise run Android. Eventually, that may push into the warehouse as well.
Posted by Brandon Hill
Let’s say you work in a 500,000-square foot warehouse. You’re picking from one side of the four walls and replenishing in another, and you’re constantly moving about a building that might be 250 times the size of your home. It’s not hard to see where mobile can come in handy in terms of making your trips to opposite ends of the warehouse more worthwhile, but you’ll need a better business case than that if you’re hoping for handhelds instead of laptops.
First, the overall benefits:
- Improved TCO – Adopting mobile can reduce the money spent on the device itself and its management. Those laptops will probably have life in your warehouse for a few years, tops, depending on the environment. While there is plenty of hardware out there to withstand harsh conditions, exposure to water, dust, harmful particles, etc., will play a factor in your systems’ life expectancy. While mobile devices have similar life expectancies, they are usually much cheaper and in many cases, even easier and less costly to manage.
- Productivity gains: While productivity might be harder to measure than device costs, thiscould save you hundreds of thousands. If your organization is able to save 30 minutes per shift with quicker access to important data, that could amount to a one-year productivity gain of half a million dollars (of course, this depends on the size of your organization). Another productivity value add for deploying mobile rather than refreshing your current laptop supply is an easy, clean interface from which your employees can use custom-built applications and have quick access to important documents such as manuals, reports, equipment specs, etc.
The everyday tasks mobile will improve:
With these overall benefits in mind, there are specific tasks that mobile will help you streamline to get there, helping you realize the improved productivity and TCO. Using mobile in tandem with warehouse management software (especially voice-enabled) will earn you better accuracy, efficiency and even safety. A good management system will also give you better insight into your inventory and what you might need to refresh, put away or verify. With business-enabling applications and easy scanning capabilities, you can also capture new inventory as soon as you get it. This makes your products sellable, faster.
If you’re still using laptops in your warehouse, or you’re still looking to mobilize certain parts, a better knowledge of where your product is or even what the product is will give you more to work with – more time, more sellable product and ultimately, more money.
Posted by Brandon Hill
The following comes from Jason Mitchell, Director of Engineering at LANDesk.
This blog has an ambitious title, but I think it is accurate. Let me explain why. The recent definition of Mobile Application Management (MAM) focuses on delivering and securing native apps on mobile devices. These features typically include app wrapping and app distribution. While that’s as extensive as many smart device operation systems allow, Wavelink has a far more comprehensive and compelling feature set.
For more than 20 years, Wavelink has developed products and technologies that have enabled companies to deliver their operational applications to the ever-evolving set of mobile devices that are optimally designed for the task at hand. Let me give an example.
For high transaction processes like picking or sorting in a supply chain logistics operations, companies have host-based applications that need to be displayed on a variety of mobile devices. They do not want to have to add custom logic to the application to handle the different form factors or device drivers needed to access peripherals such as bar code scanners, radios, or printers. This is the market where Wavelink application management solutions exist. The solutions are built for telnet based applications, web applications, and native console applications executing on the server. They take these applications and expose them on any mobile device taking into account form factors, driver integration, security, session persistence, latency, unstable wireless networks, and a variety of others issues the application developer doesn’t want to know about and certainty doesn’t want to handle differently for each device. Wavelink solutions are designed to handle these problems without modifying the original application. This enabling of applications across the mobile devices is unique to the MAM solution Wavelink provides.
In summary, a comprehensive Mobile Application Management solution needs to deliver, secure, and enable applications across any mobile device platform or form factor without modifying the original application. This is why Wavelink is the world’s foremost Mobile Application Management Company.