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.
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.
Over the past several months, I’ve been listening to the way customers describe their return on mobility investments. The answers are impressive. Answers range from increases in worker speed of task completion, to task accuracy, to month to recognize complete return on dollar investments, reductions in man-hours for cyclical process completions, reductions in seasonal headcounts, reductions in worker training time, and more. The measurements of return on mobility investment are impressive percentages and yield significant dollar-value savings to each of the companies I’ve heard from.
What is really interesting is how companies can measure their return on investment in such vast and different ways. In some cases, the measure is dollars saved by reducing errors. In others, it is increased shipments that yield additional dollars per package shipped. In still others, the savings is recognized by a reduction in seasonal labor, or less worker hours dedicated to completing a specific task. Whatever the measurement, there are two things that remain true: Every measurement ties to a dollar-value savings that can prove a mathematical return on investment for the dollars spent enabling mobility. Even more importantly, the measurement each company used to describe their ROI told far more about the problem each was attempting to solve.
Enterprises deploy mobility to achieve a higher level of productivity, but it is not done just for the sake of using mobile technology. There is an underlying pain that the company is trying to address – some way of improving a process to gain efficiency, or to recognize a cost savings. There is a problem to be solved by deploying mobility – and one recommended approach to begin defining the best mobility solution is to start with an operations audit that can help find the weaknesses and inefficiencies in current processes. By adding automation and voice-enablement, Wavelink Speakeasy has consistently shown productivity gains for mobile supply chain workers of over 35%. That’s like getting an extra day of productivity from every worker – for every three days worked. Now that’s a fast ROI!
What problems are you aiming to solve with mobility in your enterprise? What measurements are you tracking to determine ROI? Email me with your objectives at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted by Robert DeStefano
It’s always fun to look back at what the past year has meant to our industry, and (in a tip of the hat to William Shakespeare) if “what’s past is prologue”, then what is to come in the next year? Indeed, 2013 has seen a few significant themes take shape. Mobile device management has become significantly commoditized – as customers have begun to look past the common device-oriented features to larger, unified mobility solutions. A handful of new, mission-critical mobile devices have come to market – in some unique and interesting forms. Legacy voice vendors have struggled to get away from their Cold-war era technologies. Consumer smartphones and tablets have entered the enterprise through every door, window and loading dock available.
Yes, 2013 has met our expectations of continued evolution in enterprise mobility! 2014 has even more fun in store (and in the warehouse):
- The limits of the consumer device will become clear. Enterprises will see a more precise delineation between where BYOD or consumer smartphones/tablets can be used, and where rugged mobile computers will continue to be deployed.
- Voice-enablement will expand beyond stock picking. With full voice functionality, faster deployment, and at a lower cost, even companies that have deployed legacy voice for warehouse picking will be giving Speakeasy a fresh look for expending multi-modal data capture across supply chain tasks.
- There will be a reduction in point-product mobility providers. As more enterprises began doing in 2013, even more will seek out mobility solution providers that can offer more than just a single product. Unified mobility solutions – those that are designed together and, when deployed together, offer even greater value to the business, will be at the top of enterprise mobility wish-lists.
As these and other events unfold for IT in rugged environments, Wavelink is here to help you navigate. What are your enterprise mobility predictions for 2014? Please post your predictions in the comments section below.
Posted by Robert DeStefano
Remember that song that you can’t stand to hear, but you know the words by heart? Even though you sing it through gritted teeth, you know the song, and it becomes an “earworm” stuck in your head and it just won’t go away. Frustrating isn’t it? For companies considering adding voice to their mission-critical mobile applications, the stories from traditional voice vendors are just like that old song: implementation takes several months, and if an ROI can be justified at all, it can only be proven for a single task. Mythology is best kept for classic literature and not for voice technology.
For customers who have voice applications from traditional voice vendors, implementation can seem like an Odyssey – complete with months of continuous project costs resulting in a start to finish ranging from 6 months to 2 years in some cases. Traditional voice providers have established the myth that voice is very specialized technology – difficult to implement and costly to modify. Their myths also suggest that once you’ve selected a voice provider, it is even more expensive to switch or use another system for a different task.
Voice-enablement can be a very beneficial part of a mission-critical mobility solution, providing task workers with a heads-up and hands-free option for data capture when using a keyboard or holding a barcode scanner is inconvenient or otherwise sub-optimal (many task workers benefit from a solution that uses all these methods where each makes sense). However, voice-enabled mobile applications are being deployed in 30 days or less – thanks to Wavelink Speakeasy.
For real customers around the world, Speakeasy is breaking down the myths, and proving to be the fastest and most cost-effective way to voice-enable mobile applications. These customers are witnessing how Wavelink is re-defining voice. There’s no compromise in the capabilities of Speakeasy – it’s 21st Century voice technology, leveraging the capabilities of enterprise mobile devices while reducing the complexity of implementation. Speakeasy is proof that voice-enabled mobile applications that are fully features, easily deployed, and financially viable with quantifiable ROI are not myths.
If your company in considering voice-enabling mobile applications to increase the productivity of task workers, even if you’ve already deployed traditional voice for specific applications, contact Wavelink – you’ll get facts, not myths.
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…)