Since the introduction of Siri on the iPhone4 in 2011, voice recognition technology has become more mainstream than ever. However, that doesn’t mean that people have become any more accustomed to speaking to their technology. The process can be somewhat unsettling and even technologists themselves think so. According to Reuters, Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently stated that talking to Google Glass was “the weirdest thing.” In fact, Saturday Night Live recently poked fun at Google Glass and how awkward it can be to talk to a device on your face.
Voice recognition can be a bit strange at first but warehouse workers have been doing it for years. Voice in the warehouse can dramatically improve safety by allowing workers to work in a hands and eyes-free environment. It also delivers 99 percent accuracy and at least a 10 percent improvement in productivity to warehouse applications such as data-entry, picking and processing. Though voice applications in today’s warehouse resemble an operator headset, it would make sense for future devices to resemble (or actually be) Google Glass.
Though at a $1,500 price point, Google’s first-to-market product isn’t exactly price friendly to many businesses. That said one of the first voice recognition products for the consumer market, Dragon Dictate, originally retailed for $9,000!
While prices for wearable’s like Google Glass are sure to drop as the technology becomes more mainstream, will talking to a device ever feel completely normal? In the late 20th century, being tethered to a phone all day every day never seemed plausible either, but with the rise of smartphones, that is our new reality. Only time will tell as to whether or not voice recognition devices will become the new norm. In the meantime, just ask any warehouse employee – they’ll tell you it’s all in a day’s work.
Posted by Gemma Randazzo
In the most recent edition of Inbound Logistics, writer Marty Weil takes a closer look at how mobile communication tools are keeping supply chains on the go connected. “Mobile solutions are at work in every part of the supply chain. They are a key part of many warehouse environments, especially in directed picking applications. In transportation, mobile technology has been particularly significant for expedited parcel carriers that use it to improve customer service and continually optimize operations. Private fleets and motor carriers also use mobile devices for tracking shipments and collecting driver performance data.”
In our line of business we see a lot of enterprises who need to manage their operations in real time without impacting their bottom line from an efficiency and cost perspective. Through mobile technology solutions like Mobile Device Management (MDM) and Mobile Productivity Platforms (MPP) it really is easy to take advantage of technology that starts streamlining your supply chain operations immediately. As part of the article, Marty spoke with Wavelink customer Goya Foods, who are using Wavelink’s MDM solution, Avalanche and Wavelink’s MPP voice-directed solution, Speakeasy along with ruggedized mobile devices to improve efficiency in and outside the four-walls. Through mobile solutions they keep the goods moving without worrying about making adjustments on the fly.
For supply chain agility, Marty recommends that enterprises look towards four goals as outlined by consulting firm PwC –
1. Integrating the supply chain with other business functions. Companies that acknowledge the supply chain as a strategic asset achieve 70 percent higher performance. Taking steps to connect supply chain operations to functions such as marketing and sales can help strengthen the entire business.
2. Facilitating supplier partnerships and collaboration. Potential supply chain disruptions make it more critical than ever for companies to share data
and strengthen relationships with key suppliers.
3. Enabling companies to adjust quickly to changes. The better the information companies have at hand, the more responsive their supply chains can be. Without mobile devices, supply chain information can be slow to reach managers.
4. Measuring and managing supply chain data. Companies can use mobile tools to collect supply chain data that informs strategic decisions.
Through the use of mobile solutions supply chain operations can be agile, resulting in increased productivity, visibility and efficiency in moving product, saving money and meeting the growing demands of the customer. To read Marty’s article in its entirety click here. Want to take a closer look at how MDM and MPP tools like Wavelink Avalanche and Wavelink Speakeasy can add agility to your supply chain operations? Contact the Wavelink Sales Team.
The Cofares Group supply products ranging from medicine to health and beauty products to 13,000 pharmacies in Spain from nearly 30 distribution centers. Often they deliver orders that range from one to 20 items to each pharmacy three or four times a day. They need to be able to make these deliveries quickly and accurately.
“Our customers evaluate us based on our ability to deliver complete and accurate orders,” said Abelardo Vaquerizo, duty manager of Cofares Group. “It is a hectic environment where we need to fill orders quickly, but it doesn’t matter how fast we are if we get an order wrong.”
Distribution centers process a large number of orders on a daily basis and Cofares is no different. Most of the medicines are filled by automated machines, but health and beauty items are picked by hand from the warehouse and loaded into delivery trucks. It is a logistical challenge to ensure that the right items get in the right order on the right trucks every time in the most accurate and efficient way possible.
With the number of orders being processed every day, it is a logistical challenge to ensure the right items get in the right order on the right trucks every time. Cofares, through its technology partner, Felguera TI, an affiliate company of Duro Felguera, selected the Speakeasy voice solution from Wavelink to add text-to-speech and speech-to-text functionality to their warehouse applications. The ability for Speakeasy to combine voice with other types of data entry, such as bar code scanning, provides a further crosscheck to ensure that tasks are accurately completed.
“We have initially implemented Speakeasy in two of our larger distribution centers in Madrid,” says Vaquerizo. “Workers are able to speak into their device the item they need to pick and have it speak back to them with a bin location. Once there, they can scan the barcode on the bin, select the items and verbally confirm the item and quantity. This gives us even greater accuracy while also helping them complete the task faster.”
In locations where Speakeasy is being used, Cofares handles approximately 1,200 orders per day. Prior to Speakeasy, there was an average of 20 to 30 errors in those orders, which was still a 97.5 percent accuracy rate. However, with each incorrect order, there was the cost of returning the product and a loss of the sale as well as the negative impression it left with the customer. With Speakeasy, Cofares has virtually eliminated errors with an average of zero to two errors per 1,200 orders.
Cofares were also able to benefit from an intuitive user interface, which allows any employee to pick up a device and use it immediately without needing to create a voice profile. Vaquerizo adds, “Our employees have been very happy with the ease with which they can use Speakeasy. We have experienced very short training times, where we have been able to quickly get a new worker using the system. This was a big cost benefit in terms of our ability to be immediately productive.”
Since Speakeasy is a client-side solution that does not require the addition of voice servers or modification to the host applications, the implementation of the voice solution went smoothly and was completed in just a matter of days. Adding voice to streamline your operations should be simple, straightforward and effective, in today’s non-stop supply chain environment it just has to be.
ReadWriteWeb recently highlighted Wavelink’s Infographic on the evolution of voice and speech recognition from the Brazen Head to Apple’s Siri. Take a closer look at the significant developments that paved the way for voice in the enterprise.
Historically many companies have been put off by voice directed applications from a financial perspective, but also take a “wait and see” approach; does it really yield ROI? This past year alone the momentum building for voice directed applications in the warehouse really can’t be denied. In a November/December 2011 study by the Aberdeen Group 90% of survey respondents were currently looking at voice software, and of those 76% were strongly considering using a different hardware manufacturer as opposed to the traditional voice hardware and software offerings. But does a lower cost option mean that they are less likely to get all the bells and whistles? Could it be that they can even expect more?
I would say yes, of course! Am I bias? Of course, but it isn’t without merit. Wavelink Speakeasy is leading the charge against the traditional voice options. Voice options, that let’s be honest, require you purchase all new hardware and then require further investment in changes to your back-end WMS systems, extensive training, servers, modification or replacement of the host application etc. It’s exhausting to have to think about the implementation cycle for something like this and then how long it would take to see a significant ROI. Who has the time?
With Wavelink Speakeasy we just keep it simple. We stand behind our voice in 30-days or less implementation and not only that, but you get to keep all of the hardware you’ve already invested heavily into, you don’t need additional servers, you can work with your existing WMS, no heavy network traffic, and the huge benefit of multi-modal support that Speakeasy provides. Why do you care about multi-modal support? Voice enabled applications have been proven to deliver improved data accuracy in many applications, but there are many situations when the combination of voice and barcode scanning is most accurate. For example, location verification is more accurate when scanned rather than using spoken check digits. The input of long numbers, such as serial numbers, is much more accurately scanned than spoken. Wavelink’s solution allows for multiple input sources such as scanning, voice and RFID, as well as keyboard entry, which allows for the best method to be utilized.
Still not convinced? Reach out – there’s nothing we like better than showing off. Send in your information in the “Ask the Advisor” box off to the left.
We are excited to share our Speakeasy and Goya Foods video case study. Luis and his team are doing amazing things with their applications, and this video has some excellent insight into the ways voice-enabling their Manhattan Associates WMS has really improved operations. Take a peek and let us know what you think!
You can view all of our videos at our YouTube page, here.
Imagine arriving at the local insta-care facility and after your check-in, you step up to the scale for your routine weigh-in. However, this time instead of the local nurse checking your weight, it’s automatically said out-loud by a small computer. Come to think of it, maybe that’s a bad example… turns out most probably don’t want their weight being open to public ears!
Yet, despite that bad example, it’s easy to see areas in the healthcare mobile ecosystem where voice-enabling tasks could be a huge benefit. Going back to the above, imagine language barriers that make new patient check-in’s difficult. Now imagine if that process could be voice-enabled, by having basic check-in questions spoken to the patient in his or her language. Suddenly, the process is much quicker, and wait times are drastically reduced. The concept is really no different than that of providing broad language support for voice picking applications in the warehouse.
Bottom line is this: voice technology is growing in the healthcare world, just as it has in retail, manufacturing, transportation, and so in. In fact, a recent TMCnet article about Nuance’s Mobile Clinician Voice Challenge states:
Physician adoption of mobile healthcare devices is expected to reach up to 85 percent over the current year. Increasing the need for user-friendly healthcare applications that enhance medical professionals ability to track mobile workflow and overall provide effective patient care digitally.
85%. That’s a big jump. So the next time your at your local physician, insta-care, or emergency room, take a look around – what aspects of the healthcare mobile ecosystem do you see that could be voice-enabled?
Last week, Multichannel Merchant had a great article that focused on how to improve warehouse productivity. He had nine tips for doing so ranging from creating a picking path to listening to employee feedback.
We’d like to add a tenth – using your voice.
Voice picking isn’t new to the warehouse. In fact, our voice picking product, Speakeasy, has been around for years, but just within the last couple of years companies have really started to implement it and see huge returns.
Take Goya Foods for example. They have been using Speakeasy in their Prince George facility. Within the first few months of using Speakeasy, they noticed improvement in three areas – accuracy, efficiency, and safety. Like Goya, most companies see the following:
Mispicks can lead to significant expenses, costing most companies anywhere from $5 – $50 per error. With that in mind, you can see how the savings quickly add up. (To see for yourself, contact us for a copy of our Speakeasy ROI Calculator)
On average, pick teams will complete their tasks much faster than before. With voice, pick teams move from sequence to sequence in rapid time.
With voice commands, pickers move from point to point more safely. This makes plant managers much more at ease.
Another thing to point out is that management costs of Speakeasy are minimal because the product is advanced enough that pickers don’t need to go through technical training to calibrate it for their own use.
Not to mention it is really easy to use, as our own Greg Berger demonstrates for Warehouse IQ at ProMat last year.