Voice has gotten a lot more attention in the last few years. Between Apple’s introduction of Siri to the rapidly growing popularity of applications like Dragon Dictation, voice is more than what crazy people hear in their heads. It’s a valuable tool for productivity, efficiency and even safety. Let’s rundown some of the benefits:
- Improve safety in your warehouse. Distracted driving is a big problem on our roadways. Slogans like “talk, text, crash,” and commercials about the “last text he read before he died” send a powerful message about avoiding distracted driving. There may not be cars in the warehouse, but there are trucks, forklifts and other motorized vehicles that can be just as dangerous. Distracted driving isn’t just a problem on the road, it’s a problem in the warehouse too. About 100 workers are killed and 95,000 are injured in forklift accidents every year, according to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. Voice solutions remove the need for drivers to look down at their devices while driving. Instead, a voice in their headset tells them where to go and what to do when they get there.
- Increase efficiency. You can read all about this in an earlier blog post from my colleague, Gemma Randazzo, which details the ways voice can improve efficiency. The bottom line is that adding voice can improve accuracy by reducing mis-picks. With a 99.9 percent accuracy rate, voice decreases the time spent correcting errors and time lost on inaccuracies.
- Drive productivity. While the seconds saved looking down at a device, then up at a product, then down at a device may not seem impactful, if you reduce or eliminate those seconds, it adds up fast. Voice is also typically accompanied by hands-free devices, which have a well-documented 15-20 percent gain in productivity associated with them.
- Versatility. Voice isn’t just for picking. It can also help with processes outside the warehouse, including mobile inspections, field services and yard management. It offers the same benefits – productivity, efficiency, etc. – to those processes outside the warehouse as it does to picking inside.
- Speedy implementation. One of the best parts of voice is that it can be implemented very quickly. Unlike with many other applications, which require a system overhaul, device upgrades, or other time-consuming changes, voice can be added quickly and easily, so the benefits can also be realized quickly and easily. To see what we mean, check out this video where Goya Foods talks about their experience with voice:
Posted by Brandon Hill
Can deploying mobile outside the warehouse can save you time and money?
Having a great deal of visibility within your warehouse has obvious benefits. With better insight into when your inventory needs to be replenished or by using a system that can tell you where to store new product, greater visibility can reduce costs associated with lost or wasted product and can also decrease time spent manually picking or putting away.
While mobile systems are often used in today’s warehouses to reap the efficiency and cost rewards of having greater visibility, it is also important to mobilize processes outside the four walls to strengthen the productivity and profitability of your entire supply chain. By employing a mobile unit in the field, connectivity and additional visibility gains can help your organization realize even greater cost and time savings.
The single greatest opportunity for making money with mobile outside the warehouse is with your field sales teams. With mobile systems in place, you can make it easy for your reps to take orders and send them in via smart device. This instant processing can allow your salesperson to turn product back over to customers quickly, as well as easily look up order histories or statuses. Having this instant access to customer purchasing history also provides your field sales with opportunities to upsell or cross-sell new products, based on that customer’s buying patterns. Without having to manually log orders in or tread to and from the warehouse, this allows your reps to meet with many more customers each day and reduce transport costs.
Another way to improve your organization’s efficiency outside the four walls and increase overall supply chain profitability is with your service teams. With real-time response capabilities, your team can respond quickly to job requests and address more service calls without having to drop in and out of the warehouse for updates. Making your service operations more productive also produces increased satisfaction among your customer base, as customers can get real-time updates on the status of their requests and teams are better able to expedite delivery.
Deploying mobile not only limits your field teams’ need to return to the warehouse or office, but you’ll also see that through mobilizing operations your organization will start cutting back on paperwork. Additionally, your overall customer experience – from sales to service – will drastically improve and become more efficient and profitable.
History Channel’s latest reality TV creation, Big Rig Bounty Hunters, has brought a little-known underground industry into the limelight. This industry involves hired contractors working to track down missing cargo or 18-wheelers that have simply vanished off the map altogether. The show follows a number of colorful characters, the “bounty hunters,” as they attempt to find these trucks and/or retrieve their cargo so that trucking companies aren’t out heaps of money. And the hunters make a pretty penny in the process too.
As an employee of a transportation and logistics solutions provider, this show got me thinking, how is it even possible for a truck or its cargo to go missing in today’s modern era of transportation logistics and fleet management technology? I did some research and it turns out the current era isn’t as modern as one might think…
According to Kimberly Knickle, practice director at IDC Manufacturing Insights, just 26 percent of respondents in IDC’s supply chain mobility survey reported using smartphones and media tablets for logistics. Dwight Klappich, a research vice president at Gartner didn’t fare much better in his industry analysis. Klappich recently asked an audience of carriers and private fleet operators how many of them had mobile-enabled fleets. About half of the audience responded that they did so. Klappich then asked how many of the vehicles were equipped with GPS systems and the response was significantly lower. “So, basically they’re driving around in $300,000 units, but still using paper to track their activities,” he told Logistics Management. So according to industry experts, many trucking companies are keeping track of their expensive rigs (and cargo to boot) with a paper trail – kept by the trucker – inside the truck? The premise of this show is starting to make a lot more sense.
But the industry is slowly changing, says Klappich. As drivers are using more technology in their personal lives, they want to move away from antiquated techniques, such as paper logs, while on the job. Due to a current driver shortage and an increased incentive to comply with driver requests, along with reduced costs, trucking companies are taking note and rolling out mobile solutions to their fleets. And with good reason; the benefits of mobile technology on big rigs are many: drivers can capture signatures as proof-of-delivery, communicate with their company, receive permits, reconcile fuel taxes, photograph damage to deliveries and navigate where they are going. In addition, tablets and other mobile devices enable two-way communication between the driver and dispatcher.
While it may be some time before tablets are widely used across the trucking industry, one technology that is much more commonplace is the use of a “black box” or electronic on-board recorder device that not only enables the driver to log his miles, but also allows the distributor or trucking company to keep tabs on the driver’s routes and track his status in real-time. Leveraging this kind of technology is a no-brainer according to Anne Ferro of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Farro states that most companies that switch to electronic logs do so “very effectively and very profitably.” She also states that those who leverage this technology are “finding it’s a very, very efficient mechanism for tracking on-duty status.” According to Commercial Carrier Journal, electronic logging technology is not just a beneficial service for drivers and their respective owners but it may soon be the law. Farro predicts that a rule mandating the use of electronic onboard records will be proposed by September 2013.
Until tablets become widely adopted across the industry, or electronic on-board recorders are federally mandated, it seems the big rig bounty hunters can keep their day jobs.
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.
Posted by Gemma Randazzo
I recently read that logistics are as essential to the “holiday season as the Christmas tree and the Menorah.” I don’t think I need to do too much convincing at this time of the year for you to appreciate just how true that is. Just open your inbox and you are immediately reminded that if you want your holiday packages delivered before the festivities you better get a move on. As I write this an array of “final hours” emails bombard my inbox.
According to eMarketer “online shoppers in the United States will spend $54.47 billion this holiday season, up 16.8% from $46.63 billion last year.” That is a staggering number and only accounts for one country. It is easy to see why companies like Amazon are expanding fulfillment centers and opening a new 1-million square foot facility (yes, 1 million square feet) in Washington State. With the trend of online shopping only growing, fulfillment centers around the globe will continue to see their business models change to reflect that of the online consumer. Today’s online consumer appreciates the diverse number of stores they can purchase from without leaving home and driving several miles, but it also means that the instant in-store gratification is no longer there. Just because it isn’t there doesn’t mean consumers don’t still want it and for instant gratification you need logistics.
Transportation and logistics companies get items where they need to be as quickly as possible. To minimize hiccups a vital part of this process is managing the hand-held devices that get the packages to your doorstep. From the warehouse where the items are picked, packaged and shipping labels are then printed, to the logistics company picking up the package, scanning the label and then flying and/or driving it to where it needs to go. The whole time this package is tracked using a hand-held device so you can monitor its progress. If a device goes down or experiences a malfunction you aren’t going to care because you just want your package. But to businesses managing these devices is a critical component of their job after all customer satisfaction is number one. A total mobile device management effectively keeps these devices secure and up and running from anywhere in the world. In any given day there are many different “fires” for businesses to put out and with a reliable device management solution, managing and tracking all their hand-held devices is one less “fire” they need to worry about.
And with that I must go – someone changed their mind on which of the latest video games they wanted and to avoid rush-shipping charges I need to hit purchase.
Posted by Kelly Ungs
As IT organizations everywhere are restructuring their budgets for 2013, figuring out where their company should be spending and how much, it’s no secret that one of the areas that will require some careful consideration is BYOD. While there is certainly not a “one size fits all” approach, with clear-cut benefits to guide your organization’s decision on whether or not to support personal devices, there are certainly many aspects and even myths to mull over.
In the spirit of the holiday season (and finalizing IT spending for next year), I’ve made a naughty and nice list, which takes a quick look at a few pain points and things to look forward to, as you work toward implementing or fine-tuning a BYOD policy within your organization.
Hidden Costs: On the surface, BYOD comes across as a cost cutter, with the $70-ish per month required to operate the device falling to the end user. What organizations need to remember is that increased personal devices translates to increased mobile device management, which means you’ll need to invest in a reliable toolset to power and manage your BYOD environment – whether that means hiring additional manpower, or deploying an MDM solution that will help you safely and efficiently roll out your BYOD program.
Security Scares: As personal devices will consistently come and go, in and out of the corporate network, BYOD reasonably presents some concerning potential scenarios, such as external exposure of confidential emails, contact lists or sensitive company financial information. While IT can certainly take steps to safeguard information once the device is known to be lost, many employees don’t set up a password to secure their device (in a recent survey, only 29 percent of users reported they set passwords to keep their devices locked), and several minutes or hours can pass before he or she knows the device is lost. Employees holding out hope that their device will be found may even wait days before reporting the device missing to IT.
Too Many Toys to Track: Shiny new devices are popping up all the time, especially around the holidays. This can be especially problematic as it seems employees are walking in with new tablets right after IT has made a buying decision on which operating systems they’ll support with their MDM solution. IT has a tough decision to make: “should I focus on keeping up with the latest and greatest to satisfy all of my end users personal preferences, or only support a select number of systems and hope my end users don’t attempt to connect unsecured devices to corporate resources?”
Hidden Savings: After carefully considering the total cost of ownership of mobile assets, some companies have actually managed to capitalize on their decision to allow BYOD, such as Cisco, which recently told InformationWeek they’ve been able to reduce costs per user by 30 percent, despite a 98-percent increase in device count.
Controlled Productivity: While there are certainly risks associated with granting employees access to company info while on the
go, mobile device management has also come a long way in enabling IT to govern when, where and who can access the files needed to get the work done. Most MDM solutions now come with policy-setting features that allow IT to grant or disable access to specific applications or files. With devices that enter the enterprise without IT knowledge or consent, there are also default policies that can be applied to give the unknown device basic access to company Wi-Fi but maybe not email or enterprise apps.
You Can Satisfy the Majority: While some organizations may deem it more productive to support each employee’s individual device preference, most companies run a successful BYOD program by managing the most popular operating systems – such as iOS, Android and Windows. A quick survey of your employees’ device OS “wish lists” should help you identify the majority rule for your company.
As you can see, there are opportunities and concerns associated with several, if not all aspects of BYOD. The key to rolling out your BYOD plan for 2013 is in evaluating how your company could potentially benefit versus how much you’d need to invest to maintain the benefits and safeguard against the potential pain points. Are the benefits really “nice,” or could they end up turning “naughty?”
Posted by Brandon Hill
I came across an interesting read from Forbes that was posted over the summer about the growing threat of mobile device security. It has some fascinating figures on mobile device usage and the inherent risks associated with our growing demand on mobile technologies. It’s becoming such an issue, that the White House and other leaders are entering the discussion.
Some of the more interesting (and/or frightening) highlights include that “six out of every 10 cyber-security breaches occur as a result of a mobile device.” Why is that an issue? Well, consider the following that the author, Kevin Johnson points out:
We’ve reached an inflection point where the lightning-fast adoption of powerful, smart devices is outpacing our ability to secure our mobile lives. In a world of 7 billion people, there are now 5.9 billion mobile-phone subscribers. Here in the U.S., we have more mobile-phone subscriptions than people. The mobile Internet that we’ve come to rely on ― for everything from financial transactions to business operations to emergency-response procedures ― is increasingly vulnerable.
Think about that. In the US, we have more mobile-phone subscriptions than people. Take into account that many, if not most, are accessing some combination of personal and corporately-liable informations, and you can see why the issue is being trust onto center stage. Take a look at the article and let us know what strikes you the most about it. It’s a good read.
Okay, it may be a stretch to say that this holiday season you want voice technology wrapped in a red bow but it isn’t a stretch to say from your professional point of view, “let’s make my life easier”. We can’t wrap it up in a pretty little bow with a nice shiny car but we can give you five good reasons why voice technology can improve efficiency in your operation.
- Go Multi-Modal: The ability to accept voice in addition to barcode scanning, RFID and keyboard entry expands the flexibility of application design by providing a cross-check to error-proof data. It also gives you the freedom to select the type of data input that will improve workflow that maximizes productivity. For example, the input of longer identifiers, such as serial numbers, is accomplished more efficiently with barcode scanning. When you can quickly use a variety of methods to check on the accuracy of an order it improves customer service and retention levels while eliminating costly mistakes.
- Increase productivity: With a well known 15 – 20% (or more) gain in productivity, hands-free operation allows for simultaneous action that increases productivity, such as the handling of product while receiving and/or providing information to and from the application in voice form. The voice entry is confirmed by the system, eliminating the need to look at the screen to verify data, further reducing cycle times and improving worker efficiency. (more…)
Posted by Brandon Hill
The following comes from Mike Temple, Product Manager for LANDesk and Wavelink. You can check out some of his other posts at the LANDesk Blog, located here.
“As you may have noticed if you’ve been to the grocery store lately – or anywhere with music playing on the overhead speakers – the holiday season is here. While it officially kicks off with Black Friday later this week, if retail music choices are anything to go by, it’s already here.
With Nordstrom’s, JC Penney and Apple leading the charge, consumers will be seeing a lot more sales staff using mobile devices to ring up their holiday purchases this year. Consumers aren’t the only ones who are seeing more of mobile devices. IT departments, who have managed mobile devices in the warehouse for many years, are now being asked to support devices in both their corporate offices and on the retail floor.
For those asked to manage the rapidly expanding number of devices, finding the right solution can be daunting. There are a lot of places to look for information, including the NRF’s Mobile Initiative and the Enterprise Mobility Forum. We also invite folks to check out our mobile ecosystem LinkedIn Group.
Before you leap into the mobile device management fray, it’s good to start with a framework of issues to consider:
– What does your mobile ecosystem look like? Wavelink’s interactive Facebook app can help define your mobile ecosystem and some of the management concerns associated with the different types of mobility. Don’t forget to take into account your wireless infrastructure as you’re defining your ecosystem.
– How are those mobile devices being used and what systems do they need access to? Mobile devices in the warehouse will need different programs and levels of access than those used on the retail floor or those used in corporate offices. Make sure the solution you decide on can accommodate these different levels of policy needs.
– What types of devices are being used? While it’s obvious that the ruggedized devices used in the warehouse will be different from the devices used in the corporate office, there will still be a few different types of devices and operating systems being used in each part of the mobile ecosystem. The solution you decide on should be able to support these different systems.
– Are there plans for expansion? If your company is planning to expand retail operations (more devices on the floor and in any additional warehouses) or add additional corporate offices, how will the solution you choose adjust to your expanding number of devices?
– And of course, cost. What is your budget for a management solution? Remember that you can often save a bit of money by purchasing solutions that cover a suite of IT issues and doing away with some of the point tools being used. This can also lead to a more efficient and effective IT department.
Remember, mobility isn’t necessarily good or bad, but it can cause your organization serious problems if it isn’t managed, such as lost productivity, increased costs or security breaches. These devices are here to stay, whether IT is prepared or not. Proactive consideration of a management solution can save you a lot of headaches later on.”
By now you’ve heard us talk about the mobile ecosystem quite a bit; its importance within your organization and how no two companies will have the same mobile ecosystem. (Not sure what makes up the mobile ecosystem? Check out this useful diagram.) With lots of interconnecting pieces including devices, locations, back and front-end processes and systems, it’s important to assess each area of your business and take a look at the overall health of your organization. Fitting all the pieces together can be overwhelming. After all, what you care about is the bottom-line; where the efficiency is, the increase in productivity and a return on your investment.
If we take one piece of the mobile ecosystem at a time it is easy to make small changes that add up to big returns. Let’s take the warehouse, and more specifically, the back-end of the warehouse and your warehouse management system (WMS). A simple and fast way to see an immediate increase in productivity is to add voice to your WMS in less than 30-days. It’s that simple.
No, really it is that simple. Within the last five-years alone, voice has evolved at a substantial pace. There is no longer one option, no longer additional servers, new hardware or undue burden on the network. Now companies can utilize existing hardware and enable workers (including seasonal workers, with little to no training) to just pick up any device and begin using voice-directed picking immediately. By focusing on just one piece of the ecosystem at a time it becomes manageable and by implementing voice, whether it is in the warehouse or in mobile inspections, field services or yard management, you can achieve dramatic results.
When you utilize voice as part of your overall ecosystem, you add one more tool to keep your enterprise evolving with the growing demands of today’s supply chain.