Wavelink Blog

Tag: voice applications

Voice Enablement Speaks to Problems Solved

Making an investment in technology isn’t about developing or buying a product, but a problem that the technology solves. Here at Wavelink, our investment in voice enablement has been focused on solving the problems our customers face: What problems with their current workflows can be addressed with voice? What problems with traditional voice applications can be solved with a fresh approach via voice enablement?


Infographic: Top problems solved with voice technology

The answer varies by business, and you can see some of the more common challenges driving voice adoption in the accompanying infographic. It is always interesting to hear a personal story from a decision maker explaining why they chose Speakeasy.  Just as impressive are the metrics by which they measure the ROI on their voice enablement implementation – which can range from dollars and cents, to the less obvious employee morale, etc.  All these show why voice adoption is projected to grow significantly over the next several years.

The goals all yield some commonality in the problems solved: Improvements – whether measured by accuracy, safety, training, and others, all tie back to making sure the optimal amount of product moves to the next stage in the supply chain. That’s productivity!

Speaking of productivity, are you planning to attend Oracle OpenWorld next month?  Wavelink will be there to talk mobile productivity. Stop by and get a demo of Speakeasy in booth #3537.

Four Implementation Costs Traditional Voice Application Providers Don’t Want You to Think About

This column was originally posted in March 2015 and has been updated.

We talk about voice enablement with enterprises throughout the supply chain a lot, and here a lot of stories about their prior experiences with traditional voice applications. Their stories are maddening.  Their stories are horrifying.  Their stories are the kind that make anyone with P&L responsibility want to scream.  Too often, these recounted experiences are stories of large up-front investments and then a bunch of unforeseen expenses post-deployment.  The problem is the traditional voice application model, which adds costs in these four common areas:

Speakeasy eliminates these for costs when adding voice to your warehouse mobility solution.

Speakeasy eliminates these four costs when adding voice to your warehouse mobility solution.

Voice-dedicated hardware: Traditional voice apps require a separate, proprietary computer (typically worn on the belt or shoulder of the worker), that houses the speech-to-text and text-to-speech processing.  However, if the barcode scanning mobile computers you’re deploying are fairly current (introduced to market in 2008 or later)), they already have the audio capabilities and computing horsepower to handle the voice processing, so you don’t need to buy proprietary voice hardware.

Middleware or “System Interfaces”: In most warehouse applications, you’re workers are already interfacing to a host system – your WMS, ERP or other supply chain management system.  And, in most of these cases, your workers are using Terminal Emulation on their mobile computers to interact with this host system.  There is no need to wedge additional middleware in between your host system and mobile device client in order to enable voice.  You’re interest is to recognize productivity gains by adding voice to your existing mobile application, so there is no need to buy middleware to enable voice.

Host System Modifications: Recently, I wrote about the problems that can arise when your voice vendor wants to make changes to your host system.  You’ve invested a significant amount of money in your host system, and you don’t need another vendor putting their hands in there (and changing you consulting services fees to do it).  Adding voice to the mobile application should simply pass data back to the host system in the same way that barcode scanned or key-entered data is communicated.  Your host system shouldn’t even need to know which method of data capture was used for a given data field, so adding voice shouldn’t require changes to your host systems.

Post-Deployment Host Modifications: Once your workers are voice-enabled and you’re realizing the productivity gains of voice-enablement, should you discover a process change that will further optimize your workflow, many traditional voice vendors will require that you contract them to contribute to the changes you want to make to your host system. They want to be included because they’ve already made changes to your host system to make their voice application work, so if you want to make any changes, they’ll need to ensure their application isn’t adversely affected.  Deploying voice-enablement shouldn’t require host system modifications, so you shouldn’t have to pay professional services fees to your voice vendor every time you want to make a change to your host system.

If you’ve encountered any of these issues when considering adding voice to your picking or other warehouse workflows, it’s time to look at Speakeasy.  It’s 100% mobile device driven (no proprietary voice hardware or middleware required), and does not require any modifications to your host system (which also eliminates the associated post-deployment costs).  You get the productivity benefits of full-featured voice-enablement, but without all these additional costs that often make traditional voice applications cost prohibitive.  Plus, you can deploy in as little as 30 days, so the productivity gains and cost savings can start adding up quickly.

For best results, don’t look down

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.

Three easy ways to tell if Speakeasy can help you optimize worker productivity in your warehouse

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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 Speakeasy in Actionare 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.
  3. 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.

Don’t take my word for it, watch the customer Goya Foods and Coleman Cable testimonial videos on www.wavelink.com/voice.

Wavelink on the Road – What Have We Learned About Voice?

A warm welcome to the first day of April! While this post will contain no April Fool’s Day jokes, it will wrap up some of the key findings and observations that we, the Wavelink team, have found during our busy first quarter of 2014.

As you should know, we have been out and about spreading the word about Wavelink, at our numerous 2014 activities. Being at so many different places over the past few months, I’ve noticed a few key trends, and I think they are indicative of industry demand, rather than us advocating them. But, more so than any other trend, the “voice” trend is going s-t-r-o-n-g.

Two years ago, when we explained what it meant to “voice-enable” applications versus buying a voice “system”, few could articulate the difference. After speaking with hundreds upon hundreds of folks – whether it be at NRF in NYC, to one of our Speakeasy Roadshows, or MODEX a couple weeks ago in Atlanta – people understand the difference between what it means to voice enable, versus buying a legacy solution. Primarily, they’ve researched legacy voice solutions, and understand the dozens of barriers inherent with them: costly, lengthy implementations, etc., etc.

Now, when we explain the concept of taking their existing telnet or web applications, and simply voice-enabling them, you can see the lightbulb go off. After all these years of knowing what they don’t want, people have a firm grip on what their organization needs. It’s a great time to be in the industry and part of the “voice movement”. As a conclusion, here are some photo’s we took along the way from various shows. Enjoy!

MODEX 2014

As I write this it’s the end of the week and we have another MODEX under our belts. This year’s show was enormous and well attended by customers, integrators, consulting companies, and students of the industry.

It proved to be a worthwhile show, attendees showing up in droves with active projects, ideas and concepts, and a fire to keep pushing forward. Vendors were there in large numbers covering every aspect of supply chain and distribution from low tech fans and pallet managers to high tech warehouse and distribution data management systems – all with bringing their users improvements in productivity and high return on investment.

Speakeasy in action with Motorola devices on a forklift

Speakeasy in action with Motorola devices on a forklift

Technology advancements continue at a stunning rate from every aspect of materials movement and management. Of course, the cloud had a huge presence at the show as the industry begins to open up and trust moving their business information and transactions over the internet, this is a big step for this industry.

It was a fantastic show for Wavelink. Speech Enablement was the hit of the show, and the high functionality, quick payback, low disruption messages are finally sinking in. We received more requests for on-site productivity audits, proofs of concept, and speech pilots than I can remember from any single event.

Velocity was also a smoking hot topic. It appears manufacturing and distribution companies are moving toward web platforms and are discovering that app performance and disconnections are slowing down their workers. Velocity specifically fixes those problems, AND offers the ability so speech enable web apps making the perfect combo.

MODEX is an every other year show, swapping years with ProMat, its sister show. Wavelink will follow up with all the activity MODEX generated, but we are already looking forward ProMat in Chicago next year!

Chances are Good you Already have a Voice-ready App in Production but Didn’t know it! – Part 1

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.

Speakeasy in ActionThe 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. 

What Eric Schmidt Can Learn from Warehouse Employees – Get Used to Talking to A Device

Google GlassesSince 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!

Speakeasy in Action

Speakeasy in Action

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.

Keeping the Supply Chain Agile

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.”021_6789_01

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.

Customer Spotlight – Cofares Increases Efficiency in the Distribution Center

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.

CASE STUDY-COFARES_Final_Page_1With 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.