Talk of the town: Voice picking solutions for warehousing
Increasing productivity and minimising errors
“Time is money” has never been a more relevant phrase than in the world of ecommerce, and in particular ecommerce logistics. Pre-Covid, European growth in ecommerce was scheduled to rise rapidly to 500 billion Euros in 2024 but initial results from the pandemic and lockdown point to even further acceleration of this growth.
According to new data from Signifyd, ecommerce sales in Europe for the week ending June 21st, which coincided with non-essential retail opening in England, were 35% higher than they were for the first week of March, which is used as a pre-pandemic benchmark.
It’s good news for the retailers and logistics companies shipping products but this increase in business will be putting added pressure on those managing the warehouses and shipping. No wonder then that even before the pandemic, research of senior managers in this area showed that 65% were currently considering or had recently looked at automated voice picking solutions for their business.
Voice picking is a popular solution for warehouses and distribution centres. Pickers wear headsets connected to a mobile computing device that runs a voice application telling the pickers where to go and what to do next. The mobile device often has an integrated bar code scanner or pickers use a smart scanning glove or ring to scan items. Once the task has been completed, the picker can then respond or confirm to the application via a microphone and speech recognition technology.
The technology has a number of benefits in speed and accuracy for the business. Firstly, it speeds the process of picking and shipping items. It’s a key contributor in the positive measurement of Units Picked Per Hour (UPH).
Secondly, it minimises mistakes in items picked and customer orders shipped. Most distribution centres have a triage area where incorrect orders are sent to be fixed. Correcting these mistakes can be time consuming and costly, so the more orders that are accurate the first time, the more efficient business can become.
In addition, the warehousing industry often suffers from labour shortages and staff can be difficult to retain. There is the requirement for additional staff in peak periods, such as Christmas or during the recent pandemic. Modern voice picking solutions eliminate the need for extensive and time consuming training in a fast paced warehousing environment.
They also allow the organisation the flexibility to implement and switch to different zone, batch or wave picking strategies as required, without having to extensively retrain staff that are already used to one system. Zone picking is compared often to the warehouse picking version of an assembly line. This process involves dividing stock-keeping units into a series of different zones. Each picker will pick the items in their zone and then pass the order to the next person. Batch picking involves picking more than one order at a time. Wave picking assigns groups of orders into short intervals called "waves", to simulate the workflow based on the order departure plan and available labour.
It’s clear that the continued rapid adoption of voice-directed warehouse solutions to reduce training time, improve productivity and ultimately deliver customer satisfaction is one of the critical automation tools that will underpin the growth of the ecommerce sector. The Global Voice Picking Solution Market size is expected to reach $2.9 billion by 2025, rising at a market growth of 15.3% CAGR during the forecast period, according to Research and Markets.
Panasonic is active in this market with its latest voice picking solution. It can provide a flexible solution by combining the use of a Bluetooth headset with its rugged TOUGHBOOK N1 handheld device, with built-in barcode scanner or a ProGlove, a holster or shoulder strap, headset and Omnia custom voice application.
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