Voice-directed order picking

Millions of cartons and products are picked each day in order fulfilment applications using voice-directed computing.
The hands-free, eyes free approach to order picking has quickly become a preferred order fulfilment solution for distributors around the world, saving thousands of dollars through enhanced order picking productivity and in the costs associated with rectifying picking errors every day.
Voice-directed computing prompts the operator through a series of tasks with clear, verbal commands. These are transmitted in real-time by a radio frequency (RF) system that interfaces with the user’s host platform, typically a WMS or ERP system.
The operator wears a small headset and the lightweight, portable voice-computer is attached to a belt around their waist. This keeps both hands free at all times while picking and, because the operator doesn’t need to waste time looking at and reading the data on a screen or picking list, this enhances OH&S and substantially increases productivity.
At Dick Smith Electronics (DSE) national distribution centre at Chullora in Sydney, the introduction of Voice Picking has well and truly exceeded expectations, delivering a 22%+ productivity gain and rapid ROI.
Alan Hicks, national supply chain manager, Dick Smith Electronics, said: “Since introducing voice picking, we have significantly reduced the cost per pick and actually lowered our overall labour costs despite increasing throughput. Better job satisfaction and OH&S is a real bonus too.”
Trans-Tasman fashion and home décor catalogue distributor EziBuy has also achieved phenomenal results since introducing voice picking in its new DC at Palmerston North, New Zealand. In the largest application of split-case voice picking technology in New Zealand, EziBuy increased picking productivity from an average of 38 lines/person/hour to 89, and up to 160 in fast pick zones.
“EziBuy’s people took to voice picking very quickly. The feedback is always the same. They all love the hands and eyes-free picking opportunity that voice picking delivers,” said NZ logistics consultant responsible for the project, Scott Kerr, managing director, Kerrect Logistics (NZ).
In a different application of voice directed computing, Melbourne-based discount variety retailer, The Reject Shop (TRS), is using the technology to facilitate a batch picking and ‘put’ order picking process.
In traditional retail distribution centres, the typical practice is to assemble a complete store order at a time. The Reject Shop has turned that principle on its head and instead of carting the entire order around the DC and picking products, TRS batch picks all of a single product for all orders at the one time, and then allocates the required stock for each store in a voice-directed ‘put’ process.
 “Using voice picking as the enabler for our ‘put’ picking process has delivered excellent productivity gains, improved accuracy, reduced costs and increased throughput,” said The Reject Shop’s logistics manager, Philip Beckett.
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