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April 15th – Listen to the Voice – it’s the future of ‘W&L’ best practice

Welcome to the 15 April Warehouse & Logistics News. We hope you had a good Easter break. To ease you back into the working mood, in our scheduled features we look at Power Sources, covering all aspects of motive power in the warehouse and logistics environment, including batteries, LPG and engines, and Order Picking, taking in pickers, pick to light and voice picking.

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Voice picking technology certainly delivers results. In our Order Picking feature Ronan Clinton, the Heavey RF Group’s Chief Executive points to customers enjoying 600% increases in accuracy, 95% improvements in productivity rates and huge gains in pick speeds, resulting in a return on investment within a year of implementation.

Voice-directed order picking has enjoyed a rise to prominence over the last 25 years or so similar to other hugely successful technologies before it such as cars, TVs, personal computers and mobile phones. These technologies’ enduring success becomes almost inevitable because once implanted in our lives, in Ronan Clinton’s words they become ‘useful, beneficial and utterly indispensable.’ Adoption drives competition between suppliers, and this in its turn drives innovation and enhancement, a stage voice is currently thriving in.

If your vision of voice technology’s capabilities is teams of order pickers in headsets running round warehouses picking stock from the pick face as directed by a computer, it seems that’s only part of the story.

Towards the end of the article Ronan Clinton warns that right now we need to be careful not to try to implement technology for technology’s sake. Fair enough. But in the future we can expect that voice solutions will provide the most up to date, accurate information, allowing operations to enjoy the best performance and flexibility. Without being too fanciful, it’s likely the software will also be able to analyse which practices work best and drive those practices out to all members of the workforce.

Meanwhile if you’re looking for some good news right here, right now, the British Chambers of Commerce reports the UK economy showing signs of improvement in the first three months of this year, with both domestic orders and exports up on the previous quarter.

Last month the OECD expected our economy to contract at the start of 2012, taking us back into recession. But that was followed by reports suggesting UK manufacturing grew in March at its fastest rate for 10 months, an encouraging sign that the economy could return to growth in the first quarter. It’s clearly time to be positive!

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