As the way Britain shops moves increasingly towards cyber shopping, top line order picking systems become even more crucial. At the outset investors must know their existing order picking costs accurately. Many operators don’t, though users of manually operated picking systems will have a reasonable idea.

When picking speed and accuracy become crucial, partial or full automation beckons. But don’t forget to factor in future process changes, particularly with voice picking. Some voice recognition order picking users have fallen into the trap of buying voice solutions built to fit their business. A bespoke system may sound sensible but fixed or point solutions can only be modified at cost and over time.

Any product choice must have adaptability, to make change easy. The product should use open standards and be engineered to be truly device independent. It must have scalability, with enterprise-level features supporting multiple operating systems.

Voice picking has two key attractions: higher productivity and near zero errors. Returns from irate customers caused by mispicks are the highest cost irritation for warehouse operations.  Paper-based picking can produce error rates of up to 4% and a 1% rise in picking errors could raise order fulfilment costs by up to 10%. Voice picking is also much cheaper to install than other picking systems like pick-to-light, but the two can run side by side very effectively.

Voice picking technology delivers results. Ronan Clinton, 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 picking has enjoyed a rise to prominence over the last 25 years or so similar to other hugely successful technologies such as cars, TVs, personal computers and mobile phones. These technologies’ enduring success becomes almost inevitable because once implanted in our lives, in Ronan’s words they become ‘useful, beneficial and utterly indispensable.’ Adoption drives competition between suppliers, in turn driving 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 his article Ronan warns that right now we must be careful not to implement technology for technology’s sake. Fair enough. But in future we can expect voice solutions will provide the most up to date, accurate information, allowing 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. Get ahead, by getting ready for the future now.

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