What Is Voice Picking and Why Should You Implement It in Your Supply Chain?

03.08.2021

warehouse conveyor line using voice picking technology

Since the late 90’s, the warehousing and distribution industry has used various voice solutions to assist warehouse operators with their day-to-day picking processes. Today’s voice picking technology is incredibly advanced and multimodal. You will often see it combined with other technologies, such as Bluetooth technology, barcode scanning and RFID to improve picker efficiency, increase warehouse productivity and innovate supply chains in every industry.

What Is Voice Picking?

Voice picking is a hands and eyes-free picking system that uses voice prompts to help warehouse operators execute their picking tasks. Using WiFi to send signals throughout the warehouse, picking orders get translated through headsets worn by the picking operators, directing them to specific picking locations within the warehouse and informing them of the quantities to be picked.

Pick-by-voice technology, as it is also known, optimizes the path that the picker takes throughout the warehouse, tells them which items to pick, how much of each item to pick, and then allows them to validate their picks using their own voices. The validation process involves using checkstrings, or check digits, to be spoken by the picker upon arrival at the picking location. If the check digits or quantities don’t match the expected input, the voice picking system will let the picker know the location or the quantity is incorrect and redirect them to the correct location.

What Are the Advantages of Voice Picking?

In large distribution centers with a high volume of carton-based fine picking and a wide range of SKUs, voice picking is superior to traditional picking methods. These are some of the major benefits of using voice picking in your own warehouse:

  • Pickers remain more engaged in the picking operations. As they are focused on the conversation between themselves and the voice system, they are much less likely to be distracted talking to other pickers or warehouse workers while on the job.
  • Voice picking improves safety outcomes. Workers don’t have to worry about multitasking with multiple devices, or taking their attention away from the picking task to check cumbersome paperwork and documentation. The result is significantly fewer workplace injuries and less damage to products being moved. 
  • Training warehouse operators becomes incredibly easy. Because the technology is based on everyday language, voice picking eliminates the need for workers to learn complicated labeling rules or standard operating procedures. Without the long, drawn-out training processes your warehouse staff can get started immediately after you hire them. 
  • The language barrier is no more. Most voice picking solutions enable speech and language detection in multiple languages. This means you don’t have to worry about your picking efficiency slowing down because your warehouse operators don’t all speak the same language.
  • Voice picking offers more job satisfaction. For workers whose pay is based on picking quantity, voice solutions can be a boon to their productivity thanks to simplified picking tasks. Not only is this a great incentive for the workers, but for you, this translates into a higher hourly picking rate and a lower employee turnover.
  • It can help automate other common manual processes in the warehouse. From your receiving strategies and cycle counting methods to inventory replenishment and put-away, voice technology can be used in other areas of your warehousing and supply chain operations.

Voice Picking in DATASCOPE WMS

Using a full voice-based picking solution with advanced Vocollect voice technology, DATASCOPE’s voice picking module has proven highly effective in large warehouses and distribution centers with conveyor systems that run through all pick face zones. The hybrid voice-conveyor system functions as follows:

  1. Orders are released to the warehouse using the DATASCOPE WMS wave release screen. This module automatically “builds” up the cartons needed for the order, including the details of each carton’s contents.
  2. These cartons are included into the conveyor system.
  3. Each carton runs through different warehouse zones, each consisting of many pick faces and laid out according to picking volume. 
  4. Cartons get picked using a voice-based picking device, such as a Vocollect V750 with either a single carton pick or a trolley picking process. Using check digits, the voice system guarantees that the picker is picking from the correct bin. If a bin is empty, the software will look for the missing product in an alternative bin location in the same zone and direct the picker to the next best location.
  5. After moving through all required zones, the carton goes along the conveyor to the checkout area for a mass check and to make sure there are no missing items. From there, the cartons go to the dispatch areas grouped by bin location and then are turned over to logistics for delivery.

Combined with a good pick face layout, we’ve seen voice picking productivity increase by 10-30% and efficiency increase by 100%, depending on the application and the industry. DATASCOPE’s voice system is currently used by Jonsson Workwear, the leading supplier of workwear apparel on the African continent. DATASCOPE was proud to partner with them in helping design their automated distribution center in Johannesburg, South Africa. This was the first implementation of the DATASCOPE voice picking solution and the result has been a 35% increase in efficiency in traditional, scanner-based picking. 

To learn more about the features and functionality of DATASCOPE’s premium voice picking solution and how to implement it into your own distribution center, schedule a demo of our software today.


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