REPOST: Patricia Kirk, National Real Estate Investor
As e-commerce sales continue to grow and customers expect their packages to arrive overnight, the locations of last mile warehouses become key for a speedy delivery. With this shift, dilapidated warehouses in urban areas have suddenly become coveted pieces of property and the rent prices are reflecting that. Distribution warehouse vacancies in urban areas are at record breaking lows and rents continue to rise. In this article, Patricia Kirk, National Real Estate Investor, calls for alternatives to the traditional warehouse system to be considered by industries looking to be at the forefront of e-commerce.
So many people say eComm is killing jobs… and at the retail level, this is true. But this NYTimes article contends that the eComm industry is hiring considerably more people – and at higher wages – when compared to those who are losing jobs at the mall or on Main St. USA.
Technology is constantly improving, and we can all agree that it is crucial for businesses to continue to upgrade systems in order to maintain a competitive advantage. Pick to voice is a warehouse system that has eliminated many of the problems associated with the older picking solutions. With a voice directed picking solution, the operator uses a bluetooth headset that communicates and confirms picks with the warehouse operator. Pick by voice not only drastically increases accuracy and productivity, but also allows warehouse workers to pick in a seamless manner that does not require them to pause following every pick. Martin Murray, a senior supply chain management consultant and expert in logistics, has succinctly outlined the basic components and benefits of a pick by voice picking system.
Have you ever thought about the value of 15 minutes in your crazy busy day? This infographic quantifies the real magnitude of losing 15 minutes per day around common non-value added daily tasks in most DCs. Sound interesting? Contact email@example.com and let’s chat about about how we can save some time in your DC operations this year.
Accounting for errors has been anything but consistent. Each business typically has its own method for identifying and calculating both the cost of making errors and the cost of correcting them, no matter what system was used to track the errors.
“Understanding Your Cost Per Error” will help you factor the burden rate per employee, transportation process and costs, auditing process and costs, and type of company to begin to determine your cost per error.
This past June, our sister company, Voice Beyond, was invited by Breakthrough magazine to contribute to a story on the emergence voice in Maintenance and Inspection.
The folks from Breakthrough, a publication that focuses on innovation in engineering and manufacturing, were intrigued when they saw Voice Beyond at a logistics and supply chain trade show in the UK, and wanted to know more. The article reviews the benefits of accuracy when using voice-directed work in fulfillment operations, and then describe how the teaming of voice workflows and tablets (in replacements of bulky manuals) serve to boost compliance, safety, productivity and accuracy in the Maintenance and Inspection industry.
by SCOTT ZAHN, Vice President, Operations, July 6, 2017
In May, 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported nearly a 12% year-over-year growth for “non-store” retail sales. The U.S. Department of Commerce believes this jump is largely from Internet sales.
From an Operations perspective, pallet-in/pallet-out is evolving and probably changing faster than the heady growth rates reported by the WSJ’s eComm reports and other sources around the globe.
While some organizations continue to leverage existing solutions, previously optimized for pallet-in/pallet-out processes, many firms have been able to reduce (not maintain) cost metrics with Voice-Enabled workflows supporting eCommerce and Omni-channel strategies in a variety of business models.
Why Voice-Enabled Workflows?
Productivity – eventually, all distribution operations begin to focus on metrics. Picks per hour (PPH) or similar derivatives, are is a common metric used in many organizations today. Voice-enabled selection processes allow the selector to spend less time at the pick face. Like a race car in a 200 loop event with 4 turns – shaving fractions of seconds off each turn is a winning formula.
Accuracy – over the last decade, intolerance for inaccuracy has grown significantly. Many organizations have added bodies, and process to make sure the end customers get exactly what’s ordered. The economics behind improved accuracy are compelling. Voice-enabled workflows tend to be orders of magnitude more accurate than other selection technologies. When comparing the investment to the results and flexibility – the ability to respond to the changes that will be inevitable, the value proposition quickly distances itself from the alternatives.
Better supervisory control – while a majority of the workforce doesn’t require a labor chaperone, supervisors and front line managers can leverage visibility to workflows, rush orders and real-time changes in demand signals and re-organize work on the floor without the traditional delays most operations have come to expect.
Complete visibility – line item selection visibility provides insights into operational data that is often unavailable today. In many cases, these insights are more granular than ad-hoc LMS solutions or data warehouse alternatives.
Why Are Voice-enabled Workflows Important Today?
Ecommerce growth rates have been averaging $40 billion per year for the past 3 years, up 25% from the prior three year period. Leveraging yesterday’s tools and processes for today’s realities is an invitation for competitors to gain a foothold and shift your customer’s preferences. The market is “uber” competitive, and it’s only gaining momentum. As e-Commerce continues to grow at this robust pace, the case for voice-enabling the selection processes in your DC are too compelling to ignore.
Scott is the VP of Operations at Mountain Leverage. As an accomplished professional with extensive sales, marketing, channels and operating experience, he brings unique insight to common challenges faced by leaders in the distribution industry.
Recent increases in E-comm and B2C ordering patterns have put a spotlight on the impact that picking errors now present to operations managers. At a minimum, the B2C shipper incurs a customer return with all the associated costs. But all too frequently the single item mis-ship results in the loss of the next sale. Consumers typically do not return to shop at the seller who delivers the wrong item- or the right item in the wrong size, color or quantity. In fact, they tell their friends and the damage is accurately measured with a multiplier nearly every time. Even in the B2B environment, these errors typically carry a deduction against future invoices along with a correlating reduction in customer satisfaction, opening the door for competitive offerings – even in long-time established accounts.
The picking error that occurs in the distribution center is most often the result of using a sub-optimized process for order fulfillment. The interaction between a picker and paper pick tickets, paper labels, RF handhelds or wearable devices, all have inherent distractions that take the picker’s attention away from the task at hand. Errors occur when a picker is at the pick face with similar or like items stored side by side and must look away from the item/location in order to enter or read information from an RF device or paper ticket.
Voice picking technology removes this inherent distraction faced by all selectors in DCs by utilizing a conversation with the system of record (WMS, ERP, Inventory System) to keep the picker focused on picking the correct item and quantity every time.
Here are a few examples of improvements achieved with our voice-directed picking application:
One company achieved a reduction of 50% in returns after implementing voice, resulting in nearly $1.3 million of savings in the first year.
At one manufacturer, their shipping errors dropped in the first month from an average of 500 per week to only 3.
One company achieved 99.99% order accuracy, noting only 1 error per 7,000 cases and reduced overall QA staff by 75%.
Doug is an in-house Fulfilment Process Expert at Mountain Leverage with over 20 years of experience running supply chain operations throughout the USA for Nestle Company. He brings valuable insight and experience to today’s distribution challenges.
Love it or hate it, speech recognition technology is now a part of our daily life. With U.S. revenue growth projections of 16% year over year, expect to find yourself talking to more and more machines over the course of your day. Most people have had experience with automated phone systems and/or the myriad of personal electronic devices which have speech as the main user input (Alexa, Siri, Google, etc.). Unfortunately, the user experience with these consumer-grade options leaves much to be desired. “I didn’t quite get that” messages and confounding translations (“10 percent” = “temper sent”??) can leave users ready to throw their devices out the window.
Anyone using the latest industrial grade voice recognition technologies will tell you that there exists a marked difference between consumer-grade speech recognition software and today’s industrial grade offerings. We have identified the top four reasons for this improved performance.
As you might imagine, speech recognition is hard. While great strides are being made in natural language processing (NLP), consumer systems still rely on something known as ‘Speaker Independent” recognition. This means that the users of the system never train the system on how they talk and moreover, most of these systems do not improve over time as they speak more and more into it. With the wide array of accents, grammar, and speech patterns it takes massive computing power and a massive data set of examples to determine what someone is saying – and the mistakes are many with this variability.
High-end Industrial Voice Systems use ‘Speaker Dependent’ recognition, which means that each individual user trains the system with their own voice. This may sound like a large time investment, but most voice systems need only 50-70 phrases to handle typical operational workflows and training takes less than half an hour. User-specific training means that person’s unique vocal patterns, accents, and language are used when determining what command or response the user is attempting to give.
Consumer grade speech recognition typically relies on picking up sound from a distance or from over a phone. In both cases capturing good quality audio is challenging because of the varying volume levels, likelihood and presence of background noise, and varying quality levels of the device itself.
The best industrial speech systems rely on rugged headsets which bring the microphone close to the source of the desired sound: the mouth. In addition, microphone arrays cancel out background noise before it even reaches the speech processor. By normalizing these components of sound (volume/gain, quality) you begin the race with a huge headstart.
Most consumer grade speech systems require connectivity to the internet to function. Assuming that you have a strong and continuous connection, the response time for these systems can be pretty good due to the super computers crunching this sound data in the background. But any break in connectivity brings your efforts to a halt.
In contrast, many industrial systems perform speech recognition right on the device worn by the user. This means that you are able to use the system even on a deserted island. Also,the system is designed to allow only a limited array of phrases at any given time, ensuring that the recognition of these phrases is instantaneous – every time.
As previously stated, the data that is being collected and compiled for consumer grade recognition is enormous and growing. This helps raise overall recognition scores, but does little for the individual experience.
In contrast, industrial systems can adapt to your changing speech patterns. As the day wears on, your voice changes somewhat. Hay fever or a common cold can drastically change your speech. By taking constant samples of recognition scores and adjusting the underlying speech template for users, the system improves over time – even with changes in the user’s speech.
Speaker dependant voice-directed workflows in industrial settings, now in use for over two decades, have become the de-facto standard in distribution center technology. Mountain Leverage has been delivering voice solutions for over a decade to a fiercely loyal customer base who enjoy improvements in accuracy, productivity, training time, safety, employee satisfaction, and more. We understand how speech recognition works and use it as a tool to deliver amazing results across many industries.
Want to know more? Reach out and we can discuss if voice can help solve some of your challenges at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dan Paul Dan is the VP of Customer Success at Mountain Leverage. With over a dozen years of experience delivering voice solutions, Dan has a passion for helping companies discover and unlock their operational excellence.
Many studies report that voice is a worker-preferred pick technology. Companies report quicker onboarding, decreased turnover, and a more satisfied workforce. But why? Enhanced ergonomics? A feeling of empowerment and accomplishment?
In February, we paid a visit to our customer Bluestar in Kentucky to find out why. But we didn’t just ask questions. One of their shift supervisors, Jordan, let us strap a camera to him so that we could experience warehouse voice picking firsthand.
In the industry’s first and only “First Person POV Picking” video, you can experience everything exactly as a selector does. Watch Jordan:
travel from pick to pick
confirm location & quantity
Ready to watch? Click the link below for the full video.
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