DC Running Voice – A Glimpse Inside

Click here to watch their new video: Aquatic Parts Company – A Glimpse Inside

In this short 1 minute video clip posted on Facebook you will see how the DC team at our customer, Aquatic Parts Company, showcase the pride they have in their new voice picking technology.  Aquatic Parts needed efficiency gains and a solution that could ease the daily burden of their seasonal demand.   As the nations largest wholesale distributor of pool and spa parts, APC saw real promise from an upgrade to voice-directed workflows.  They understand the accuracy and efficiency advantages gained with this upgrade, and wanted to share the excitement with their customer base.

DC Running Voice – A Glimpse Inside
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E-Commerce: Fulfillment Challenges and Improvement Priorities

E-Commerce Research Brief by Honeywell Intelligrated. Research completed by Peerless Research Group in the first quarter 2018.

The rise in e-commerce is continuing at a remarkable pace. In 2017, consumers spent $453 billion online, a 16% increase from 2016, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.
That’s the highest growth rate since 2011.

Naturally, this march of e-commerce impacts the fulfillment processes that need to happen in warehouses and other nodes in distribution networks. While traditional channels still need to be served, there is more piece picking and single-line orders to get out the door, and cycle times to hit next-day or even same-day delivery commitments are much tighter than when replenishment to retailers or distributors was the norm. To add to these challenges, this transition in the type and pace of fulfillment work is happening at a time when unemployment levels have plummeted and distribution center (DC) operators are finding labor increasingly difficult to find and retain.

To better understand how companies are managing their e-commerce platforms and related order fulfillment operations, Peerless Research Group (PRG), on behalf of Modern Materials Handling and Honeywell Intelligrated, surveyed 171 U.S.-based material handling executives.  Survey results reveal that while organizations are still looking for solutions to better equip DC managers to control widespread, mission-critical challenges—such as labor management, order processing and tracking, and warehouse and distribution costs—many remain slow to adopt the necessary technologies to improve supply chain productivity.

Some of the most pressing challenges reflected in the survey include filling more orders (faster and at lower costs), reducing errors in filling orders, and finding enough labor to support operations. While the survey does point to an unmet need to put systems in place that help with workforce productivity, given the challenges that exist around labor, a positive sign is that more than half of respondents (nearly 58%) plan to invest in various types of software and technology over the next 12 months.

Continue Reading the full Report here.


E-Commerce: Fulfillment Challenges and Improvement Priorities
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Voice Solutions have been Warehouse Tested

REPOST: Roberto Michel, Logistics Management

Logistics Management met with several voice vendors for a state of the technology review.  In this article they discuss improvements to voice solutions in the recognition engine, analytics and more.  Below is a segment of the article from their meeting with Scott Powell from Honeywell Safety and Productivity Solutions.

Analytics advantages

Analytics of the data and transactions generated by voice systems also serve as a way to squeeze more productivity from warehouse workflows.  Analytics can spot patterns that help an organization fine tune the use of voice-directed work, says Scott Powell, director of field and channel marketing and workflow solutions for Honeywell Safety and Productivity Solutions. The analytics package it offers—called Operational Acuity—looks at voice system data in the Cloud, to uncover patterns on how users are interacting with the system.

For example, analytics can tell if a worker might be adequate or good on his or her pick rate, but is using more “utterances” than normal back to the voice system. This sort of pattern might indicate a problem such as incorrect headset positioning, which if adjusted, might further help the productivity of the worker, says Powell.

Honeywell’s analytics solution has also been used to spot instances when the voice system’s commands have been sped up to a higher than recommended pace in an effort to achieve greater throughput, which has resulted in more repeat “say again” utterances. “In this case, they slowed the system down slightly, and by slowing it down, the workers actually went faster,” says Powell.

Broad-based gains

While analytics are proving useful, says Powell, voice solution providers also need to continue to enhance voice recognition. One thing Honeywell has done with its Vocollect voice solution is come up with a capability called Sound Sense, that leverages multiple microphones built into the headset whereby one mic focuses on the worker’s voice and the other is oriented on filtering out background noise.

Another recent enhancement that helps productivity, says Powell, is a function called Touch Connect that accelerates user log on and shift start up. Simply by touching their voice device to a powered-up headset, this feature automatically logs the user in to start the shift. “Our approach with improvements is to really think about what the worker is doing, on what they are dealing with in their environment, and then make sure that everything just works,” Powell says.

Voice also is being applied to other processes in a warehouse, including receiving and putaway, cycle counting, or packing and shipping stations.

See the entire article in Logistics Managment here.

Voice Solutions have been Warehouse Tested
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Study: Voice-Directed Warehousing Solutions

REPOST: Shashii Pawar, LANEWS.org

The “Voice-Directed Warehousing Solutions Market: Global Industry Analysis (2012-2016) and Forecast (2017-2025)” study has been published by Persistence Market Research.  You can purchase the full study from them. They deliver insights on market and inherent technology drivers, challenges, trends, and opportunities. The study covers the global voice-directed warehousing solutions market during the period 2017 to 2025.

Strong Growth for Voice-Directed Warehouse Solutions

They have estimated the global market for this technology at USD900M in 2017.  Based on their findings, they project CAGR above 14% annually and a 2025 global value of USD2500M.  In addition, the report provides detailed segmentation results by component, region, and industry. The voice-directed warehousing platform, Asia Pacific, and retail lead the growth in these three segments, respectively.

Also, in the competition segment of this report, they detail the roles of all the major players.  These include Honeywell International Inc. (Vocollect), Voiteq Ltd., TopVox Corporation, Lucas Systems Inc.,  Voxware, Inc., and others. Further, they profile some of the industry partners and software providers.

The Case for Voice Workflows

The study provides several well understood reasons for the strong adoption and growth of voice.  First, they cite increased efficiency (including labor efficiencies) and the rise in demand for flexible warehousing solutions.  Next, they describe the inherent flexibility provided to the operation when utilizing voice-directed solutions as well as the strong adoption of voice in the growing retail sector.  And finally, they note the increased customer satisfaction and reduction of operator training time from days to hours with voice.

Jason Rosing writing for Cerasis coaches leaders to put the power of warehouse automation technology to work now.  Delaying the move towards warehouse automation is impractical and will result in greater costs to your company. Click on the “Request a Meeting” button at the top of this blog page to talk with one of our industry experts today.

Find more details on the report here.


Study: Voice-Directed Warehousing Solutions
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WERC Survey on Technology Adoption

REPOST: Shefali Kapadia, Supply Chain Dive

Statistics from the Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC) provide the picture of technology investment in warehousing.  One-third of warehouses still do not have a WMS system.  And conveyor implementations are in decline.  But growth for voice-directed picking solutions is strong – and growing.

The lack of warehouse management systems is troubling.  And the continued reliance on manual systems and dissimilar modules for various warehouse components complicates the seamless communication required for emerging technologies such as the IoT.

The WERC survey results indicate that digital technology implementation progress has been slow among their 549 respondents.  “Technology continues to advance at a rapid rate and implementation lags in warehousing.  Today, in the warehouse of 2018… technologies have had only a marginal implementation for many of our respondents.  We wonder how prepared warehousing and distribution are to step into their part in the digital supply chain for many organizations.”

The Voice-Directed Picking Solution

Today’s rapidly changing market has had a dynamic impact on traditional warehouse operations.  Operations have been forced to be more responsive and nimble than at any time in the past.  ‘Data’ continues to improve, and with that comes a better evaluation of how a company’s warehouse and distribution segment can best serve the evolving supply chain strategies.

Voice workflows have earned a “workhorse” reputation and saw the greatest implementation growth among new technologies, according to the survey.  The chart above shows that about a quarter of facilities are using voice today, compared to 5.7% in 2008.  There are a lot of new technologies on the horizon but none that have a greater overall value when compared to voice picking technology.


WERC Survey on Technology Adoption
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More Pick and Pack and Ship from Las Vegas

Amazon HQ2

2018 started with a list of 20 contenders.  Today the cities most talked about to win the prize of the Amazon HQ2 range from Atlanta to Raleigh to Austin.  But despite the cost of living and other oft-touted drawbacks, perhaps D.C. will prevail.

Although eliminated from the list of headquarter location contenders, ground is being broken on a 2.4M sq. ft. Amazon DC in Las Vegas.  They have decided to add a fourth warehouse in AZ near to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.  This new DC will be the largest of the four in the area.  It will employ 1000 or more full-time employees and is expected on line in 2019.  This warehouse will be a three-story industrial facility with 2,400,000 square feet of space.  As a result, Amazon secures additional capacity for the pick and pack of those iconic packages filled with toys, books, and electronics.

Strong e-commerce growth drives the pick and pack and ship

It comes as no surprise that Amazon tops the Internet Retailer Top 500 list.  The 2017 overall internet retail year-over-year sales increase at 16% was the highest ever.  At the same time, it is estimated that US consumer sales by Amazon grew by 30% to nearly $190B.  As a result, the Internet Retailer assessment shows that the Amazon growth figures for US sales represent fully 70% of all online sales growth.  See all the details in this issue of Internet Retailer Magazine.

In other developments…

Amazon has launched Hub by Amazon to better serve apartment dwellers.  This new solution will declutter lobbies and reduce property staff workload.  Likewise, these Hubs will eliminate the need for scheduling of pick-ups and better secure these deliveries.

And they are offering a new possible solution to the problem of the ‘last mile.’  Amazon has announced that they will provide “technology and operational support to individuals with little to no logistics experience.”  Their hope is that small businesses will emerge who are able to handle the ‘last mile’ of their package deliveries.  To veteran groups alone, they have committed $1M in support of this new initiative.  While they face increased charges from the USPS and are taking flak for increased Prime memberships, Amazon continues to innovate in e-commerce.



More Pick and Pack and Ship from Las Vegas
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Voice System Results – The Numbers Don’t Lie

When you’re ready to make major productivity improvements, look no further. Or should we say ‘listen’ no further. Upgrading to a voice system in your operation is a powerful way to improve your productivity numbers.

During a recent customer visit, we conducted a time study comparing picking using RF to the newly installed voice system. The data showed a 34% reduction in labor with the new voice workflow solution.  Some of the picks that were executed realized improvements over 50% when compared to the old picking method. These numbers are in line with our typical voice projects.

Voice System Data Results

Voice systems provide significant productivity improvements but we take it a step further.  During our operational review, we invest the time to make sure we understand the details of your process operationally.  We work with the leadership team and the individual users to ensure we design the best system for you.  Your success and satisfaction is our priority.

Following an implementation earlier this year, the IT lead at one of our accounts remarked: this has been the “best test of new technology I’ve ever been through”.

What would a 34% labor productivity improvement in picking mean for your operation?  $200,000 in savings? $500,000 in savings?  Or more?  Click on the “Request a Meeting” button at the top of our blog page to talk with one of our industry experts today.


Voice System Results – The Numbers Don’t Lie
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Retail Returns Abound – Sustainable?

REPOST: Jeff Berman, MMH

Just over 50% of the total annual retail package return shipments occur each January. This year was no different and set a record for the 5th consecutive year. UPS reports that 6M parcels were returned during the first week of January.  The flow peaked at 1.4M items on January 3- National Returns Day. This figure outpaced the 2017 returns by 8% and followed on the heels of heavy consumer returns each day in December leading up to the holiday. MHI reports that the seasonal impact from returns can even exceed total online sales for a retailer in that season.

Retailers Get Proactive

The returns piece of retail business strategy today may not be sustainable. But those companies able to open their arms and welcome return shipments strengthen the ties to their buyers. Today’s transparency of B2C transactions requires that retailers match competitive policies when it comes to item returns. And while a huge proportion of returns fall in the category of ‘changed my mind’, large percentages come about because of supply chain snafus or late arrival resulting in a drop in the item’s utility to the buyer.

As retailers embrace the growing reality and impact of return shipments, they have begun some creative programs aimed to motivate consumers to bring products back to a store or store affiliate. Amazon returns are now accepted at Kohl’s and Whole Foods. Walmart recently released a new app feature designed to speed the in-store process for customers making returns. And services like Happy Returns function by accepting back products in a mall kiosk, consolidating them, and then return shipping them to the various online retailers. Firms like Optoro arose to assist retailers with the management and resale of their excess or returned inventory.

Sustainable Supply Chain

Today pretty much every smartphone comes back through the supply chain for repair, resale or recycle. As the Internet of Things becomes reality, more and more electronic equipment, machines, and appliances come on line each month. This will require that the scale of reverse logistics channels equals that of forward logistics in order to keep pace. Think Smartphone as perhaps the first near-perfect example for building this type of circular logistics infrastructure.

Continue Reading Here.

Retail Returns Abound – Sustainable?
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Warehouse Space: some have it-some need it

REPOST: David M Levitt, Bloomberg.com

The rising cost for limited warehouse space is a continuing challenge in the supply chain. A new report (seen above) lists ten U.S. cities that may be most ready to capitalize on the situation. In the table, Phoenix scores the best vacancy rate- still only at 8%. South Florida and Stockton, CA both enjoy an enviable situation with over 6M square feet currently under construction.

Back in a November post, we explored the growth of vertical development in certain real estate markets. Decision makers seek flexible technology solutions such as voice workflows to gain efficiencies in place of expansion or or move. This high demand for industrial real estate is expected to continue – supported by online shopping and the strong economic conditions- and as such, other new options are “popping up.”

Efforts to Match Demand to Capacity: 

Companies looking to lower costs while quickly fulfilling their online orders are turning to seasonal or single event pop-up warehouses. Some options are semi-permanent warehousing and can serve to more quickly satisfy certain growing markets or key urban locations. And the pressing demand for workable last-mile logistics solutions is also a driver. There are clear similarities between the on-demand warehouse space and the well known providers in the gig economy such as Uber and Airbnb. All providers aim to efficiently match demand to capacity.

Industrial real estate firms strive to match owners of excess warehouse space with users or retail shippers that need it on a short term basis. The strong growth in ecommerce further challenges the historic warehousing model.  This is caused by the need for 3 or even 4 times the warehouse space to assure quick access and handle the reality of increased SKU counts. Blending of technologies is being employed in these new and evolving warehousing space solutions.  But the picking of products is still done mainly by human pickers. And in these situations, voice picking can boost both productivity and accuracy by 20% or more.

Click on the “Request a Meeting” button at the top of our blog page to talk with one of our industry experts today.

Warehouse Space: some have it-some need it
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