Voice Technology

Voice directed / speech recognition, hands-free warehouse and distribution center computing, voice in the warehouse, voice technology and voice systems. Voice Directed Picking and Voice-enabled workers wear a headset connected to a small wearable computer.

The transition to voice technology in logistics

How moving to voice-directed technology helped to increase capacity and enable faster warehouse performance at a growing UK-based domestic appliance and parts distributor.

07-Dec-2012
The transition to voice technology in logistics
How moving to voice-directed technology helped to increase capacity and enable faster warehouse performance at a growing UK-based domestic appliance and parts distributor.

For millions of domestic appliance users, retailers and engineers, the web provides a fast and cost-effective means of buying replacement appliances and tracking down the precise replacement hose, door handle or other essential spare parts needed for repairs.

Behind the scenes, the logistics of serving thousands of orders each day from multiple retail and after-care sites takes considerable co-ordination and workforce capacity.

With 40 years’ experience in the industry, Birmingham-based Connect Distribution Services Ltd understands the complex requirements of the domestic appliance market, as well as the challenges and opportunities that e-commerce brings. The family-owned business supplies retailers, manufacturers, insurance companies and B2B firms with domestic appliance spares and accessories for white goods such as washing machines, freezers and tumble dryers, as well as electronics accessories to the consumer market.

Connect Distribution holds approximately 100,000 product types on site and has access to around 1.5 million lines. The firm is based at a six-acre national distribution centre (NDC) which processes over 180,000 orders on average per month, for customers throughout the UK, Europe and further afield.

Supply and demand
In recent years, Connect Distribution has enjoyed considerable growth, particularly in the e-commerce aspect of the business. The company currently supports over 200 websites, including a partnership with Dixons for its electrical spares and accessories site; partmaster.co.uk. Connect Distribution also operates major industry sites such as buyspares.co.uk and 4ourhouse.co.uk, which supplies original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts direct to consumers, as well as its own branded products such as Wellco and Electruepart.

To accommodate its growing logistical requirements, the company opened up a series of ground floor rooms in its warehouse, developed new packing areas and technology, built a new 2,000 location bulk pallet store and recruited additional staff.

As part of this development of its site, in 2010 Connect Distribution added voice technology to the operation with the aim of improving labour management, increasing productivity and improving accuracy in Connect Distribution’s demanding and fast-paced pick process. The voice picking solution was developed and installed by VoiteQ; a dedicated Total Solution Provider of Vocollect Voice technology. The company opted for VoiteQ’s middleware – VoiceMan® - to link Vocollect devices
– Talkman T5 computers and SR20 headsets - to its custom built warehouse management system (WMS) and provide improved labour management reporting to the business.

The pick-to-tote logistics system, used by the company, services up to 14 orders within a single tote. The amount varies according to whether it is a trade, consumer, single or multi-line order. When a tote passes a barcode reader, it is automatically diverted to the relevant picking zone. This in turn updates the WMS and instructs the picking to take place via a voice command.

In a typical conveyor-based operation, the tote is pushed out into each zone, the number is read into the voice system and the pick instruction is then generated. The innovative system used at Connect Distribution has been further configured to operate by priority, automatically directing the picker to the most urgent pick and enabling the company to fulfill a high volume of next-day deliveries.

Talking sense
Familiar with the proven productivity and accuracy gains associated with voice, Connect Distribution’s Director of NDC Operations, Iain Priestley, first commissioned VoiteQ to run a trial of the VoiceMan and Vocollect Voice technology in September 2009. “To start with, voice was rolled out in a trial section of the NDC,” he said.

“Initially, our pickers were a little concerned that they wouldn’t be able to adapt to the verbal instructions. Yet, within just a few days, everyone had increased the speed setting they receive from the Talkman’s voice commands. After two weeks they were working at the fastest setting.”

After a successful trial, Connect Distribution decided to take voice to a full implementation in its conveyor picking zones. Impressed by the technology’s success rates, the firm replaced the existing label-based picking method in 2010, during one of its busiest periods and in the summer of 2012 extended voice into its putaway operation.

As part of this process and to get staff adopting the new method of working, it selected voice trainers, Denise Murray and Emma Byrne, who motivated and trained staff on the new system. “We were sceptical about voice at first,” said Byrne. “Before long we really liked it and now we wouldn’t go back. Denise and I volunteered to help motivate other people to try it, which really worked.”

“I particularly like the fact that the speed is adjustable, which allows you to work at your own pace but it doesn’t take long before you’re picking at top speed. We’re incentivised with a picker of the month scheme, so it can get pretty competitive!”

“We soon found that we were earning a higher bonus and people were really improving, especially those who in the past made lots of errors,” added Murray. “It’s also made us much faster than before. Previously, we had to walk to a machine, slot in our card and wait for instructions. At busy times, people were queuing-up for work. Now, as soon as you’ve put an item in the tote, you’re already being told the next location to go to.”

Fast and accurate
By selecting the Vocollect Voice technology, Connect Distribution is using trained voice-recognition software which means each user’s unique tone and dialect is recognised for complete accuracy. It takes as little as 20 minutes for a new user to create an individual template on the system, which is a small price to pay compared with untrained voice-recognition that can prove cumbersome and inaccurate causing further delays in the order fulfilment process.

Once up and running, pickers at Connect Distribution required minimal support and quickly increased the productivity of the operation. Priestley believes that the new voice system has played a substantial role in the rapid growth that the business has seen, owing to its simplicity and speed. “Our workers are more productive than ever before and are focused on the task at hand,” he said. “They come into work, pick up their Talkman unit and away they go. New users also find it so easy to use, they are up and running to full capacity in no time at all.”

“In year one, we achieved annual productivity gains of between 25 and 40 per cent, which exceeded our initial prediction of 20 per cent. Now in year two, the combination of voice technology and better overall performance management has meant our productivity has increased still more. We are now seeing an 85 per cent improvement over our old manual system.”

The use of voice technology has also helped the company build on its quality delivery promise to customers, who have also seen a vast improvement in the accuracy of every order. Previously there would typically have been one error for every 200 manual picks. Since moving to voice, the team now average one error for every 800 voice picks; representing a 76 per cent gain in accuracy.

“The complex nature of supplying small parts and accessories has huge potential for error, as it is easy for pickers to select the wrong item,” added Priestley. “Our voice-based picking system has provided vast improvement in this area. Customers want the exact item they have ordered on time and in good condition. While it’s impossible to achieve perfection, the service we have developed comes extremely close to it. Overall, the gains we have seen in productivity and accuracy resulted in a return-on-investment from the whole implementation within just one year which blew our initial expectations out of the water.”

Competitive edge
Currently, Connect Distribution use voice for order picking and putaway. Next Priestley hopes to extend the application of the technology to include storage and stock control, as part of the company’s strategy to expand its premises and WMS.

“Voice has undoubtedly become a mainstream warehouse technology,” Priestley concluded. “Yet, in our relatively traditional industry, implementing it has given us an edge compared with other distribution companies. Crucially, it has enabled us to deliver a higher quality of service and fulfill the high degree of same-day dispatch orders we receive.”

Rami Levy increase productivity by 25 percent and eradicate order processing errors with Zetes

Rami Levy, a leading retail chain in Israel, implemented ZetesMedea warehouse execution solution to improve efficiency in its new warehouse.

Honeywell Expands Reseller Network to bring Voice-Guided Software to Global Distribution Centres

Guided Work Solution for Android devices improves voice order picking accuracy and productivity in small and medium warehouses

Honeywell’s Voice Software for Distribution Centres Can Improve Accuracy By Up To 50 Percent

Microsoft Dynamics 365 and SAP Business One users can now deploy Honeywell’s solution to increase productivity performance, accuracy and safety.

Voxware Announces Availability of Voxware Voice Management Suite 2019

Cloud-based Voice Management Suite 2019 is only one of the highlights on display at ProMat 2019

Voxware Expands Global Presence

Two new partnerships expected to increase opportunities in Asia Pacific and Scandinavian Markets

Theatro and Honeywell to Develop Enterprise Wide Mobile SaaS Solutions to Empower the In-Store Workforce

Honeywell to resell Theatro SaaS Services to provide a seamless service experience across Honeywell’s Mobility EdgeTM devices and Theatro’s IoT

Poiesz Supermarkten Achieves 15% Higher Efficiency with Zetes Voice Picking Solution

Poiesz Supermarkten in Sneek (Netherlands) has been using voice picking for ten years to provision their 70 shops

Philips Introduces Its Latest Innovation: the Revolutionary SpeechOne Wireless Dictation Headset

The only professional dictation headset geared for speech recognition

Orion Labs Pioneers Future of Voice With Unveiling of Orion Sync

Introducing the Next Generation of Connected Voice Technology, Orion Sync Equips Teams with Real-Time, Heads-Up Communication

Empirix and MetTel Join Forces to Provide End-to-End Visibility for the MetTel Cloud Network

Empirix and MetTel announced that they will join forces to provide end-to-end visibility for the MetTel cloud network

StarLeaf named one of the fastest growing tech companies in the UK by Sunday Times Hiscox Tech Track 100

StarLeaf has today been named in The Sunday Times Tech Track – one of the most prestigious listings for rapidly growing technology companies in the UK

Softil’s BEEHD Technology Selected for MCC Terminals in South Korea’s High-Speed Incheon Airport Railway Link

Global solution integrator K-Won Corporation selects Softil’s SDK for mission-critical high-speed railway LTE-R Communication Terminals

Expway, Softil in Technology Partnership to Advance Mission-Critical Communications over LTE

World leaders bring to market the most comprehensive end-to-end solution for developers of mission-critical communications systems

Voiteq raises over £5,000 for CAFT in 2017!

In 2017 the team at Voiteq teamed up with CAFT, The Children’s Adventure Farm Trust and we are pleased to announce that raised a total of £5,095

Softil’s BEEHD Technology Chosen for PyeongChang 2018 LTE-R Communication Terminals

South Korea’s Hoimyung Corporation selects Softil’s SDK for mission-critical rail communications services at next Winter Olympics and beyond

Voxware Case Study : Mission Health

Profit from a Smarter Supply Chain

Iptor announces new voice-activated Order Management Solution

Technology developed as part of on-going collaboration with HARMAN

Puerto Rico’s Top Distributor Upgrades to Voxware’s VMS for Real-Time Visibility

ProMat 2017 attendees heard first-hand how real-time data from Voxware helped Puerto Rico Supplies Group operate more efficiently

Voxware Debuts Augmented Reality Solution at ProMat 2017

Voxware’s AR innovation joins its popular Voice Management Suite to drive even more productivity in distribution operations

Assmann Büromöbel Increases Productivity By 20% & Reduces Errors To 0 With Zetesmedea Voice Picking

ZetesMedea Voice picking enabled Assmann Büromöbel to increase productivity by 20% and reduce the error rate to 0%.

Easy ‘Pickings’ for Queenswood Natural Foods with Voiteq

Voiteq improves operational performance at Queenswood Natural Foods

DK Fulfilment Selects Snapfulfil To Support Strategic Goals

Fast-growing third-party fulfilment business, DK Fulfilment has selected the Snapfulfil Cloud WMS to support its ambitious growth plans.

inconso and SemVox Give Pick-by-Voice a New Boost

Pick-by-Voice is a "paperless" picking process, in which the communication between the system and the person takes place by means of human language.

Voiteq Launches Next Generation Solution at IMHX

Voiteq, global providers of Voice-directed work solutions, has launched its powerful ‘next generation’ business intelligence solution VoiceMan Data Analysis at IMHX 2016.

Ehrhardt + Partner Group Expands Offering With Lydia® VoiceSuite

Ehrhardt + Partner Group (EPG) is expanding its solution portfolio with the Lydia® VoiceSuite, a voice-guided system that optimizes all intralogistics processes.

Official Brazil Provider Named For Ehrhardt + Partners’ Lydia

Store Automação is to be the official provider of Lydia®Voice solutions in Brazil.

Voice Solutions Firm Wins Customer Service Award

Voiteq UK, a global provider of voice-directed work solutions has won the 2016 Customer Service Award at the national UKWA (United Kingdom Warehousing Association) annual awards ceremony.

Total Wearable Solutions Deliver Double-digit Gains in Warehouse Worker Productivity

Zebra Technologies Corporation, a global leader in providing solutions and services that give enterprises real-time visibility into their operations, today introduced its Total Wearable Solutions.

topVOX to Demonstrate Latest Voice-Control Systems at IMHX

How can logistics processes be optimised with the help of voice-controlled systems?

Ehrhardt Expands Product Portfolio Following topsystem Takeover

Ehrhardt + Partner Group (EPG) has expanded its product portfolio

Buton and Voxware Announce Value Added Reseller Agreement

Voxware, the largest independent voice application company and provider of Cloud-based voice and analytics solutions, has signed a value added reseller agreement with Buton eBusiness Solutions, an international partner for supply chain markets in Turkey and the EMEA region.

Centriq Group Celebrates Continued Growth in 2015

Centriq Group, the parent company of Voiteq and Cirrus Logistics, is celebrating a successful year

Smart Watch increases warehouse efficiency

From now on topsystem adds Lydia Smart Watch to its Voice product line.

Wilko Selects Voiteq to Upgrade its Voice Solution

The high street retailer has upgraded its Voice-Directed Work solution to obtain greater functionality, reporting and support for future changes across its Service Centres

Significant Merger as E+P Joins Forces With Topsystem

Ehrhardt + Partner Group (E+P) has taken over a majority share of topsystem Systemhaus GmbH

Horseware Keeps a Tight Rein on its Warehousing Operations Thanks to Door-to-Door Voice Solution from BEC and Honeywell

Founded in 1985, Horseware Ireland is one of the world’s most well-known and prestigious designers and manufacturers of riding wear, leisure wear, horse rugs, equestrian products and accessories

The TimoCom Messenger has arrived!

A big step for TimoCom, a bigger step for the industry

Voice technology key to managing Black Friday strain on retailers’ warehouse operations, says Honeywell

Our recent distribution centre survey found that UK retailers face an average bill of 260,000 pounds per site per year just as a result of picking errors in the warehouse

Community FoodBank of New Jersey Implements Voxware to Efficiently Serve More Hungry Families

Hillside-based Organization Uses Cloud VMS to Reduce Picking Shift Length by 30%

Indus Foods chalks up a first with BCP’s Accord® Voice WMS

Indus Foods of Birmingham are breaking new ground by investing in a 10 user Accord® Voice Warehouse Management System (WMS) from IT software specialist Business Computer Projects Ltd (BCP) for its 30,000 sq ft distribution centre.

Panduro Hobby chooses Astro Voice to service its hobby lovers

Panduro Hobby, Sweden’s leading supplier of hobby materials, founded in the 1960s, invests in Astro Voice, a solution from Consafe Logistics to their warehouse in Malmö, Sweden.

Voxware Research Indicates That Most Online Purchases are Returned Due to Retailer Error

57% of respondents answered that most often the reason they return items bought online or by phone is because the item received is incorrect

LogiMAT 2015: Imtradex presents innovative communication solutions for the “Pick by Voice” systems as well as for retailers

Imtradex GmbH exhibits at this year's LogiMAT from 10th to 12th of February in Hall 7, Booth 7D10, their first solution for the retail business is combining a headset with a Motorola-branded radio. In addition, the manufacturer shows the LogiTalk headset series that have been specifically designed with the needs of the “Pick by voice” systems.

BCP signs up for IntraLogisteX

BCP has signed up to exhibit at the inaugural IntraLogisteX Exhibition which will take place at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry on 25th and 26th March, 2015.

Voxware Research Indicates that Consumers Have Little Patience for Incorrect or Late Deliveries, Especially at the Holidays

Nearly 70% are less likely to shop with a retailer online or by phone for future purchases if an item they purchase online or by phone is not delivered within two days of the date promised

Voxware Customer Increases Picking Accuracy and Efficiency with Voice

Voice technology helps Artex improve picking accuracy to 99.6%

Whole Foods Sees Significant Productivity Gains with Voxware Voice Management Suite

Voice technology helps Whole Foods see warehouse productivity gains of 25-35%, leading to full deployment at the company’s ten distribution facilities

Voxware Voice Automation Software Helps Food Distributor Increase Fulfillment Accuracy

Accuracy improvements to over 99% lead to labor savings and improved customer satisfaction for Mt. Pleasant Ice Cream Distributor