If you’ve been keeping up with voice technology, you know that industries involved in food and beverage, perishables, pharmaceuticals, grocery and retail supply have been the early adopters of voice picking. But many other types of warehouses could enjoy improved operations from voice picking because the biggest benefits from voice often come in low margin, high volume, and labor-intensive picking operations.

This is the second of a series of articles that will look at voice picking using Accellos One Warehouse. The series also includes a voice picking overview and voice picking workflow.

The lower your margins and the more you depend on warehouse labor, the more critical accuracy and productivity become to your bottom line. With voice technology, your employees can work without holding onto, reading and typing into an RF gun. This literally gives you an extra set of eyes and hands for each employee fulfilling orders in your warehouse. Many warehouses using voice are able to double-check their orders during picking rather than entering info through RF.

The return that you will see in voice picking will be driven in a large part by the types of processes currently in your warehouse. The list of potential benefits is impressive:

  • Increased accuracy
  • Increased productivity
  • Improved training and safety

Increased Accuracy

Even a very small increase in accuracy – one-half of one-percent – can add up to enormous savings in a high-volume picking environment. Recent studies have put the total cost of a picking error anywhere between $60 and $400, depending on the complexity of your sales model. Where do these costs come from?

  • Customer service costs
  • Freight costs back from customer
  • Receiving costs from customer
  • Packaging had been opened
  • Picking replacement for customer
  • Freight costs back to customer
  • Issuing and mailing the Credit Note
  • Re-invoicing and re-mailing
  • Expediting
  • Disruptions, paperwork, and phone calls

In addition to the costs above, warehouses that face accuracy problems also spend too much time in re-checking orders and in over-stocking.

Let’s take a hypothetical example of a fastener distributor who is picking 100,000 lines per week. Using Accellos One Warehouse, their accuracy is already impressive: 99.8%. That’s only two errors per thousand. A tenth-of-a-percent improvement to 99.9% accuracy would bring that down to one error per thousand. Assuming the low end of the cost-per-error range of $60 per error, that’s a savings of $6,000 per week or over $300,000 each year.

Picking Productivity

  • Warehouses using voice picking could easily see an increase in productivity between 10-20% from:
  • Going hands-free with no paper or RF guns to juggle
  • Going eyes-free with no stopping to read picking instructions – the system reads to them
  • No returning to the order desk to get the next picking list.
  • Voice directions minimize the time between orders by pushing employees forward with the next order in the queue.

Improved Training and Safety

The training time for voice picking is usually reduced since there are fewer things for the employee to do during picking. The voice direction guides them along their process. This is important where you have a high-turnover environment or a need for seasonal labor.

Another benefit from voice picking is that because your hands are free to focus on lifting units and your eyes are free to focus on your surrounding environment, many warehouses also notice a reduction in accidents.

Calculating Your Own Return

Every warehouse is different and voice picking is not for everyone. Consider the following areas of your operation when considering implementing voice:

  • Accuracy
  • Productivity
  • Operating and labor costs
  • Training time and expenses
  • Reduced turnover and costs from turnover
  • Improved safety
  • Reduced supplies
  • Fewer dropped and damaged RF guns