Dematic support voice users in the field across a wide range of logistics applications such as 3PL, pharmaceutical, apparel, discount variety, food, beverage and ports. The cold storage industry was the first to implement voice picking, realising the productivity and OH&S benefits that hands-free, eyes-free order picking delivers. Dematic’s installation for Versacold (formerly P&O Cold Storage) at their Murarrie DC in Brisbane, proved to be a successful full case picking application.
Since its initial implementation, Versacold have rolled out voice technology to various sites and have upgraded their initial systems to new fourth generation Vocollect hardware.
Most major retailing groups in Australasia including Woolworths, Coles, Progressive and Foodstuffs have now implemented voice picking projects. Voice presents a reliable solution for both full and split case picking, with most users achieving productivity gains of 10 to 25%, compared to RF picking.
At Dick Smith Electronics (DSE) national DC in Sydney, Dematic’s voice picking solution delivered DSE with a better than expected productivity gain of over 20% within its first six months of operation. DSE had been using RF Picking and was achieving order accuracy rates of 99.7%, but needed to find a way to increase productivity to reduce costs and increase throughput capacity.
In traditional retail DCs, the normal practice is to assemble a complete store order at a time. In a project which demonstrated the flexibility of voice picking, Dematic used the technology to facilitate a high volume ‘Put’ order fulfilment system for discount variety retailer, The Reject Shop, at their new national DC in Melbourne.
Instead of transporting the whole order around the DC and picking products one at a time, Dematic’s voice picking and ‘Put’ solution enables The Reject Shop to batch pick all of a single product for all of their store orders at one time. The voice picking system instructs the pickers to retrieve the required number of pallets from bulk reserve storage, and those pallets are then taken to the ‘Put’ zone.
The ‘Put’ zone is a 4500m2 area of the warehouse that is broken up into sections representing the stores, with larger stores having larger areas dedicated to them than the smaller ones.
Directed by the voice picking system, the pickers transport the batch-picked products on pallet trucks, stopping at each store location where products are required, and ‘Put’ the required quantity of product to pallets representing each individual store order. The pickers continue allocating products to each store where required, until there is no more stock on the pallet truck. The pickers are then assigned another task by the voice picking system.
Dematic included 10 voice picking terminals as part of an integrated logistics solution for the veterinary products distributor’s new Queensland DC at Northgate in Brisbane. Provet serve about 300 vet surgeries throughout South-East Queensland from the DC. Some urgent orders are processed same day, while less critical ones are next day. Provet were not automated in warehousing, and their operations were manual and paper-based.
Dematic worked with Provet to integrate voice picking with the company’s WMS. Orders arrive through EDI, phone and fax, and are uploaded to the WMS. This downloads the orders to Dematic’s PickDIRECTOR, which controls and manages the picking process.
With the paper-based system, pickers spent a lot of time walking to collect the orders. With voice picking, orders are taken to the picker.
In selecting their voice technology partner, Dematic considered speech recognition accuracy, systems integration, industrial suitability and company stability. Dematic found that Vocollect was the vendor who could offer a ‘speaker-dependent solution’, which provides fast and accurate speech recognition in noisy, industrial environments, regardless of the user’s background or accent. Vocollect also offered direct interfaces to most leading WMS systems, negating the need for middleware or stand-alone integration software.
Advances in voice hardware and software have increased the performance and functionality of voice picking, while reducing investment requirements. Vocollect Talkman hardware has become smaller and lighter and now offers full wireless integration, including wireless headsets. Vocollect systems are also developed on open standards that allow Vocollect voice picking application software to run on third party hardware.
Users are no longer required to invest in Vocollect hardware only, as Vocollect voice picking application software can now run on LXE, Motorola or Psion Teklogix hardware.
Asian language support has also become available and Dematic are starting to implement voice picking across the Asean and China regions.