Order picking is just one step in the logistics process, but it’s one of the most critical and labor-intensive tasks in a distribution center. Not to mention, it’s the most expensive – nearly 55% of total operating expenses are allocated to order picking. With the rise of ecommerce and new expectations of near instant delivery, the pressure is on for warehouses and distribution centers to optimize the picking process.
Labor is another challenge warehouses face. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in logistics are estimated to grow by 26% by 2020. However, with unemployment near a 15-year low, warehouses are struggling to find suitable workers to scale with the increase of demand. And while other areas of the warehouse are achieving operational efficiency by becoming more automated, order picking remains a largely manual process.
So what can warehouse and distribution center managers do to help increase picking efficiency and accuracy and decrease costs? Voice picking technology has emerged as the new standard. With Panasonic’s voice picking technology, employees use headsets and a handheld device with a barcode reader to access picking instructions and confirm their picks back to the system. The voice solution is enabled with voice picking software integrated with the warehouse management system (WMS).
Our order picking solution gives workers the flexibility to perform their tasks using a multi-modal approach. In addition to audio cues feeding through the headset, using a handheld device equipped with a barcode scanner and camera provides additional options to input picking orders and confirmations. A multi-modal approach ensures you have several different methods of completing a picking list, should your headset battery run out or lose connectivity.
Warehouses are feeling pressure to perform more quickly and efficiently than ever before. We work closely with our customers to understand the pain points in their current processes and developed voice picking technology that directly addresses their challenges and streamline order picking. Here are the top four benefits warehouses can gain from Panasonic’s voice picking technology.
1) Improve Order Picking Efficiency
Traditional order picking is time intensive because employees are required to cross-check every product in the order and then manually record once it’s picked. These older, paper-based processes slow order fulfillment, which can have a direct impact on customer satisfaction levels.
Panasonic’s voice picking technology speeds up the process by providing real-time information on the items needed via the headset and WMS connection. Once the employee picks the item, he or she sends confirmation to the WMS via voice input, eliminating the need to manually key in data. Most organizations experience 20 to 30 percent gains in overall operational efficiency as soon as they implement voice picking. Our customers who use voice picking have also reported they are able to pick 10 to 15 percent quicker than paper-based picking, and 15 to 25 percent faster than Radio Frequency (RF) picking.
2) Increase Order Accuracy
The majority of errors that occur in warehouses happen on the picking line. When a mistake occurs and an order is mis-picked, customer satisfaction takes a serious hit. With a high number of orders fulfilled incorrectly due to human error, relying on multimodal picking can help warehouses achieve greater accuracy.
Our voice picking technology clearly instructs operators and can identify errors in real time before they get to the customer. Our solution also allows operators to flag queries when they have a question and receive instant help so they can correct errors on the move. Using voice picking technology, our customers have achieved accuracy levels of 99.9%. More accurate picking also leads to more cost savings. When orders are more accurate, warehouses don’t have to pay the cost of returns processing or repeat order fulfillment.
3) Save Time on Training
Just as warehouses face difficulties hiring the necessary labor, the time it takes to train new employees on paper-based picking processes is just as challenging and costly. Voice picking requires significantly less training time, which speeds up the instruction of temporary or seasonal employees, and minimizes investment in an era of high employee turnover.
Our voice picking technology comes with multi-modal support, giving pickers the flexibility to choose voice or touch input depending on their skill and comfort level. Our solution also offers analytics for real-time decision making. As employees perform tasks, their productivity is recorded and can be reviewed by managers to identify any potential bottlenecks, inform of the need to reallocate resources and help them to manage the team more efficiently.
4) Easy Integration with Existing Systems
When new technology emerges, a common concern is how it will integrate with existing systems. Panasonic’s voice picking technology easily integrates into existing WMS or enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems through our Rapid Application Development platform, which requires minimal effort for the customer.
We’ve seen firsthand how order picking processes can make or break order fulfillment. Our voice picking technology is enabling warehouses to reach new levels of picking efficiency, order accuracy, customer retention and employee satisfaction. For more information on our voice picking solution, visit our website.