Talking computer technology is becoming more normal all the time. Solutions such as the Amazon Echo, Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana and Google's "intelligent assistant" platform are making voice recognition technology mainstream. Although this technology is new to most consumers, voice technology has been used for many year in warehouses around the world for some time now.
The Growing Voice Recognition Market
The increasingly mainstream use of voice and speech recognition technology is lowering the entry point for organizations. As of now, the speech recognition sector is expected to rise at a compound annual growth rate of 15.78 percent from 2015 to 2022, a MarketsandMarkets study found. During that same period, the voice recognition sector will likely grow by a CAGR of 23.66 percent. While the consumer sector is leading this charge, the wide range of use cases involved in voice and speech recognition can't be ignored.
BCC Research also anticipates growth in the voice recognition sector, and found that the underlying technologies beneath voice recognition allow for automation in a variety of functions. This is evident in the warehouse, where a Modern Materials Handling survey indicated that voice picking is on the rise. Approximately 18 percent of respondents to the study said they are currently using voice-picking strategies as part of their overarching warehouse automation plans. While that may seem like a fairly small figure, another 37 percent of those polled said they plan to implement voice picking in the two years.
Voice picking is clearly gaining momentum as voice and speech recognition technologies are deployed on a large scale. The question remaining isn't if voice picking will become popular at this point. Instead, businesses must focus on what they need to do in order to take full advantage of what voice picking has to offer.
Voice Recognition's Emergence
Understanding the possible roadblocks to success with voice picking begins with recognizing the potential presuppositions your staff may be bringing into any conversations about voice recognition. While the technology has been around for a long time - even in widely used consumer applications - there have been plenty of frustrations surrounding it. We can all picture a person yelling at a television set, remote control or appliance only to have it ignore or misinterpret the command over and over again. Worst-case scenarios like telling a device to do one thing and having it do the exact opposite aren't the products of imagination.
The good news is that voice recognition technologies used in warehouse applications have been being perfected over the years and can do the following:
- Adjust to the specific profiles of a user's voice.
- Respond to commands in different ways based on user preferences.
- Receive updates quickly and easily to deal with any problems within the system.
- Filter out background noise and identify only the speaker interacting with the device.
When it comes to voice picking in the warehouse, today's solutions can simplify and streamline operations. As technologies around voice recognition have evolved, solutions have become more accessible. Users need only wear a small, light headset that can follow prompts to move processes forward. These systems use natural speech patters that are only slightly tweaked for the warehouse setting, making them easy and accessible for end users.
Voice recognition technology has evolved to a mature, stable solution that can pay dividends for a company in a variety of ways. Here are three of the most prominent benefits of voice recognition in the warehouse:
The warehouse can be a dangerous place if individuals get distracted. With so many moving parts in action at any given time, a moment spent not paying attention can lead to somebody ending up in the path of a forklift, running into a colleague carrying a box, slipping on a ladder or otherwise being put at risk. Employees must maintain focus at all times if they want to avoid hazards, and warehouse leaders who can remove potential distractions can create a safer workplace.
This focus on safety is especially important as drones, automated pickers and other robotics solutions emerge in the warehouse. These robots may be trained to avoid humans, but the potential risk is still very real if humans behave unpredictably or simply fail to notice robots moving around them. Asking workers to pay attention to mobile devices, barcode scanners or similar devices can leave them more likely to lose focus at a key time.
Distraction isn't the only issue. Devices on hand can limit workers as they carry packages and other heavy items. Taking a box off of a high shelf is tricky when trying to balance a barcode scanner in one hand. Voice picking leave the eyes free to focus on the environment and hands free to carry items safely.
Talking is faster and easier than typing. With voice recognition systems getting more accurate, business can free employees to quickly log data, check off a process as completed or send a message to a co-worker without having to stop what they're doing. Organizations have been looking to implement lean processes in warehousing for years now, and the margins for improvement are smaller as lean has grown. Saving even a few seconds for each time a user needs to record data can add up over hundreds of entries per day.
3. Ease of Use
Training employees to use new technology is often a tedious, time-consuming process with a great deal of risk as new tasks lead to an increased rate of error. Teaching users to navigate complex software systems to enter information into databases can derail productivity. The end result is a significant learning curve featuring dedicated training sessions and a period in which operations are slower than normal as workers get used to the technology. What's more, training has to be performed repeatedly as new employees are added to the staff.
Voice picking uses logical, natural voice commands that are easy to learn and intuitive. This creates an operational climate in which businesses can get new solutions into action quickly and incorporate recently hired staff into operations with less time spent on training. These gains are not a matter of saving an hour or two each year for employee education, it amounts to significant savings over time as workers don't have to learn new skills just to leverage advanced technologies.
Putting Voice Picking Into Action
These benefits are increasingly accessible as the widespread nature of advanced voice recognition technologies make voice picking a more mainstream solution in warehouse settings. Businesses that are looking to trim all of the fat from their operations can use the intuitive, user-friendly technology to improve operations in a wide range of ways. Going from typing to speaking may sound like a small change, but over time it adds up to make a monumental difference in productivity, efficiency and safety.
Don't let any negative presuppositions around voice recognition derail the opportunity for innovation. Widespread consumer use puts the potential commercial applications for voice recognition tools in the spotlight, as advanced solutions can offer the nuanced capabilities businesses need to ensure consistent performance.