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  • Roy Strauss

Supply Chain Profitability – Key Benefits of Voice Recognition

Many companies who use bar code technology are still plagued with excessive writing and/or data entry. This happens when many different kinds of data and/or information must be captured for each item during receiving and suppliers will bar code only item numbers and a minimal number of fields.

Another situation where voice recognition can augment bar code systems is when there are numerous potential next steps in the receiving process that must be identified on the fly. These situations can occur whether for new receipts or returns. Voice recognition is also valuable when continual instruction to the worker is required but both hands must be free to do work such as order picking or manufacturing assembly.

Application 1:

A very high-volume pharmaceutical distributor must capture the NDC number or UPC bar code number (either which will be bar coded) and additional information as well, for each product at receiving. This information could include a lot number, batch number, expiration date, quantity received and possibly a serial number to track an item within a lot. The company referred to in this example had set up multiple data entry stations. After scanning the product ID barcode, four other fields had to be data entered. This process doubled the time of the receiving process. Workers had to sit at a fixed workstation (where data entry could be done) and each item on the receipt (there could be as many as forty, some with multiple pallets, and some with multiple items mixed on a pallet) had to be brought to and from the data entry station.

By implementing a voice recognition system workers became mobile by wearing a headset and were prompted to read the information into the microphone by the system for each field after scanning the product ID. The time saved by not moving the product to and from the data entry station and by speaking vs. entering data resulted in major increases in speed and efficiency and a major reduction in labor costs. Since items could be received into the system at the staging area and the data entry stations eliminated, key space was freed up for other uses.

Application 2:

A consumer goods company shipped high volume truckloads of thousands of products to major big box retailers. Even though as a percentage of goods shipped returns were low, the number of objects returned was voluminous. Truckloads of gayelords (enclosed pallet size shipping containers used mainly in air shipments) with numerous items in varying states of condition were received daily. Items returned could be categorized as saleable, saleable after re-boxing, sent to an inspection station to check functionality, returned to vendor, held for vendor inspection, held for management review, or disposed of. The task of recording the condition on documents was monumental.

By implementing a voice-recognition system, workers could scan the barcode on each item and state a number representing the condition of each item from the choices listed above into the microphone and place the item on a sortation conveyor which would then sort by the destination set up for the condition spoken. The product could be staged by condition with other such items and easily be bulk moved to the proper next location. Saleable items could be returned to stock immediately. Non-saleable items could be transported to an area where they were sorted for the next step in the returns process away from the main traffic flow and those to be disposed of conveyed to a dumpster. A difficult situation became easily manageable again, and again time and labor were saved with increased efficiency.

Voice recognition allows for 2-way communication by headset for any order picking operation. Hands are free to do work and feedback is transmitted instantaneously eliminating all paper and any labor associated with writing information or entering data. Two way communication allows for instant update and verbal communication of the next step.

The quality of voice recognition technology is better than ever and should be considered for laborious data entry and multiple-choice situations. Systems are multilingual and each headset could be programmed to work in a different language but with the results of the process presented in the formats required by company management.

Voice recognition is an excellent way to improve accuracy and efficiency, reduce space and labor costs and manage complex situations.


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