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Voice-directed picking: is it right for your warehouse?

Posted by CeMAT Team on 20-Jan-2017 14:13:41

Voice-directed picking: Is it for your warehouse?

Globalisation and the rise in eCommerce has left many businesses with complex supply chains and warehouses. With complexity is on the rise, it's diffiicult ensuring operations runs as quickly and efficiently as possible as efficiency is of vital importance when it comes to delivering a great customer experience.

If your warehouse is making thousands of picks per day, or maybe even every hour, accuracy and efficiency of warehouse staff needs to be as free from error as humanly possible.

 This post will look into voice-directed picking to help you reduce the complexity of your picking and packing. 



What is voice picking?

It’s no secret that there is a myriad of solutions out there ready to be taken up by businesses looking to improve the efficiency of their operations. In fact, we often cover a variety of different ways to improve picking and you may want to read our case study on the Coles distribution centre or even our post on tailor-made distribution centres.

So we’re definitely not wanting for information. But there is one intriguing technology that’s been around for a while that has recently been growing in popularity: voice-directed picking and it just may be the solutions to many businesses picking woes.

There are actually a few different ways to refer to pick-to-voice so you may have heard of a few of the variations. Voice picking, pick-to-voice, voice-directed picking and even voice-directed warehousing all sound very different but are essentially referring to the same thing. And for the purposes of this post (and to make things a little bit more interesting), we’ll be using the terms interchangeably.

 Take a look at the video below to get a brief introduction. 


Pick-to-voice is technique that utilises speech recognition software in warehouses and distribution centres. Workers are directed by verbal prompts through a hand-held device that tells the worker where to go and what to do. The device, in turn is able to understand the workers responses which normally involve a set of pre-determined responses (this could include something like reading a confirmation code off a physical location).

The technology behind it has actually been around since the 1990s, but due to the fact that at the time it was only limited to picking (as opposed to also being able to receive, put-away or replenish), it wasn’t taken up as well as it has been now.

Other developments in technology such as RF-centric scanning, have enabled businesses to essentially re-engineer their operations to include more and more efficient ways of doing things. And the timing for the uptake of voice picking couldn’t be better.

As many business models swerve to adjust to the new ways digital customers purchase, there needs to be an accurate way of adjusting to the rise in the purchase of small packages. So if you have a complex and high density warehouse with multiple picking locations, take a look at the benfits below to see if voice picking is right for you.




What are the benefits?

We know that in a general sense, if a technology solution doesn’t improve business performance there would be no point introducing it into your operations. Luckily for voice picking, there may be quite a few tangible benefits worth considering for your business.

Firstly, let’s take a look at the cost reductions it might afford you. Because you’ll be able to eliminate all the manual printing and distributing documents that are normally related to picking, you’ll be able to reduce a lot of costs and save time in manual labour.

In some cases, voice directed picking can improve accuracy of picking by up to 90% and that brings us to the next point; increased efficiency. Because the operators are required to give a confirmation once an item is picked, warehouse staff are assured that the item they’ve picked is the correct one. In traditional picking, no confirmation is required and more often than not, errors are discovered by the customer once it’s already been delivered.

Voice-directed picking may also help warehouses with the following:

  • Receiving
  • Replenishing
  • Load validation 
  • Case/Layer picking 
  • Multi-order batch picking 
  • Layer staging for ‘top off’ 
  • Staging for truck loading 
  • Interleaving of full pallet picks 
  • Quality checks
  • Label printing 
  • Door Loading

Increased efficiency and cost reductions do go hand in hand because you’ll be able to increase the amount of items picked per hour. And not only that, you’ll ensure you reduce customer frustration when opening their package only to find the incorrect item.

Hopefully this post helped you identify whether or not voice picking is right for your warehouse or distribution centre. If you have any questions, let us know by commenting below.

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