Step aside, RFID. A new report hails voice-recognition technology, not radio-frequency identification, as the most important technological breakthrough for DCs since the bar code. The report, written by prominent warehousing and logistics consultant Kenneth Ackerman, is the latest in industrial real-estate developer ProLogis's Supply Chain Review series of research papers.
Voice-recognition technology enables two-way communications between computerized warehouse management systems and warehouse workers wearing headsets. Using a computer-generated "voice," the system automatically provides directions to workers as they select orders, receive shipments, sort goods or load trucks. Voice systems eliminate the need for handheld scanners or paper pick lists, leaving workers' hands free and making it easier for them to focus on the task at hand.
Companies that have installed voice systems report almost immediate improvements in inventory accuracy, Ackerman says. But the advantages are by no means limited to record keeping. Ackerman writes that the typical client testimonial cites benefits like "a 60-percent reduction in picking errors, productivity increases ranging from 11 percent to 40 percent over six months, [and] reductions in training time from days to hours."