Voice-directed picking systems are appealing to new audiences, thanks to a decline in the price of hardware, the availability of system-agnostic hardware, and increasing integration with other technologies, such as bar-code scanning. Scott Yetter, president and CEO of Voxware, said these trends are opening up new markets for voice systems both inside and outside the warehouse. External applications where voice is making inroads include direct-to-store delivery and yard management, he said. Retail, grocery and food distribution, and consumer packaged goods continue to be strong markets for voice.
By developing repeatable, scalable solutions that work with a variety of hardware and by simplifying integration with its VoxConnect software, Yetter said that his company has been able to drop prices for some solutions by more than half in the past five years. As a result, more mid-sized companies with smaller warehouse operations are looking at voice systems. One example is Voxware customer Pierre Ice Cream Company of Cleveland, Ohio. Voice is ideal in the all-freezer warehouse, where employees must wear heavy protective gear, said Pierre's logistics manager, Todd Kauppila, who attended the NA 2010 Show.
Pierre's warehouse, which has no WMS system, employs just six order pickers in winter and 15 in the summer peak season. Despite its small size, the voice system has been well worth the expense, Kauppila said. It has helped to cut training time for seasonal employees from one week to just three or four hours, he said. Case picking rates have jumped from 12-130 picks per hour to 165-170 picks per hour, and accuracy has increased from 99.3 percent to 99.96 percent. As a result, even in the peak season a single shift can now pick and ship a full day's orders, and Pierre's has eliminated overtime and late shipments.