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Other Voices: Can you hear the ROI?

By Scott Anderson
Vice president of global channels, Intermec
July 19, 2011

Editor’s Note: The following column by Scott Anderson, vice president of global channels for http://www.intermec.com” title=“Intermec”>Intermec, is part of Modern’s new Other Voices column. The series, published on Wednesdays, will feature ideas, opinions and insights from end users, analysts, systems integraters and OEMs. Click on the link to learn about submitting a column for consideration.

In today’s highly competitive sales environment, it’s clear how important it is to enter a sales opportunity with everything your customer may need (with the highest ROI for the lowest price, of course).

Because of this, it’s become even more crucial in recent years to have the ability to offer a diversity of products to back up exactly whatever the customer’s demands may be, not only for their operations today, but for their future needs as well. However, no matter how much research you do about a company before your first meeting, the most successful meetings usually result in the ability to offer the customer something they may not have fully considered in the past. In the coming year, we see voice in distribution center (DC) operations as a strategic opportunity.

It’s long been known that voice can enhance DC operations. But how exactly to get a company to see the ROI associated without immediately dismissing it as an unnecessary expense is another story.

Picture a few scenarios that help demonstrate the ROI voice can help customers achieve:

Scenario One: Imagine two workers both responsible for picking products in a warehouse. The first worker has a paper pick list that lists all of the items to be picked. The worker carries the list and consults it to check locations and number of items to pick. Or, perhaps scans the location barcode. This manual process is still highly used, and some companies have no plans to change it any time soon.

Now, picture a second person using a voice-directed system. He or she wears a mobile computer on their belt connected to a purpose-built rugged headset. They listen to verbal instructions from the warehouse management system on where to go and what to pick, and simply talk to the system to confirm location and items picked.

The key difference? The worker using voice has their hands and eyes free. The ability for the second worker to remain 100 percent focused on the task at hand is key. This directly translates into ROI – the faster and more accurate the worker, the quicker and more efficient the orders become.
Scenerio Two: Take a company whose DC workers speak several different languages. This can be an incredible challenge for a company when it comes to training, implementing new process or hardware, or really just completing jobs in general.

Additionally, many distribution centers bring in seasonal workers during various times of the year (the holiday season for example). The time and energy spent training these workers can be daunting, and as many of our VARs report, it takes weeks if not longer for customers to get a new employee up to speed before they are completely proficient.

With voice technology, workers can complete all daily tasks using their native language. This is huge not only in terms of ease of use, but companies who use voice technology no longer have to worry about language barriers when hiring new workers. This equals major savings in terms of training costs, reducing training time from weeks to merely hours. After a quick morning training, most are up and working within the same day.

Simply put, voice is more productive because workers are not distracted. They are always moving to the next task while listening to instructions and entering data. From an accuracy perspective, particularly vs. paper methods, there is no comparison – voice is the proven winner. There are many cases where pick accuracy has gone from a respectable 99.2% all the way to 99.98%. That fraction of a percent may not sound like much, but eliminating costly errors drives amazingly fast ROI in many environments.

 

 

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About the Author

Bob Trebilcock, executive editor, has covered materials handling, technology and supply chain topics for Modern Materials Handling since 1984. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. Contact Bob Trebilcock.


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