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Focus: RFID and Automated Identification and Data Collection (AIDC)

Feature Article from Our RFID and AIDC Subject Area - See All

From SCDigest's OnTarget e-Magazine

- March 13 2013 -


RFID and AIDC News: The 10 Keys to Voice Deployment Success


While Voice Deployments Keep Getting Easier, Some are More Successful than Others; We Explain Why


SCDigest Editorial Staff


Use of voice technology in distribution center applications has continuedto grow at a strong pace, and has literally now become a "mainstream" technology that is delivering value for thousands of companies across almost every business sector.


Voice technology vendor Vocollect alone says it has more than 500,000 users. That is incredible growth for a technology that really only started to take off ten years or so ago, and is testimony to its value.


Why is the level adoption being realized?

SCDigest Says:


The mistake companies often make, especially when the path forward has not yet been formally approved/ funded, is not laying out this roadmap in a detailed, time-phased way.

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The hands-free nature of voice should be obvious. By receiving tasks via a headset connected to a voice terminal worn on a belt or similar location, workers have both hands free to make picks, open and move cartons, etc. When using tradition wireless RF terminals, workers either have only one hand free, or must continuously put down and pick up the terminal.

Relatedly, "eyes-free" refers to the fact that operators do not have to constantly look down at an RF terminal screen to receive instructions about what to do next, confirm that a bar code scan or key entry on the terminal has been accepted, etc.

Together, the hands-free and eyes-free nature of voice can deliver substantial productivity gains for voice users, well into the double digits for many companies. In addition, significant improvements in accuracy are often gained as well. These efficiency gains plus high accuracy have also often made voice a winner for some high speed piece pick operations that continue to use paper (despite some level of errors) because the productivity hit from using RF is too high.

The other good news is that the technology has matured greatly, and is far easier to implement today that in its early days more than a decade ago.

Nevertheless, SCDigest research does find that there are differences between companies in just how successful their voice deployments are. That success is in terms of overall productivity gains and especially the time-to-value from the new system - both of which have a significant impact on ROI.


To address these differences in success and speed, SCDigest not long released an excellent new white paper titled "The 10 Keys to Voice Technology Deployment Success," which offers a detailed guideline to achieve an excellent voice deployment project instead of a mediocre one.


Below, we summarize a couple of these 10 keys to voice implementation success.

(RFID and AIDC Story Continued Below)




Key #3: Understand Your Technology/ Integration Options and Limitations: A new voice system obviously will not live in a technology vacuum. Depending on the scope of your deployment, it is possible that the voice system will at a minimum integrate with a WMS.

Across a network, that could possibly mean more than one WMS, and/or even more than one enterprise system, even within a single facility.


Before you get too far into the project, it is important to gain a solid understanding from your internal IT staff and/or vendors on what the options are for adding voice support in different specific areas. While the good news is that many WMS vendors now have standard voice support, it is possible that they don't have native support for some voice vendors, or they don't support a specific DC process to which you would like to add voice.

Legacy systems will almost never have existing voice support. So the answer there is either to modify that system to add voice capabilities, or move some of the processing and logic to a separate voice-specific application. That's where a really good technology partner comes into play.

Knowing the options and trade-offs early on will clarify what the end solution will look like, and often keep the project team from going down some dead-ends in designing the solution.


Key #9: Develop an Implementation Roadmap: In some cases, the initial deployment is the one and only potential use of voice technology within a given facility or across your network (e.g., you have only one DC).

More often, either officially as part of the initial buy and cost justification, or informally, as a likely path for future voice rollouts, there can be a reasonably clear expectation relative to adding additional workers into the targeted process (say picking) in your original facility, voice-enabling other areas of that DC, and/or voice-enabling the
core application in additional DCs.


The mistake companies often make, especially when the path forward has not yet been formally approved/ funded, is not laying out this roadmap in a detailed, time-phased way. Failure to detail actual or potential rollouts within or across facilities can delay those next-stage deployments of voice.


Why? Because voice proponents will often have to "resell" additional investments, over and over again. Conversely, if there is a strong sense that the first voice deployment will be a success (as there should be), then building a vision from the start about how that voice success can be extended over time in a "Master Plan" style can gain consensus on that vision from the start of the first project.


That doesn't of course commit you to the master plan if the environent changes, but it does usually ease the process of going forward versus not having already received buy-in on the master plan if the returns from the investment are as expected.

You'll find additional detail on that recommendation and more in what is really a roadmap for voice system success that companies can follow to their advantage.

To download the SCDigest report, go here: The 10 Keys to Voice Technology Deployment Success

What has been your experience with Voice deployment? What do you consider as key factors between success and mediocrity? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.

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