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About the Author

Brad Wyland is Vice President of Strategic Marketing and brings over 17 years of Supply Chain experience to the Datria Team. Prior to joining Datria, Wyland was the Director of Product Strategy at Seegrid Corporation, the leading provider of Industrial Mobile Robots.

Previously, Wyland was a senior supply chain research analyst at Aberdeen Group, Sr. Product Manager at Vocollect, Inc., and was a Sr. Product Marketing Manager at PeopleSoft (now Oracle). Wyland started his supply chain career in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as a Consultant with HB Maynard before joining Systems Modeling (now Rockwell Software) in 1995.

Wyland holds a B.S. in Industrial Engineering and an M.B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh.

Supply Chain Comment

By Brad Wyland

September 15, 2011

If High Device Costs Are Killing Your Voice ROI, Why Not Get Rid of Them?

Voice Technology Can Add Tremendous Value to the Work Being Performed Daily Across Your Supply Chain

The success of your voice solution can be greatly affected by the right devices and associated considerations for your organization.  However, too often that’s translated into meaning that only a handful of special, expensive devices are capable of delivering the best user experience and level of quality.  While that may have been the case 10 to 20yrs ago, today it’s a matter of leveraging the most advanced and robust voice application software and speech recognition technology to help voice users realize that it’s all about the Voice User Interface (VUI) and not about the device when it comes to driving value and ROI. 

When you start from the perspective that voice is about the application flow and where voice provides value, rather than solely focusing on the device, you end up with software solutions that can bring together the best technology to build a platform that provides many options for voice in the warehouse, the supply chain, and/or the enterprise.  In fact, voice solutions can drive ROI for warehouses with fewer than 10 workers or more than 100 workers.  Small and medium-sized warehouses can now take advantage of billions of dollars in technology advancements made by leading hardware and software technology providers and get the same value, benefits and ROI from voice technology that the large warehouses have been taking advantage of for the past twenty years.

Wyland Says:

Voice technology is becoming an integral part of our daily lives and the "cost" has been commoditized at the same time the performance has skyrocketed.
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But I Thought It Was All About “The Intelligent Device”?

Today’s voice leaders are developing software solutions and working closely with hardware vendors to ensure that voice solutions work effectively on a range of devices to fit the needs of your organization, your processes, and your workers.  The days of forcing all of the intelligence and capabilities into a small computer that has to manage and run all the processes necessary to support voice, and subsequently has scale back the voice capabilities to fit it all in one small PC, are behind us.  Given advances in the technology that delivers voice recognition, the expansion and increased capabilities of WLANs and Comm Networks, today’s voice solutions simply don’t need workers to wear mini-computers to work.

Because of the efforts of device manufacturers and the focus around interoperability testing, voice vendors can now provide customers with solutions that deliver a meaningful ROI across many applications, not just one or two.  Once you remove the device as the critical element in determining whether recognition works or not, and understand that voice recognition technology has far outpaced it’s early ancestors, you begin to see how easily voice technology can be deployed because now the device is just means to a connection, rather than a limiting factor.

When you focus on the VUI you easily see that the goal is to simply connect the worker to the software and that can be accomplished over dial tone or RF.  Typically you can do that in one of two ways, Phones/Smartphones with native calling capabilities or even Handheld/Wearable computers using a softphone (running a phone application an a device originally not designed to be a phone, i.e. a handheld mobile terminal, an iPod, or an iPad) to place a call.  Most mobile device choices fall into these two categories, including wireless phones/smartphones, tablets, handheld RF terminals, PDAs, 2-way radios, netbooks and laptops.  This field of options can make the choice daunting when it comes to choosing the best device for a voice deployment.   It’s important to keep in mind that the options are now wide-open and you can select the option that best fits the application.  Maybe running a softphone on existing handhelds works best because you can easily capitalize on existing investment but are more interested in the additional ROI you can get by using voice in additional parts of the warehouse or the yard.  Perhaps providing employees with inexpensive cell phones allows you to easily connect your field service workers to a voice driven ticket management system to allow them to update order completion and expenses over a Bluetooth connection as they’re driving to the next customer, or as they’re taking a break.  Whatever the application, you no longer have to be limited in the use of voice because the device doesn’t fit.

I Can Do What?

Too often voice is written off because there has always been a stigma that as a buyer you had to compromise on so many levels, and that leads to a more difficult ROI to justify the expenditure.  Voice technology is becoming an integral part of our daily lives and the “cost” has been commoditized at the same time the performance has skyrocketed.  So, it’s time to revisit that business case, only this time remove the old limits and start fresh with a new perspective.

Here are some things about today’s voice solutions that you should keep in mind when building your business case, because you may be pleasantly surprised by their impact on your ROI:

  Any Phone or Mobile Device

Connecting your workers to your business should be seamless and painless.  To maximize the effectiveness of the Voice User Interface (VUI) you want to minimize the amount of end user hardware necessary to make the connection.  Today’s manufacturers are delivering inexpensive IP64-rated phones that can support a number of peripherals including screen output, Bluetooth, dual-mode connection, that provide integrated and multi-modal options for your use of voice.  When the device is just a connection, suddenly the ROI looks a lot more attractive; more options provide capability at a wide variety of price points not available in the past.


Any Operating System

While many of voice systems in the past have solely relied on a Microsoft OS, removing the device as a part of the equation means you’re no longer tied to an OS that you can’t support, or only the OS they support.  Now with zero-client device requirement, a myriad of options are available to buyers to decide which device best serves the application being performed.  This is a key driver in accelerating the ROI and decreasing the total cost of ownership. This is also important because there is no dominant mobile OS vendor in the market, and millions of R&D resources are being poured into new innovations by all vendors.

  Any Place

Today’s voice solutions are agnostic to how calls or a connection arrive to the application, resulting in flexibility and a variety of networks supported for connectivity including WiFi, IP-DECT, and even WiFi forerunners like 900MHz networks, analog wireless networks, public mobile networks, public switched networks, and even terrestrial radio.  This provides a greater flexibility to expand the use of voice inside and outside the four-walls.  A growing number of mobile devices are able to connect to multiple networks (dual-mode), enabling workers to seamlessly move between networks even while a call is in progress. For example, a worker could use WiFi while inside a building and automatically switch to a cellular network when moving to yard management functions.

Final Thoughts

Voice technology can add tremendous value to the work being performed daily across your supply chain.  When you can use voice as a driver to gain value or as a supportive option to add value, you suddenly begin thinking, “Where can I use the power of voice to help me improve my operations?” versus the usual question of, “Where can I use this device?”

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