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What Is Voice Picking and How Does It Work?

Person wearing a headset surrounded by boxes

August 15, 2023

Warehouse technologies that accommodate voice-directed picking are experiencing rapid growth in the current landscape. They offer super efficiency and productivity gains, so it is no surprise many businesses are seeking to capitalise on their benefits.

By combining real-time communication, speech synthesis and interactive voice response, these solutions can optimise warehouse operations. Accuracy and productivity go up while employee training time goes down – it really is a win for everyone.

What is Voice Picking?

Voice picking is a paperless, hands-free solution for order fulfilment workers. It involves the use of voice prompts to direct them to the required locations around a warehouse and instruct them on which products to pick in order to make up customer orders.

A key benefit of this technology for warehouse automation is that it keeps pickers’ hands free. They don’t need a handheld terminal to read or hit buttons, enabling them to focus instead on selecting the right items from the shelves.

A Closer Look at Voice Picking

With voice picking technology, the user gets a headset through which they are communicated with by the central system. It uses everyday language to convey information from supply chain systems to individuals in the warehouse. Other common names for these solutions include ‘pick by voice’ and ‘voice-directed warehousing’. These solutions are paperless and never require your warehouse operatives to use their hands to interact with the system.

It works via headsets with industrial microphones built in. The mic is connected to a mobile device that runs the voice application, which in turn tells the individual where they need to go and what they need to pick.

The picker simply states a reference code and the speech recognition software of the system validates the picking location and relevant items. If the information spoken is not correct, the application can correct the picker. There may also be complementary technologies integrated with the voice-directed applications, like barcode scanners or RFID devices.

What is the voice picking process?

Voice picking starts with putting on the headset and following spoken instructions, responding with speech or a scanner. The process looks like this:

  1. Warehouse workers on picking duty receive their headset and mobile device.
  2. The picking system collects customer orders from the WMS or ERP software.
  3. The device gives verbal instructions to the wearer of the headset, telling them where to go and what to pick.
  4. The worker can respond with their voice or by entering text/scanning barcodes.
  5. Upon arrival at the designated location, the voice-picking operator provides confirmation digits to verify location.
  6. The voice-picking system confirms that information and provides the pick quantity, which the operator confirms verbally.
  7. Upon completion of the task, the system sends the picker to their next location.
  8. All vocal interactions between the system and picker are tracked to allow managers to view progress.

What equipment is needed for voice picking?

Voice picking systems usually integrate with WMS or ERP software. These can run on-premises or in the cloud. Users must wear a headset with an industrial microphone, which must be connected to a mobile device that runs the voice picking software.

There are some more advanced systems that include an accessory that facilitates barcode scanning. Display tools like smart glasses can also be implemented as part of the solution as well. A fast, reliable internet connection is required at the warehouse to support a cloud-based version of the technology.

Who needs voice picking in their warehouse?

Voice-picking is suitable for all warehouse sizes, but it is particularly helpful for larger warehouses. With lots of different items in large quantities and separate SKUs, the system can be a huge help. Voice picking is more cost-effective than some other systems, like pick-to-light (PTL). This is because such solutions require physical modules to be installed at different locations, and the costs add up the more you need.

Voice picking is also useful beyond the warehouse. It can be helpful in stores or on manufacturing lines. For example, a retail store employee could be given verbal instructions through the headset to pick the items for a large order, confirming each item as it is located. When the entire order is collected, the system could then provide final instructions to complete the task.

Another area where voice picking can help is when heavy items are needed and the operative needs both hands to lift them. And in very cold environments, where operatives need to wear gloves, it can be very helpful to use voice commands rather than touchscreens and keyboards to input data.

What are the key benefits of voice picking?

Picking can be a particularly costly part of running a warehouse, and voice technology can optimise the process. There are many benefits it can bring, including:

  • Increased Productivity: With both hands free, operatives can focus more on picking the correct products.
  • Faster and More Accurate Order Processing: Voice-directed work aids concentration. This enables faster location and accurate picking of items to improve customer satisfaction.
  • Reduced Errors: With fewer distractions, operatives are less likely to make picking errors. What’s more, they have to verbally confirm each pick, vastly reducing the likelihood of errors.
  • Improved Inventory Counts: As picking accuracy improves, so too does the accuracy of inventory counts. This makes a big difference to efficiency in supply chains.
  • Less Training: Voice picking is easy to learn with simple, step-by-step commands. Save time in onboarding and training.

You can use voice picking for things like cross-docking, picking to conveyor, pick-by-line, putaway and inventory management. It is a versatile tool that can make a big impact on a business.

Final Thoughts

Voice picking may not be attainable for all businesses. For example, smaller businesses may not have the budget to incorporate it, or they may decide that it simply isn’t needed for the scale of their operations. But the tools that it integrates with are useful for businesses of all sizes.

When you implement a robust ERP solution with advanced WMS capabilities, you can streamline processes and boost efficiency throughout your warehouse. You may not have the power of voice picking at your disposal, but the technology that makes it tick is accessible to everyone.

Learn more about how robust ERP solutions can improve stock traceability functions with barcoding and countless other supply chain features to empower you to enhance efficiency across the board.


Why choose Eventura as your ERP implementation partner?

Eventura has been providing robust business solutions to countless organisations for over two decades. We are ERP experts and can identify all of your business needs and deliver a comprehensive ERP solution that works for you.

As Sage 200 Partners and NetSuite Solution Providers, we can help you identify which solution will fit your business needs the best. Our expert team of business analysts, developers, consultants, technicians and support staff can guide you through your entire project, from initial scoping through to implementation and on-going support.

We’re also managed IT service providers meaning we can help you identify your entire IT infrastructure requirements from day one. If you would like to speak to one of our ERP experts to discuss your options or request a free demo, you can request a free call back here.

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