Sound of success - WMS-Voice Picking Technology report
Nov 05, 2019
Manufacturing & Logistics IT spoke to a number of experts from the vendor and analyst communities about current and possible future trends and areas of development within the world of voice-directed picking systems – including those concerning augmented reality, the rise of e-commerce and the emergence of blockchain.
Part 2: Voice Picking Technology Report
Due to the length of this combined report the Warehouse Management Systems section is published as a separate article HERE.
Time, cost and accuracy-related challenges in the warehouse and DC have never been greater due in no small part to major logistical shifts such as the rise of online shopping, which now often needs to be addressed alongside more traditional bulk order deliveries to stores and industry. As a consequence, voice-directed picking systems now have an even more important role to play. So, what are some of the current key talking points and areas of development related to this particular solutions space?
Keith Phillips, president and CEO, Voxware, Inc., continues to see the push for automation throughout the entire distribution centre, not just for picking. “For Voxware, it’s about the multimodality of the solution and providing our customers with the right technology to complete their specific tasks,” he says. “It’s important for our customers to have options so they are able to leverage the appropriate technology to do their job. Beyond that, companies need to layer in analytics. People are learning that just automating with a multimodal solution is only part of the puzzle. Once you automate, you need to actively manage it effectively to get the maximum output out of the workforce.”
Phillips points to a few things that have driven change. First and foremost, he believes it starts with the end consumer. “This is regardless of industry – they demand a different level of service,” he says. “This demand has forced distribution companies in every sector to rethink how they get product to the market. That’s where it all begins.”
The second issue raised by Phillips is the ongoing labour shortage. “The shortage is magnified by the strong economy, so you’ve got two opposing forces putting pressure on the distribution centre to deliver more throughput,” he says. “What that does to companies like Voxware is that it forces them to make sure companies are leveraging all of the different technologies that are available in the space, not just voice, but scanning and augmented reality. Companies also have to figure out how to integrate the human worker into the world of automation and figure out which technologies best support the human worker to enable them to interface with automation and drive the highest level of optimisation.”
Phillips highlights a move towards blockchain. “We all know there's plenty of data out there and we offer a very robust analytics solution to manipulate and leverage that data,” he says. “What’s important is the integrity of the data and the usability of that data, which is where blockchain comes in. Then companies need to understand how to leverage that data to drive their operation. The impact that it's having from a practical perspective is it allows senior level people in a distribution operation, for the first time, they have a need to, and quite frankly will not be competitive if they don't do it, to look at data, and figure out how to move product through their entire supply chain.”
Darrel Williams, sales director Europe, Honeywell Voice Solutions, considers that the awareness of the technology of voice is commonplace, no more so than in mission-critical business applications. “The consumerisation of voice in everyday life has led to at least a basic understanding of the what’s possible,” he says. Williams adds that since the last Manufacturing & Logistics IT special technology report on voice-directed picking solutions, there has been an explosion of demand – and a mass adoption of voice – in almost every walk of life. “The key drivers behind this build on the basic principles of ease of usage, flexibility, agility and empowerment of the worker,” he says. “E-commerce has shifted consumer demands, leading to more adoption of technologies including voice. Consumers expect a seamless and flawless online shopping experience. Anything less than perfect – from a poor customer experience, to cumbersome returns process, to the loss of repeat customers – reflects negatively on the business and is costly.”
Williams also reflected that the growth of urbanisation is changing the distribution pattern of goods. He adds that companies are also increasingly focused on workers and their well-being, which is critical to improving worker health, longevity and overall productivity. “At Honeywell, we continue to see a deeper and more seamless integration of technology throughout the DC and companies should focus on the application of that technology to help complement the mobile workforce – for example, pairing robotics with voice technology to help eliminate travel time. With these changes among many other business pressures, supply chains are facing a wave of technology innovations to drive operational changes. This includes the concurrent use of multiple technologies to meet business requirements. Selecting adaptable technologies that can grow alongside their business and pairing it with another solution like voice technology can contribute to the creation of best-in-class processes and workflows. Ultimately, each business situation has common and unique requirements and Voice can deliver satisfaction to many situations.”
Robert Van Vliet, country manager, Zetes, reflects that for several years a key talking point is ease of use. “Staff turnover is very high, which means you don’t want to waste 30/40 minutes per user on training,” he explains. “This means that an ‘untrained’ system is becoming the standard. Zetes launched the untrained system 10 years ago.”
The second main topic highlighted by Van Vliet is the re-use of devices, especially in the case of smaller warehouses where users need to undertake multiple tasks. “You don’t want a dedicated device for just one process,” he says. “This means, you buy any Android device and install the voice app and you can use this device with voice, barcode, display etc. You create a true multimodal environment. Finally, you want to manage the users and devices. This means you need to have a platform that provides all the business data (users performance, achieving KPIs, voice recognition performance, device performance, battery status, etc) which allows the team leader/manager to make decisions based on up to date data.”
In Van Vliet’s view, the main changes and developments have been driven by changing the end-user requirements. “The standard voice pick installations are still there, but the need to optimise more complex process pushed voice companies like Zetes to create an environment which is more ‘multimodal’ and not voice only,” he says, adding that this is because of the omnichannel and the requirement for shorter lead times etc. Van Vliet explains that Zetes has installed over 250.000 voice terminals over the past 10 years and makes the point that over the past two years there has been a growth in the amount of installations with a combination of technologies; voice together with Put to Light. “This means you pick the item by voice and put it on the trolley with a light above the box. Especially when you do multi-order pick this speeds up the process.”
Bob Bova, CEO, AccuSpeechMobile, considers that the ability to extend the useful life of existing investments, and simultaneously realise increased productivity in the near-term, continues to be a business imperative. “Modern voice solutions offer a compelling value proposition to meet this need,” he said. “These voice solutions are deployed 100% on the mobile device, with the OS most suitable to the business (Android, Windows, iOS), supporting a multilingual workforce and providing a hands-free, eyes-free solution for picking as well as many other applications in the DC. Affordability, ease of deployment and the short ROI timeframe, effectively bring device-based voice within the reach of firms of all sizes.”
Bova adds that modern voice-enabled workflows deliver increased flexibility. “The tight labour market has given rise to a workforce that is more fluid, often moving between firms for incremental increases in the hourly pay rate,” he points out. “Voice-based workflows facilitate rapid ramp-up for new team members, increase productivity for the existing team, support bilingual workers and smooth the ramp-to-rate for seasonal staff. Modern voice solutions do not require voice training or the maintenance of voice files for each individual.”
Move to e-commerce
In terms of what has driven these changes, Bova considers that the move to e-commerce operations is continuing and expanding to a global perspective. “In the retail sector, the drive to present a unified experience between the online, catalogue and in-store experience continues to evolve as firms compete on availability, price, the shopping experience and customer loyalty,” he says. “For manufacturing and wholesalers, this means that goods which were channel delivered, are now drop-shipping directly to the end-consumer. In the distribution centre this may necessitate multiple shifts working to fulfil orders, often three shifts working 24x7. The higher cost of errors requires improving order accuracy as a competitive necessity. For most organisations, optimising what they already own is an ideal scenario. Modern device-based voice is the perfect complement to layer into their customised workflow processes to see results rapidly.”
Lance Bennett, technical services director, Renovotec, considers that the key talking points within the industry and among the user community include the use of voice on Android devices; speaker-independent voice recognition; and multi-mode applications that mix voice, scanning and screen imagery. “The cost of voice solutions is considered by many in supply chain to be too high,” he says, “ though that point is less relevant where voice is deployed in higher value environments – for example maintenance and inspection, where it is critical to follow and record the results of a set process.”
Regarding drivers for change, Bennett comments that the advent of and massive investment in better speech recognition, worldwide and in multiple markets is a big driver (think Alexa). “Multi-purpose Android devices: if you have a device that one moment can be used for voice picking and the next for say load-checking and scanning, then end users believe they can secure better value from their investment,” he says, adding that he doesn’t believe there is much blue sky thinking by the vendors, though that is partly because voice is a mature technology, at least in the supply chain.
Tim Just, CEO, EPS (Ehrhardt + Partner Solutions), currently sees three central development directions, which EPS is already implementing in Lydia Voice:
- “The integration of AI components in speech technologies. We have already implemented this development in the Release 8 of Lydia Voice. The latest generation is based on neural networks and the deep learning concept. The integration of the AI components has improved recognition security (confidence) by a further 25% compared to the previous solution. This means that even users with pronounced dialects, accents or unclear pronunciation can be reliably recognised without voice template training. Especially for non-native speakers this is a significant advantage.
- “More ergonomics in voice processes. We do justice to this, for example, with our Lydia Voice Wear order-picking vest, the more ergonomic alternative to the classic headset. The order picking vest is a patented solution that convinces with its high wearing comfort. All voice components are already integrated into the vest - for maximum freedom of movement and satisfied employees. Hands-free, eyes-free and now also headset-free. The Lydia VoiceWear High Vis + is a further development of our Lydia VoiceWear in the design of a warning vest. It is certified according to the European standard EN ISO 20471. The vest is equipped with reflective strips of the highest quality so that employees are always clearly visible under any lighting conditions. This is especially important in some countries, such as the UK, where the use of warning vests in the warehouse is mandatory.
- “Big Data and Intelligence. Lydia Warehouse Intelligence is our solution to cope with the increasing flood of data in the warehouse. LWI continuously structures and analyses various KPIs and makes them available for further evaluations in real time. LWI informs for example. about the remaining battery life on the basis of the collected battery data (predictive maintenance). This allows the customer to react promptly and continuously optimise their processes to get the most out of the voice application. LWI collects also the WIFI network data, the duration and number of requests between client and server as well as the quality of speech recognition.
In terms of drivers for change, Just reflects that end users expect more usability and ergonomics due to their personal experience. “Personal assistants like Alexa and SIRI make ‘voice’ more common,” he says. “These leads to higher customer expectations for enterprise voice systems. The new expectations can only be met with heavy investment in new technology. We invested more than 15 man-years in developing Lydia 8 technology. So, the enhancements in technology can benefit the user, if the voice provider understands to match both tracks: usability and technology – and we do.”
Mark Batchelour, managing director, Voice Beyond, comments that the platform shift that has been created by the demise of mobile Windows and replaced largely with Android and iOS devices has opened doors to lower cost of ownership in the voice-directed workspace. “Taking advantage of new, low-cost hardware platforms is one part of the equation,” he says, “but it needs to be balanced with matching software and support to provide an end-to-end system that provides high quality at a more affordable cost point. The Android switch has enabled new opportunities from existing suppliers, for example the ‘optional training’ systems now available, giving the best of both worlds in both trained (high accuracy, low crosstalk) and untrained (fast start up time for new workers) systems.”
Batchelour believes the switch to Android devices has driven a lot of market change. Another driver of market change in his view has been the big growth in the small-medium e-commerce companies who need effective and accurate ways of picking small orders for multiple end customers, often with stock that varies in size and shape. “Voice works well in that scenario,” he says. Batchelour adds that end users are now seeing voice as an option, and in some cases, essential for a wider range of applications than before. “Lower price point has helped voice expand out from picking to other processes such as replenishment, moves, inventory count, facility and vehicle management and quality inspections,” he explains.
Have ways of best integrating voice-directed systems with other systems developed to any notable degree over the past year or two? Williams maintains that tighter integration is critical. “Mobile applications are expected to deliver advanced functionality, commercial advantage and benefits to the user,” he explains. “The step change is that we now expect a fully featured, easy to use interface without the safety net of a middleware or bolt-on specialist system. Many enterprise business systems are now achieving on one or two of these requisites, and those are typically functionality focused. However, the user interface, and the ability to execute in real life (with real people) is often missing from the mix. Familiar, easy to use, common interfaces powered by voice deliver this user experience whilst extracting maximum value from the core application. Honeywell offers approved interfaces with the leading enterprise and warehouse management systems.”
Batchelour considers that integrating for voice has always been a case of using the best tool for the job. “Middleware, Direct (native) interfaces and Screen To Voice all have their applications,” he says. “One of the challenges in the past was that some companies selling voice only had one tool to rely on and customers ended up with the wrong solutions. Now there are more choices than ever, and the better suppliers can cover all the bases. We have seen native interfaces for WMSs accelerating with many smaller WMSs joining the top tier in having an off-the-shelf voice interface.”
Phillips makes the point that technology in general has advanced significantly. “Regardless of the approach you take to the integration of a solution like ours into a host system, whether it's WMS, or WCS or ERP, it doesn't matter,” he says. “What's important is the integrity of that interface and the architecture behind it. Many people will call our software middleware, and it is not. It’s a standalone software application as we execute processes within our software that interface middleware. One of the big changes is the ability to take advantage of other technologies. In our case, we've leveraged analytics to be able to bridge the gap between data in multiple places to give warehouse management and senior executives complete and total visibility into the entire operation across multiple data sources to be able to drive the highest level of optimisation among the workforce.”
Bova comments the trend towards adaptable solutions that use off-the-shelf components; including consumer-grade devices, continues and provides organisations with a range of options to support voice-enabled workflows. “Intelligent automation built on device-level voice integration brings an entirely new level of workflow support for any warehouse application, not just picking,” he says.
Van Vliet reflects that what we typically see is that the WMS/ERP systems support the standard (happy flow) voice pick process. He adds that if a customer requires some more complexity due to the different order flows or new regulations (like FMD for pharma, TPD for tobacco) these companies don’t have the time and or knowledge to follow the need. “When Zetes started selling voice solutions we were the only one with two options, a direct integration with the ERP/WMS and the middleware solution,” he says. “Even today, we support this and based on the requirements (complex or easy) and on the available functions in the back end we propose to go one or the other. Zetes is a strong believer of open architecture, hence 10 years ago we launched our third-generation voice system which is an open platform. You can run it on any device, so no lock in and or expensive ‘software update plans’. The value should come from the client/system and this will keep customers, not a contract.”
Bennett considers that there hasn’t been much recent voice-to-other-systems integration progress and adds that many users are still living with older applications. “Voice is often seen as an expensive solution to integrate into smaller-scale environments,” he says. “This and the fact that many applications are still closed to easy integration of complementary technologies results in too many implementations being based around screen-scraping to voice solutions.”
Just remarks that EPS relies on flexibility, transparency and cooperation based on partnership. “For almost 25 years our approach has been an ‘open architecture’,” he explains. “Lydia Voice is easy to connect to an existing WMS or ERP system. Either by direct integration via a Lydia Connector solution, indirectly via one of our numerous standard interfaces or via the Lydia PickManager. Lydia Voice also differs from other language providers in that it is 100% integrated with SAP. Lydia Voice works like a microphone to SAP. Because the entire application logic is in SAP, one can continue to use all standard functions.”
Just adds that over the past two years more and more providers of back-end-systems have offered open interfaces, often web-based. “We welcome these activities, but also offer a unique approach to interfacing with ‘Lydia Co-Exist’,” he says. “Using the Lydia co-exist approach, we ensure that the Lydia client behaves identically to another voice system. If there is already a voice solution running, Lydia Voice can be implemented in a very short-time parallel to the existing voice application. This allows the customer to benefit from a cost-effective modernisation of the existing voice landscape without letting go off crucial functionalities. Interfaces are our daily business and we can integrate into any system.”
Has the Software as a Service (SaaS) model and the cloud concept in general had any notable level of impact on the voice-directed systems market? “Absolutely,” says Phillips. “Since launching our cloud-based Voice Management Suite (VMS) in 2012, we have customers because we have a cloud offering that matches their cloud strategy,” he explained. “We also have customers who we were their first cloud deployment, and now years later they've migrated the majority of their IT infrastructure into the cloud. We believe the cloud strategy will continue to evolve over time, but we’re probably not too far away from it being unacceptable for companies to not offer their technology in a SaaS basis. Organisations are looking at every aspect of their business to succeed and flourish. One of the biggest advantages of going to the cloud is removing the burden from the customer to having to maintain its own IT infrastructure. They are able to free up their staff to work on more important initiatives. There is also arguably no more secure place than the cloud as companies like Amazon and Microsoft have the highest levels of security on the planet.”
Batchelour doesn’t believe the cloud/SaaS model has had a major impact on the voice-directed systems market so far. “There are cases where it is valuable, and it’s not hard to do now if it is needed. That said, most customers seem to like the control and ownership that comes from having something dedicated to them, and the low cost of hosting it themselves is attractive.”
Van Vliet points out that through the cloud/SaaS model vendors can offer Pay as you Go. “In our fourth-generation voice system we offer customers the option to Pay as you Go, which means customers only pay for the voice system for the number of users they had the previous month,” he explains. “The second option is to use our ZetesMedea execution system (when your current ERP/WMS system doesn’t support Voice picking) for the execution of the voice orders. This way you can benefit from having voice in your warehouse, but don’t have a long and costly implementation.”
Williams explains the trend towards outsourcing of systems has accelerated over the past two years. “Most of us use cloud-based tools and applications in our everyday life, and the business world is no different,” he says. “The benefits can be enormous, including a reduction in need for expensive infrastructure, costly one-time development and the potential financial benefits. Of course, subscription-based solutions also carry the benefit of ensuring businesses stay current with the latest versions.”
Bennett considers that SaaS has had no major impact except where a supplier (such as Renovotec) is willing to invest in the equipment that facilitates easy rental. “We provide a voice solution as a service when and if users want a subscription model,” he explains. “It is difficult for distributors and manufacturers to use business models that depend on subscription because it greatly disturbs their cash flow in the short term. So, the voice market is not generally committed to SaaS: but there are exceptions; niche market players such as Renovotec who are very committed to a voice SaaS model, following their success in equipment rentals.”
Bova points out that customers are demanding greater adaptability for their voice implementations. “Modern device-based voice solutions are agnostic regarding the source application, which might be a commercially available application, an application developed in-house, hosted internally or cloud-based,” he says. “dditionally, a solution that supports agile development and staged deployment is preferred, and that avoids a single-point-of-failure situation. As the WMS, ERP or other applications typically involve multiple workflows, no-longer is it acceptable to voice enable only picking. Customers require a voice solution that can be applied to many of their workflows, regardless of where they choose to host their applications.”
Just reflects that SaaS and cloud are becoming more accepted in the voice-directed systems market. “For now, only few of our customers use this option, but we expect this to increase,” he points out. “It provides more potential to fully use all aspects of voice and to only focus on the process as such and not on the infrastructure. We already provide a Lydia Voice Demo App in the Google Play Store and plan to offer app-based solutions (for SMEs) as an alternative to a comprehensive project. The best model around an app-based approach is SaaS.”
Are mobility solutions such as mobile computers and tablet PCs having an impact or influence on voice systems? “Not really,” believes Van Vliet. “A voice system is always real time, which means back-office data is available and managers can see progression. The only era we see benefits is around battery capacity. So, if your battery is running low, you change this when you are close to the battery charger to avoid a long walk back.”
Williams reflects that compromise no longer has a place in the modern industrial, commercial or business world. “Providing the most appropriate mix of voice, screen and keyboard choice to the worker to enable them to do their job, whilst having the option to interface seamlessly with automated systems, robotics and co-bots deliver the performance characteristics to support today’s market demand.”
Just comments that with Lydia Voice & Vision EPS has created an intelligent combination of Pick by Voice and mobile devices such as tablets, data glasses or smart watches. “This is yet another innovative picking system for the intralogistics of the future,” he says. “Here, process control is just as intuitive via voice. This significantly reduces the frequency of visual information, which employees mainly have to concentrate on when using a pure vision solution. At the same time, however, process reliability increases – our customers report up to 20%. The Lydia Smart Assistant displays process and article information on smart watches, tablets and smartphones. This makes it possible, for example, to attach tablets to means of transport as an additional source of information and make all data available to employees at any time. The additional data can then be retrieved as required. In addition to product details, it is also possible to display the next work steps or special instructions – and in combination with voice control by voice.” Just adds that Android in mobile computing is replacing Windows CE. He believes this leads to an easier integration of software (apps) and hardware.
Bennett believes the move to Android is having a knock-on effect on voice systems in that it is pressuring users to reduce costs; but where voice is the best solution for a particular requirement then it is worth the investment in dedicated voice hardware. “However, voice is not a suits-all solution in the way the manufacturers often suggest,” he says. “A mobile computer/tablet is a veritable Swiss army knife of technology tools. But to deliver a very specific task you would not choose a multi-purpose Swiss army knife; rather, you would select a single, specialist tool that has been designed for the task – such as voice. Voice can be an expensive solution, but where it is right for the job the payback should be very quick.”
Batchelour comments that the addition of general-purpose Android devices to the market has enabled some new applications that were a challenge before for dedicated voice devices. For example, complex inspection processes can now be voice enabled. “We recently built a fruit and vegetable inspection process that captured quality & rejection/acceptance data in real time to the customers supplier portal giving a grower immediate feedback about their truckload of vegetables,” he points out. “Always on 4/5G mobile data has made it possible to perform inspection wherever and whenever it is needed. This integration in real time with enterprise data systems and not ‘just the WMS’ is an ongoing trend and something that delivers big benefits to a customer both inside and outside the warehouse.”
Phillips believes customers are looking at the devices from a standpoint of what is most appropriate for their operation, their workers and even down to specific tasks. He makes the point that customer are asking the question, ‘Which is the best technology and device for this particular worker to use to complete their daily tasks?’ “I think that's a dramatic change from the history of our market and not all companies in this space are fully there yet,” he adds. “Devices today have significantly more capabilities. Historically, a mobile device for voice was just that, users could only do voice. Today, we’re able to leverage other functionality through the screen by issuing instructions, displaying images of a product, verify a UPC code and more.”
Bova points out that modern voice solutions are designed to work in heterogenous mobile environments with a variety of form factors, play well with other peripherals such as scanners, support multiple operating systems such as Android, Windows and iOS, and work seamlessly with text based or GUI interfaces. “The affordability of mobile devices and the growing understanding that hands-free, eyes-free voice-based workflows are an asset to a variety of applications within the four walls, as well as outside the four-walls, is growing,” he says. “Voice-enabled workflows are appropriate for fleet maintenance and inspection as well as increased productivity for last mile delivery. In the retail sector, voice can be leveraged in last mile fulfilment operations as more consumers embrace click to connect or BOPUS delivery model.”
What might be the next key innovations/developments to look out for in the world of voice-directed systems over the next year or two? Bennett cites non-taught, speaker-independent voice recognition, while Williams considers that augmented and assisted reality is the poster boy of new technology. “We have, at Honeywell, had operations systems utilising optical aids for several years,” he explains. “Our customers have assessed these systems with us and have concluded that there is potential in this area, but the fact remains that all current AR systems are underpinned by voice technology, and our customers continue to invest in the broader range of opportunity unlimited voice.” Williams adds that robotics and automation are also more prevalent today and he sees an increase in uptake in this area. “We have notable examples whereby co-bots and sortation systems are controlled by voice today, working in harmony with mobile workers,” he points out.
Phillips believes there are two big developments in this space. The first is the continued adoption and evolution of augmented reality – bringing all the technologies together including voice, vision and scanning. The second as it relates to voice specifically, is the emergence of natural language model voice recognition technology, which holds the promise of eliminating the necessity to train specific users into the system. “This creates huge time savings when new employees come into the organisation, whether that be temporary employees during the busy seasons or new, permanent staff members,” he says.
The innovations Van Vliet is seeing are in different areas; such as ease of use, making all users voice assistant, integrating with more than 1 or 2 technologies (such as put to light and/or RFID) and ease of implementation. “Companies don’t want to spend 20 to 30 days on an installation; they want to benefit straightaway,” he says. Van Vliet also highlights new regulations. “Only in 2019 we saw two new regulations whereby each unique item need to be scanned. If your voice system is not open it will slow down your process as you need to integrate with other technologies like scanning or image technology to read 50-100 barcodes in less than 1 second.”
Bova believes as more organisations seek to improve productivity in the near-term by leveraging what they already have deployed, the proven productivity and accuracy benefits of voice-enabled workflows will be integrated by more organisations both inside and outside the four walls. “There will be continued coupling with intelligent scanners, ocular devices, and increased adoption of device-based voice on consumer-grade devices in the warehouse as well as outside the four walls,” he says. “We’ll see advances in the ability to analyse this new data stream as well as assisting with workforce allocation. We will also see some firms move from the server-based voice model to the device-based model. In addition, firms that considered voice automation cost-prohibitive in the past will find that they can now embrace the technology.”
Just comments that within the voice-directed world he is sure that Big Data solutions are getting more and more important to customers. “This is a topic that is most in demand – also from the market perspective,” he says. “We are working on it and with LWI we already have a solution which we continuously equip with new features and functionalities.” Additionally, Just observes that hardware for voice applications is getting smaller but more powerful and with a lot of new features.
Now that voice training is an option, not a requirement, Batchelour believes the next step will be more access to low-cost rugged mobile devices. “This will take voice into places and processes it has not been a good fit before, such as inspection and verification,” he says. On the software side, Batchelour anticipates more analysis and prediction using the data from workers, both current and historical, to inform and guide warehouse managers.
Batchelour points out that whereas 15 years ago voice mainly suited large grocery retailers, voice is now used widely across industry for many tasks and product types, and now suits much smaller operations. He concludes: “While voice has changed massively in some ways, it still requires a dedicated and knowledgeable design to get the best out of it. Using the right tool for the job and supporting it extensively is the only guarantee of a successful and effective system.”
Due to the length of this combined report the Warehouse Management Systems section is published as a separate article HERE.