Driven by ongoing digital transformation efforts and an increase in B2B and B2C e-commerce business, the supply chain has emerged as a competitive success factor. Innovative software solutions are a key enabler for its efficient operation. Voice offers just that – if a few aspects are considered.
What voice can do
SAP’s open architecture supports a range of voice integration methods and many SAP customers are already achieving significant productivity and accuracy gains as a result. The reason: Whether businesses are running SAP’s Extended Warehouse Management (EWM) solution or are still on Warehouse Management (WM), voice can easily and rapidly be integrated. The resulting seamless integration of ERP with the warehouse management solution through to voice users significantly improves productivity, accuracy, comfort and safety of warehouse processes. This helps distribution centers deliver on their customer promises, achieve bottom-line results and scale efficiently.
Historically, industrial voice technology was developed for case, piece, or batch picking. As picking processes make up approximately 50 percent of warehouse labor costs, this area presents the most opportunities for return on investment (ROI). Voice has now expanded into other areas across the distribution center, such as cycle counting, stock replenishment, carousel line, truck loading, and many more.
The solution works by sending associate verbal instructions through a headset connected to a mobile device. Users then confirm each step through the headset in real time as it is completed before being guided to the next task. Voice also supports multi-modal options such as scanners, printers, keyboards and screen displays.
A crucial strategic tool
In fact, voice integrated into SAP has become a crucial strategic tool for many businesses. Supply chain executives have reported a 50 percent decrease in picking errors and a typical ROI in under a year. This is due to voice providing superior ergonomics, removing distractions, and helping its users to focus on the task to be both more accurate and more productive. Modern industrial voice technology is specifically designed to provide very rapid voice recognition in noisy, rugged environments. The “noise cancellation” capability reduces common warehouse background noise such as pallet drops, truck horns and conveyor system mechanisms. The technology also helps overcome language barriers: most voice solutions are available in more than 40 languages, enabling associates to interact with SAP in the most natural and efficient way.
In addition, flexibility is key. “Voice with SAP easily scales with your business; not only as it grows but also when you need to manage seasonal peaks. Clear and simple guidance minimizes the onboarding time of new associates and capacity can be rapidly added without complex and expensive changes to a given infrastructure”, explains Anton du Preez, Sales Director for VVM/AMR/SCMS at Koerber Supply Chain Software.
What makes the difference?
Speech is the most natural way to communicate, in both receiving instructions and providing responses. So, for DCs wishing to optimize their productivity, it is an obvious choice. However, businesses need to consider wisely which processes and integration options are the best for their requirements. There is no one-size-fits-all solution and businesses should seek out a reliable and experienced partner to support them in the design and implementation of a voice system.
Thomas Gries, Chief Executive Officer for SAP Solutions at Koerber Supply Chain, emphasizes, “Many SAP consulting firms have extensive experience with core SAP solutions, especially with ERP (S/4 Hana or ERP/ECC). However, it is harder to find companies that specialize in implementing the SAP Supply Chain Logistics suite, and even more challenging to find supply chain experts who truly understand the underlying operational processes.”
While the global market for voice-directed warehouse systems is expected to grow steadily in the upcoming years, the challenges keep increasing. At the same time, supply chain professionals are learning to do more with less. They are learning how to automate picking, better utilize their labor pool and pack already crowded space to maximize square footage. Conquering complexities lies at the heart of the modern supply chain.