Supply Chain Canada: Show and tell

by Array

MISSISSAUGA, Ontario: By providing workers with a combination of more intuitive, easy-to-use voice and visual technologies, distribution centre and warehouse managers can make it easier for their employees to be more accurate and efficient.

Presenting a session called “Discover the Frontier of Visual Voice in Supply Chain”, John Reichert, product marketing manager at TECSYS Inc, explained that as the workforce changes, implementing new blended technologies will be even more important.

He cited a study that concluded by the time a young man reaches the age of 20, he will have, on average, spent 20,000 hours playing video games.

“The reason that’s significant is if you give that operator an application that looks like a video game, he can use it right away. If you give him something that looks like an old-fashioned newspaper, he doesn’t know what to do with it, he doesn’t like it, and he doesn’t like his job. So the age of using this technology is really upon us.”

Blended voice and video technologies create a more familiar environment for these younger workers.

“This bridges the gap between generations, it gives the sense of discipline the older generations are used to using, and it also gives younger workers that YouTube generation vibe they are used to seeing.”

Additionally, Reichert said systems with visual components helps businesses that employ a multi-national workforce since they reduce some of the literacy and language issues because pictures are universal.

“If you look on the Internet for ‘baby using iPhone’ or ‘baby using iPad’, you’ll see see a one-year-old running an application they can’t read, they haven’t been trained to use. They just pick the device up and they use it. The reason is it’s instinctive to drive these things with pictures and images.”

While visual may seem like a total solution, Reichert reminded attendees that it’s not suitable for all situations.

“There are still problems voice overcomes that visual doesn’t. I still have limits on being hands free. I still have to have the device—touch it, grab it, and manipulate it—in order to get all the instructions. That takes your eyes away from your task at hand. The way to get that down is to put those things together. Visual voice lets you combine the benefits of voice and the benefits of visual together in the same application.”

When creating (or buying) a visual voice solution, he said there are three basic configurations:

1. Visual instructions to the operator with voice feedback.

2. Voice commands with visual context for help.

3. A blended system where instructions are sometimes delivered by voice and sometimes delivered by visual cue.

With some systems, he said the operator has the choice of changing the way the instructions are delivered. So if the operator gets tired of listening to instructions all day, he or she can switch to text.

Reichert added that if a company gets employees involved in the planning, purchasing and implementing process that goes with getting a new picking system, the results will be better.

“If the employees buy into the decision making process, they’ll own it.”