Voice technology "helps run businesses better," says Armant, by increasing facility throughput and productivity. And while voice is hardly a new tool for distributors, it has recently experienced a surge in popularity, as businesses move in the direction of more automated environments. "We're starting to see another upswing in demand," he says.
Historically, voice has found its greatest acceptance within the walls of the distribution center. Now it's beginning to migrate into other areas, such as field service and inspections. Voice is applicable to any situation where "hands-free, eyes-free" operation is vital, says Armant.
In addition, voice can go beyond execution-type activities to aid in decision-making. It breaks down the steps that make up a distribution operation, and provides management with a strategic perspective of productivity levels.
Recently, voice has been deployed to help companies manage "big data." The information collected by voice systems can provide top executives with visibility across multiple DCs. It can even be a valuable contributor to the new trend of "gamification," a concept whereby companies apply game theory to the work environment in order to incentivize workers. They create leader boards and reward their most productive employees with money or prizes. Voice is especially adaptable to the younger generation of workers, who are accustomed to playing video games, Armant says.
The new popularity of voice doesn't mean that companies are willing to spend heavily on new technology. Their biggest concern, says Armant, " is how to leverage their existing investment." At the same time, they're determined to keep pace with advances in distribution technology.
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Keywords: supply chain, supply chain management, inventory management, inventory control, logistics management, warehouse management, warehouse management systems, WMS, voice technology, supply chain systems
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