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Voice picking: the simple and affordable e-commerce solution

Insights in the industry of transport and logistic services by our experts.

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It is often difficult to predict the success of online campaigns on the likes of Facebook and Twitter or other forms of web advertising. As a result, companies involved in e-commerce are particularly susceptible to extreme highs and lows in order levels. This adds an extra-challenging dimension to their warehousing and distribution activities – especially when the goal is to offer next-day, Europe-wide delivery and an order cut-off times well into the evening hours. This extreme volatility in the supply chain is often quoted by retailers as the key bottleneck to further growing their e-commerce activities.

Despite being a mature and proven concept, so far, voice picking has been underutilized for e-commerce logistics models. Online retailers using voice picking laud its increased agility, and ability to deal with extreme peaks in activity while still achieving next-day delivery. The picking accuracy is also a key factor which companies find important. When moving from a paper-based system to voice picking, picking errors are usually reduced by between 80% and 90%. Our analysis suggests voice picking for e-commerce logistics also offers several advantages over scanner-based picking technologies.

Advantages of voice picking

  • Pickers have both hands free to work and are not distracted by paper sheets and/or scanner screens This not only reduces the risk of damaged goods and pick errors (an accuracy of >99,9% is usually achieved), but also allows for more efficient on-the-go customization, enabling you to add a personal touch to orders and thus helping you to stand out from your competitors. Returns can also be instantly repacked and put back into saleable stock.
  • It is typically up to 20% more efficient than scanner based picking for small order / single order line orders
  • Voice picking works very intuitive which results in a short learning time. This enables your Logistics Service Provider (LSP) to instantly ramp up or scale down to handle online campaigns while maintaining late cut-off time
  • The multi-lingual functionality enables spoken warehouse instructions to be issued in the picker’s native language, thus reducing errors and ensuring adherence to customer-specific requirements

Overview of a typical voice picking process

  • As soon as an order is placed via your website, it is immediately transmitted to your LSP
  • LSP creates batches, taking into account the agreed cut-off time (typically up to 10 p.m. for next-day, Europe-wide delivery)
  • Warehouse employee receives on-line instructions via voice terminal
  • Packing according to customer-specific instructions, via the voice protocol
  • Shipping details with tracking information are transmitted both to you and to the consumer (by e-mail) for access to web-based status updates

The efficiency benefits are tangible, as demonstrated by a recent customer case involving a manufacturer of high-end sunglasses and sports gear: an internet campaign with a forecast response of 4,000 orders per day actually generated close to 16,000 orders a day. Thanks to the use of voice picking, the LSP was easily able to upscale its operations instantly achieving activity levels of up to 2,000 pieces per hour.

Voice picking offers e-commerce companies more flexibility compared to traditional Radio Frequency scanning and significantly more agility than fully automated systems such as carousels or pick-to-light. It will provide you with the peace of mind that you can fulfil your next-day delivery promises, even in extremely busy periods.

Conclusion

Enabling you to better manage volatility in the supply chain, voice picking is highly worth considering when growing your ecommerce activities to the next level.

Cases

We will discuss 2 examples of sports and leisure goods brand owners and how Voice Picking helped them grow their e-Commerce activities.

Oakley

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California based Oakley manufactures sports performance equipment and lifestyle pieces including sunglasses, sports visors, ski/snowboard goggles, watches, apparel, backpacks, shoes and other accessories. From their European Sales and Marketing department in Zurich and the European Distribution Centre in the Netherlands they have experienced steady growth of their European business. Their growth strategy is focused to deliver maximal service to their customers and further positioning their products as premium and innovative. The last couple of years e-commerce has grown considerable for Oakley and the roll out of a new platform will contribute in the further growth of e-commerce. As a partner DSV participates in projects to optimize the logistic strategy. The introduction of Voice Picking is one of the successful projects that helps Oakley to efficiently cope with peaks in orders when for example an online campaign is successful. “The implementation of Voice Picking in our warehouse was a smooth transition from the usual scanner based picking” according to Harold Heutink, logistic manager of the Oakley European Distribution Center (EDC). Harold is responsible for all the logistics activities in Oakley’s EDC and the distribution of the products to Europe, Middle East and Africa. Besides the outbound distribution the EDC also manages all reverse logistics such as product returns and warranty for Europe.

Sole Technology

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Sole Technology is a leading manufacturer of authentic action sports footwear and apparel that is available in more than 70 countries and is one of the largest private action sports companies.

The company’s  brands include etnies, éS, Emerica, ThirtyTwo and Altamont. Sole Technology is the first and only footwear company founded and owned by a world champion skateboarder. The market in which Sole Technology is active is steadily shifting from mainly distributors to wholesale clients and consumers with a continuous flow of e-commerce orders. This has changed the distribution profile from large  pre-orders to smaller stock orders , which has led to more pressure on the supply chain and an increased need to deliver on time. DSV has provided Sole Technology with the means to supply their multiple target audiences throughout Europe from a single warehouse. Voice Picking helps Sole Technology to rapidly  increase and decrease inbound and outbound volumes related to  seasonal peaks. For instance when Sole Technology asked DSV for flexibility to deal with their Spring ’15  collection, DSV provided the means to process big volumes each day with the help of Voice Picking. “The continuous scalablity of the logistic solution that DSV provides is of great value for Sole Technology” according to Arnout van Jaarsveld, Operations Manager for Sole Technology in the Netherlands.

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