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.
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.