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Using Voice Technology to Improve Food & Beverage Supply Chain Ops

Voice activation is the latest craze in customer purchasing behaviors but have you thought about what it can do to your supply chain operations? Forward-thinking food and beverage companies can leverage voice intelligence in their supply chain operations to make the supply chain more agile.

Consumer Voice Technology Trends

The use of voice technology has been on the rise. Purchases made through voice activation devices, such as Google Home and Amazon Echo, are projected to increase from $2 billion in 2018 to $40 billion in 2022, with grocery accounting for the largest portion. Not surprisingly, voice activation is impacting supply chain logistics and the way warehouses operate. The food and beverage industry has razor-thin margins, and using voice activation technology can reduce costs and increase productivity for food and beverage companies.

The Business Voice Technology Opportunity for Supply Chain Operations

For supply chain, voice technology has been used extensively for voice picking. By using voice picking, warehouse operators can work hands and eyes free because the operator is receiving voice commands from a warehouse management system (WMS). Studies have shown voice technology can produce a 35 percent increase in productivity and 85 percent increase in accuracy, while decreasing training time by 67 percent and decreasing employee turnover by 50 percent. In voice picking, the warehouse operator is directed to a specific location.

After picking the item, the warehouse operator reads the last two or three digits of the item, and the WMS confirms if the correct item was picked. The WMS tells the warehouse operator the desired quantity, and then proceeds to instruct the operators about the next item to be picked and the shortest path to its location. This process is much more efficient compared to the traditional paper-picking system, where people manually use pen and paper to keep track of orders and inventory. Even compared to other modern solutions, such as radio frequency identification (RFID), the hands-free nature of voice activation can increase throughput by 50%. Considering that order picking accounts for 40 to 60 percent of labor hours in food or beverage warehouses, implementing voice picking can tremendously benefit operational efficiency in food and beverage companies.

Business Voice Technology Landscape

Android has been the most popular operating system for warehouse software systems, including Lucas Systems and Honeywell Safety & Productivity Solutions. Warehouses are using rugged Android devices because they work well with Bluetooth headsets and wearable ring scanners but technological advances continue to improve the performance and use of voice technology. This year, Ehrardt + Partner Solutions released the Lydia Voice 8, the first voice recognition solution for the supply chain market to use deep neural technology designed for the noisy industrial environment. New voice picking technologies also allow instructions to be given and received in multiple languages, making it easier for companies to scale internationally.

Voice Technology Paired with Augmented Reality

Augmented reality (AR) has been one of the recent voice technological advances that will greatly benefit food and beverage companies, specifically for their supply chain management. This April, Voxware announced an AR solution that combines voice and scanning with vision and image/video capture. AR users will wear smart glasses that provide information to their field of vision, and the users simply give a voice command to scan bar code or capture an image they are seeing. This process increases productivity and raises accuracy to above 99.9 percent. AR also offers real-time object recognition, indoor navigation, and information with the WMS

As margin pressures continue to mount in the food and beverage industry, innovations in technology provide opportunities to alleviate burdensome costs and inefficiencies. The food and beverage industry is already leveraging artificial intelligence, machine learning, and advanced analytics externally in sales and marketing efforts. Utilizing those same competencies, companies can focus internally to improve supply chain operations, costs, and efficiencies.

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Coauthor and contribution: Thomas Wang

Tags: Logistics Consulting, Supply Chain Planning & Execution, Supply Chain Technology