Voice technology accelerates logistics firm’s productivity goals

22 Oct 2008

A global logistics company has scored a 15pc increase in productivity and a 300pc increase in stock accuracy since deploying a voice-enabled warehouse technology.

Global transport and logistics company, DSV, has implemented a voice-enabled warehouse management solution, VocalPoint, from Dublin based IT company, Heavey RF, for its Irish division.

The new system has increased productivity by 15pc, while bringing accuracy up by over 300pc. The deal worth six figures was completed in July 2008.

“The VocalPoint system helps DSV’s warehouse staff speed up the process and accuracy of stock picking,” said Ciaran Lavelle, sales manager, Heavey RF. “The system sets the pace at which the work is carried out, rather than the operative setting the pace, which ultimately means faster order completion and delivery.

“Full, up-to-the-second information allows the business to make critically accurate decisions as and when required.”

Heavey RF replaced DSV’s manual system with advanced voice-picking technology and wireless handheld computers. The system, VocalPoint, opens a two-way dialogue between DSV’s Warehouse Management System (WMS) and the warehouse teams. Instead of relying on paper lists, the DSV team use speech as they perform their daily assignments.

Electronic orders are automatically converted to speech, which are directed to the warehouse staff using wireless technology provided by Heavey RF. Heavey RF, which is a direct partner of voice-directed work company, Vocollect, develops the software applications locally in Ireland. The capability has made the DSV operation more accurate, more productive and safer as its operators move from task to task.

“The most important thing for any successful warehouse is accuracy,” said Nigel Devenish, commercial director, DSV Ireland. “You have to get the right items to the right customer at the right time.”

DSV looked at a number of Irish and UK providers when it decided to overhaul its system.

“We decided on Heavey RF because it had the know-how and also an impressive track record with similar solutions with some of the leading retailers and wholesalers in the country. It delivered a solution that met all our requirements, on time and on budget,” added Devenish. 

Heavey RF developed all the software around the various warehouse applications employed by DSV, including order picking, order checking, dispatch, inbound/outbound vehicle management and stock-taking.

Over 72 Vocollect Talkman T5 voice terminals and 20 wireless handheld computers have been deployed at two DSV warehouse sites in Dublin and Naas. Voice is used for picking and loading, while handheld computers are used for goods-in, put-away, stock taking and inbound/outbound vehicle tracking.

“The adoption of the technology by the staff was very quick. Training time was reduced as floor staff did not need to learn about all the products as before. The voice directs and tells the worker what to do. After just 30 minutes training, we can have a new employee out on the floor working efficiently,” said Devenish.

DSV has a multicultural workforce with a total of eight languages spoken. “When we had the manual system, problems arose due to information being misunderstood in translation. This had a huge impact on mis-picks. But with the new system, this has been eliminated.

“All employees, even those who aren’t fluent in English, have had no problem understanding the system and working with it.”

There has been no localisation of the system, and all voice commands are in English. Determining different accents is not a problem for the voice-recognition technology installed.

An unforeseen benefit of the technology is the upskilling of what is usually seen as a very manual job.

According to Devenish, staff enjoy using the new technology and feel they have gained a very useful, transferable skill.

By John Kennedy

Pictured: Ciaran Lavelle, sales manager, Heavey RF, and Ronan Clinton, managing director, Heavey RF

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years