Although it’s easy to see the advantages of making the switch away from paper-based picking systems that have been the de facto warehouse management solution for decades, several myths regarding the transition to voice still persist. Many companies falsely believe that the change will be fraught with tedious challenges when, in reality, the transition is usually painless. Here we debunk 3 myths surrounding the application of voice software in the warehouse and look at the 2 must-haves for any successful voice deployment.
Myth 1: “With a paper system, I always have a paper trail. I’ll lose that with voice.”
Reality: It’s certainly true that warehouses that rely on paper-based picking systems generate, quite literally, a “paper trail” of their activities. However, when companies need to go back through this paper trail, it can actually be a nightmare to sort through piles of paper to find the useful information. On the other hand, voice technology actually makes it easier for companies to track everything from picks to equipment checks, and many companies who deploy voice report being able to trace accidents more effectively.
Companies should look for voice solutions that have tracking and analytics available, as this can help them with change management. A recent Supply Chain Digest report found that the average productivity gain for companies that deploy voice is 26% and a Gartner report found that most companies see a 30% increase in productivity when they switch from paper to voice. It’s one thing to cite these reasons before the switch—it’s even more powerful to point to the real-time data demonstrating increased productivity. Data lets order selectors clearly see the impact of voice on their own productivity.
Myth 2: “Paper is cheap. Technology is expensive. Making the switch will cost me.”
Reality: This myth couldn’t be further from the truth. Though each individual label or checklist a company prints out may be cheap, the cumulative effect of purchasing and printing that paper is not. One company that switched to voice reported an annual savings of over $130,000 on paper alone. Even more significant than the cost and savings is the return on investment that many companies realize from making the switch as a result of huge productivity and accuracy gains.
Myth 3: “My staff knows the paper system. If I switch to voice, I’ll have to undergo a costly and lengthy training process.”
Reality: With voice, training new hires is fast and easy. Voice technology is easy to learn and most new and temporary hires can start picking within the first hour of the first day, even if their primary language isn’t English. High-end voice providers will also leverage a “train the trainers” approach that cultivates an army of super-users who can go on to train other pickers throughout the facility. Also, companies can leverage the business analytics provided by voice solutions to incentivize order selectors and further drive adoption. For example, some companies have installed large monitors to display real-time productivity data in common areas, which helps foster a fun, competitive environment for order selectors.
Ensuring Staff Buy-In: 2 Must-Haves
The benefits of voice are extraordinary for both senior management and warehouse picker. Leadership can glean new insights into warehouse operations from voice analytics that can help further drive accuracy and efficiency improvements. Floor staff can now move about the warehouse more safely with both of their hands free while also decreasing the cognitive load required to check and double check paper checklists. Even so, the one area where voice deployments are likely to hit a few roadblocks is in the area of user adoption. Mixed reactions among end users are inevitable. Human nature dictates that some individuals will always be uncomfortable with change, no matter what. In order to minimize the impact of change-weary users on the rest of the staff, companies will want to take steps to set the whole operation up for success. Here’s how to do it:
Commit to Accountability: It’s one thing to send a memo and hold a few meetings about a new solution. It’s entirely different to take the time to educate end users about the reasons for making the switch to voice, the benefits that it will bring to employees and the company overall, and how everyone will be held accountable. When pickers understand that the decision to implement voice is well founded and that everyone will be held accountable for the new solution, they are more likely to take it seriously and embrace it.
Create a Positive Atmosphere: Even more significant than committing to hold staff accountable is the way companies can choose to hold users accountable. It’s important to foster a positive atmosphere and environment where leadership doesn’t simply say, “We’re going to use these tools to evaluate you,” and instead asks, “How do you like the technology?” Taking time to include users in the decision and deployment process and imbuing a positive attitude throughout the training period can go a long way to improving adoption. In fact, when all of these steps are taken, companies can create an environment where pickers are eager to track their productivity and improve their pick rates.