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Distribution Software - Speech Recognition
Speech recognition software has moved beyond the world of help desks and catalog call centers. It is rapidly infiltrating the world of warehouses and distribution centers where it is being used in slightly different, but very effective, ways.

For example, a warehouse pickers job is vastly simplified by voice and speech recognition technology. The picker wears a transmitter, typically a small belt-mounted unit, and a headset. It either contains information needed for picking the orders of the day or that information is transmitted from the companys warehouse management system in real-time. Either way, the system generates speech that tells the picker where to go and which aisle the materials are located on. The picker nagates to that spot, then reads the locations code into his/her microphone. The system immediately either confirms that the picker is in the right location or indicts that the location is the wrong one. If the location is correct, the picker is then directed to the specific merchandise that needs to be picked - another transaction that is either confirmed or denied by a code read from the item. Once that item is picked and confirmed, a new set of instructions begins.

Speech recognition is somewhat different, although very similar, to voice recognition, in software terms. Voice recognition technology is programmed to recognize a particular individuals voice, while speech recognition software only picks up on speech patterns and words, no matter who speaks them. It is speech recognition that is necessary in the warehouse, where headsets and computer units may be used by different individuals on different shifts.

This type of technology is especially valuable in a warehouse setting. It is easy to use and virtually eliminates errors. Warehouse work becomes much faster, because workers dont have to stop and refer to a paper list or even to a computer screen, both of which can slow down a workers movements.

It is only recently that speech recognition technology has become practical for use in a warehouse. There were some obstacles with it that had to be overcome before it could be extensively used in that setting. For example, the software had to be adjusted to recognize various languages and voice patterns including regional accents. It had to be able to filter background noise effectively since warehouses tend to be noisy places.

Since those obstacles have been overcome, speech technology has become the ideal system for warehouse environments. Pickers do not have to carry pick lists with them or return a fulfilled pick list at the end of the shift for the shipping department to put aside for batch data entry. Thus, several steps in the entire process are effectively removed altogether. Confirmation of the pickers tasks are electronically entered into the system for reconciliation with orders. Time is saved, productivity is increased, and errors are drastically reduced or eliminated altogether. The workers job is easier because the orders and instructions are all hands-free.

There is an additional benefit that companies have reported from the use of speech and voice technology in the warehouse workplace. Accident rates have dropped substantially when such systems are implemented. Workers are no longer walking around with their eyes on a computer screen or on a piece of paper. It seems pretty simple, but the results are commendable. In many cases, the warehouse accident rates have dropped from several a month to none at all.

Companies that only a short time ago could not use voice/speech technology in their operations are now finding that it is highly beneficial.

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