Voice Technology is speaking loud and clear

Voice technology continues to expand in the DC. When it comes to voice, tomorrow has arrived.

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I had a chat today with John Schreifer, a marketing executive with Lucas Systems, that was a reminder of just how far the voice technology industry has come in the last few years.

Going back about ten years ago, I used to hear a constant refrain: This is the year that voice is really going to take off. Except that it never did. It was like that sign in the bar window that reads “Free beer tomorrow.” Ask the bartender when you can get your free beer, and the answer is always tomorrow and tomorrow never came.

When it comes to voice, tomorrow has arrived. Not that long ago, it was the rare DC that had voice-directed picking when we put together our monthly cover stories.

Now, it seems as if a majority of the facilities are using voice to direct at least some portion of their picking.

What prompted my dialogue with Schreifer, one that I intend to continue down the road, was a story by Maida Napolitano, my colleague at our sister publication Logistics Management. 

Maida highlighted how three companies - Coca-Cola, Christian-publisher Zondervan and Pierre’s Ice Cream – are using voice in ways that vary from the norm to solve their distribution challenges.

As Schreifer and I talked about the story and some of the developments that Lucas is working on, I realized how mainstream voice has become over the past ten years, and how many different options and providers there are in the marketplace today.

Just a few weeks ago, I spoke to someone from Intelligrated about their voice offering, and Dematic recently announced a picking solution that combines voice technology and robotics. Getting voice from your automated materials handling systems provider is different. And, as Schreifer pointed out, Lucas is increasingly combining voice with other modes of data collection, such as the voice and barcode scanning solution I wrote about at Longo’s, a Canadian grocer and Lucas customer, in July of 2009.

Voice really is beginning to speak loud and clear in the warehouse.


About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Bob Trebilcock, editorial director, has covered materials handling, technology, logistics and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. In addition to Supply Chain Management Review, he is also Executive Editor of Modern Materials Handling. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

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