Voice recognition: Enabling diversity in the warehouse

Warehouses and DCs are becoming more diverse. Here are three ways voice adapts to a changing landscape.
By Bob Trebilcock, Executive Editor
September 23, 2011 - MMH Editorial

For five years, I wrote about issues related to diversity for DiversityInc magazine. I had the opportunity to speak to senior level executives at some of the country’s largest corporations – companies as Comcast, Coca-Cola, Raytheon and Walmart – about their efforts to tap customers and talent in under-served communities.

Anyone who has walked through a warehouse or DC in recent years knows that diversity is an opportunity and a challenge for warehouse managers trying to maintain a stable workforce in their facilities. So I was intrigued when Steve Gerrard, vice president of marketing for Voxware, proposed a conversation about voice recognition technology as an enabler of diversity. 

Just as a publication like DiversityInc defines diversity in terms that go beyond race, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation, so did Gerrard – which shows he’s keeping up on the issues. So, how does voice enable diversity?

“For starts, there’s the classic American immigration story,” Gerrard said, pointing out that many warehouses today employ associates from around the globe. “You end up with an ordinate share of transient labor or immigrant labor who are non-native English speaking: they may speak English at work, but they speak Spanish or Vietnamese or another language at home.”

Voice, especially speaker dependent systems that are trained by phrases spoken by a specific individual, helps assimilate the work force into the work flow. “If you speak broken English, the system can still understand you and you can work productively, regardless of your native language,” Gerrard said.

A second way to think of voice is to think of the human adoption cycle. “As I use a piece of technology, I use it slowly at first and then more quickly over time,” Gerrard said. “Instead of moving through each step of a transaction, voice allows the experienced worker to string multiple transactions together to speed things along.”

The third theme was job diversity. With voice, a worker can do picking in the morning and replenishment in the afternoon. “It gives you a lot more flexibility with the functional activity of your workers,” Gerrard said.

 



About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Executive Editor

Bob Trebilcock, executive editor, has covered materials handling, technology and supply chain topics for Modern Materials Handling since 1984. More recently, Trebilcock became editorial director of Supply Chain Management Review. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.


Subscribe to Logistics Management magazine

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Get timely insider information that you can use to better manage your
entire logistics operation.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Recent Entries

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced August 2014 data for global air freight markets showing continued “robust”growth in air cargo volumes.

Even though some of its key metrics dropped sequentially from August to September, the outlook for manufacturing over all remains strong, according to the most recent edition of the Manufacturing Report on Business issued today by the Institute for Supply Management (ISM).

Company officials said that these planned changes, which will take effect on January 4, 2015, will provide for increases in current pay rates and reduce the time it takes for its nearly 15,000 drivers to reach top pay scale.

While the economy has seen more than its fair share of ups and downs in recent years, 2014 is different in that it could be the best year from an economic output perspective in the last several years. That outlook was offered up by Rosalyn Wilson, senior business analyst at Parsons, and author of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) Annual State of Logistics Report at last week’s CSCMP Annual Conference in San Antonio.

Matching last week, the average price per gallon of diesel gasoline dropped 2.3 cents, bringing the average price per gallon to $3.755 per gallon, according to the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Article Topics

Blogs · Voice · Automated Data Capture · Voxware · All topics

About the Author

Bob Trebilcock, executive editor, has covered materials handling, technology and supply chain topics for Modern Materials Handling since 1984. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. Contact Bob Trebilcock.

Comments

Post a comment
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.