Voice Technology: Getting a read on accurate picking

UK publisher uses voice technology to increase productivity and achieve a nearly perfect pick accuracy rate of 99.98%.
By Lorie King Rogers, Associate Editor
September 01, 2011 - MMH Editorial

Pick up a book in the United Kingdom and there’s a good chance it came from the shelves of HarperCollins. HarperCollins’ UK supply chain strategy is not only leading edge, but also a source of additional business income. HarperCollins operates a 750,000-square-foot facility near Glasgow, Scotland. From there, the company distributes its own titles to hundreds of outlets in the UK and worldwide and also acts as a distributor for 14 other publishing houses.

Although already very productive, HarperCollins’ supply chain director Mike Levaggi and his team wanted to take service levels even higher.

  “We can ship as many as three million books in a single week,” says Levaggi. “A major part of our work involves batch picking thousands of books, which are then introduced into a sortation system. We used to rely on paper pick sheets, and although our output standards were high, we spent too much time resolving batch picking errors before we could be confident that we had assembled the correct titles.”

So, the team at HarperCollins went paperless and introduced a new voice picking software solution, (Voxware) to the operation. Workers interact with the system through hands-free devices, which are voice-enabled and can achieve nearly flawless speech recognition. Order picking instructions and confirmation messages are transmitted through the hands-free devices, eliminating the paper lists and adding to operator efficiency and accuracy. The packaged software solution, which is adaptable, portable and scalable, allows for a high level of flexibility and control.

With the new voice solution, HarperCollins was able to increase productivity by 8% and achieve a pick accuracy rate of 99.98%. The company also realized benefits in employee training by reducing the training time to standard proficiency by 60%. Additionally, Levaggi and his team were able to extend the use of voice to support replenishment and bulk moving operations.

“We saw an opportunity to extend voice into other areas, and thereby achieve a greater benefit,” adds Anne Steel, HarperCollins’ supply chain development manager. “We are very pleased with the adaptability of the solution and the flexibility it gives us in tailoring the voice technology to our operation. We were able to make adjustments quickly and with little disruption.” 

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About the Author

Lorie King Rogers
Associate Editor

Lorie King Rogers, associate editor, joined Modern in 2009 after working as a freelance writer for the Casebook issue and show daily at tradeshows. A graduate of Emerson College, she has also worked as an editor on Stock Car Racing Magazine.

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