Co-operative approach to voice

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The East of England Co-Operative Society which has created one of the UK’s most advanced voice-driven warehouse environments at its 140,000 square foot depot in Ipswich. It is not only one of the first UK distribution operations to use voice technology to co-ordinate fork lift truck activity with voice picking operations; it is also virtually paper-free, with all processes driven by voice. Goods are tracked electronically through the wireless warehouse infrastructure from the moment goods arrive, until they leave the warehouse. This has allowed the co-op to replace batch processing with automatic data capture and updating of the WMS, to create a real-time warehouse environment.

The introduction of voice technology was part of a larger system upgrade to the latest version of AquiTec’s SCM/400 warehouse management system. The system uses Vocollect’s voice recognition technology and Talkman T5 speech portable terminals. Picking instructions are received directly from the WMS via a two-way headset. Psion Teklogix Workabout Pros are used to check-in and scan received goods, check and scan out completed assignments as well as scanning for other in-operation activities such as perpetual inventory management. Cisco wireless access points located around the warehouse transmit all wireless data from the Workabout Pros and Talkman T5s back to AquiTec’s SCM/400.

The move to automatic data capture and voice technology has allowed the warehouse to replace lengthy manual and paper-based processes and create a streamlined, virtually paper-free operation. The co-op expects to achieve a productivity gain of at least 20 per cent and the system is expected to produce a full return on the investment within 18 months.

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