Retif Improves Order Delivery Times and Accuracy with Upgraded Multi-Modal Picking Technology

Posted May 20, 2015

Motorola WT41N0 Handheld Computers

The Challenge

Industry leader RETIF already knew the value of utilizing voice in its picking application — the wearable voice-picking solution that had been in place since 2006 had provided a 10 percent increase in the productivity of the warehouse picking workforce as well as a significant reduction in errors. The original solution had already been replaced in 2010. In 2014, the devices were ready for replacement again. As RETIF began the process of selecting a new device, several issues led to the identification of new device criteria. The TekSpeech Pro multi-modal picking solution and the WT41N0 wearable mobile computers from Zebra Technologies were chosen as the next generation solution, since VoCollect could not satisfy the new criteria.

Training

The current speaker-dependent hardware required every user to spend a minimum of 30 minutes training the device to recognize his or her voice. In order to accommodate accents, voice speed and more, users needed to repeat a list of 50+ words multiple times. The company wanted to switch to a speaker-independent solution that would eliminate the need for users to train the software for their specific voice — but Vocollect did not offer a speaker-independent option.

Lack of multi-modal input

While pure voice input had served the company well, RETIF realized that adding a display would help further streamline the picking process for a multitude of reasons.

  • Some users weren’t comfortable with voice only. The ability to read the information on screen would not only provide the versatility to meet the needs and preferences of the entire picking workforce, it would also help users become more comfortable with voice commands more quickly, reducing errors as well as the learning curve.
  • Exception processing procedures were challenging. Users were forced to remember which sequence of words were required to delete or change an item. A touchscreen would give users the flexibility to complete exceptions with a few taps on the screen or the press of a few keys on the soft keyboard.

In addition, while the existing voice-only devices did a great job, they could only be utilized for one thing — voice picking. The company was interested in a multi-function device that could improve other warehouse processes. For example, bar code scanning would allow users to process incoming and outgoing shipments faster and more accurately. In addition, additional functionality would improve device utilization — and provide a faster return on investment. But the mobile devices available from the current provider didn’t offer this flexibility.

The Solution

While the Vocollect voice-picking solution had met RETIF’s needs for the past eight years, their solutions were unable to meet the updated criteria — they needed more flexibility. And they found it in TekSpeech Pro from Zebra Technologies. The TekSpeech Pro platform offered the simplicity of a single platform, a single solution from one vendor — but one that provided all the options and flexibility RETIF was seeking.

With TekSpeech Pro, RETIF met every one of its newly identified requirements for voice picking:

  • Best-in-class flexible speaker independent voice recognition. TekSpeech Pro offered Retif users true speaker independence, eliminating the need for training. In addition, users are able to speak naturally, and regardless of accent or speed of speech, TekSpeech Pro can recognize and process every word. In addition, in the event that an application down the road required specific words better suited to speakerdependent-style training, Advanced Adaptation gives users the flexibility to teach the system those words or phrases in a fraction of the time that competitive systems require. The result is the best of both worlds — world-class speaker independence without sacrificing the flexibility of a speaker-dependence option.
  • Real freedom of device choice. Making the switch to Zebra Technologies TekSpeech Pro allowed RETIF to choose from a large portfolio of multi-function devices. The Zebra WT41N0 was the perfect fit for RETIF. This true multi-functional device supported voice-picking, yet offered a display and a keyboard, plus the ability to add features, such as a small ring-style scanner for bar code capture. The result? The WT41N0 could be easily utilized in other areas of the business — such as receiving, where a scan of bar codes on the shipments could allow inventory to move from dock-to-stock in record time. And with a wide array of form factors, such as vehicle mount devices for warehouse vehicles and handheld gun style mobile computers for easy inventory takes, partnering with Zebra provided RETIF with the freedom to choose the best device for the jobs of the future.
  • Fast and easy deployment. Actual deployment of the new TekSpeech Pro solution took less than a day. First, RETIF put the Motorola WT41N0 to the test in a pilot run. With the current Talkman solution still in place, select workers were chosen to utilize the WT41N0. The pilot was such a huge success that RETIF made the decision to replace their aging Talkman devices with the WT41N0 wearable mobile computer. In just half of a day, all Talkman devices were upgraded to the next generation WT41N0 and back up and running on the Reflex Warehouse Management System (WMS) from Hardis, with virtually no downtime for warehouse pickers.

Laurent Rouly, logistics director at RETIF, commented on the success of the new solution: “The real driver behind our business is technology, and we have relied on our voice system for production and order preparation operations since 2006. Hardis and Zebra (Motorola Solutions) were able to rapidly deploy and implement the TekSpeech Pro solution during our pilot and the speech recognition system exceeded performance expectations.”

The Benefits

The new solution is delivering incremental productivity gains as well as new benefits:

Increased employee productivity and throughput in the warehouse. The display has helped workers increase productivity and simplify on-the-job processes, contributing to increased on-the-job satisfaction and fewer errors. Workers no longer need to remember long sequences of words to process exceptions, nor do they need to remember or repeat the spoken information. Now, workers can look at a pick list on the display and simply select a line item to receive verbal picking instructions.

Increased return on investment (ROI). Since the functionality of the WT41N0 wearable computer can be easily expanded through its family of accessories, the device can easily support other applications in the RETIF warehouse. The result? RETIF can put the WT41N0 to work every minute of every shift, helping the company gain efficiencies in additional warehouse functions, improving the value, utilization and return on investment of the device.

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