Can You Hear Me Now?
Bromont Distribution Center Uses Voice Recognition Technology to Help Workers Do Their Jobs Faster and Better
The future is now at T&B's Bromont, Quebec, distribution center where associates now use state-of-the-art, hands-free voice recognition personal digital assistants (PDAs) to "pick" customer orders from the thousands of products stocked in the 250,000 square-foot facility.
Murielle Descoteaux, T&B collaborator in shipping and receiving in the Bromont facility, is wearing her PDA while picking orders.
"Voice recognition systems have come a long way in the past few years," said Pierre David, director of the Bromont distribution center. "Before, we were hesitant to make the switch to what we considered a 'bleeding edge' technology with lots on unknown variables. What we discovered is that voice-directed technology is less costly, easier and safer to use and is, in fact, more reliable than the older radiofrequency technology.
David said the biggest challenge was proving that the voice recognition technology could work effectively within a bilingual warehouse environment.
MarieJosée Leblanc Côté, T&B shipper/receiver, says the new system simplifies the picking process and streamlines physical movements by eliminating the necessity of picking up or putting down the heavy handheld radio
The new PDAs are worn by associates around the belt, eliminating the need for them to stop and focus on paper logs or the often tiny characters on a radio frequency (RF) screen. The 'hands and eyes free' methodology results in a much more focused operator, improving accuracy and productivity as well as reducing the incidence of wrist and shoulder pain from carrying and constantly picking up and putting down a heavy hand-held radio-frequency (RF) gun.
Low cost and ease of replacement are just several advantages to the new system. The PDAs cost about $400 apiece in comparison to upwards of $1,000 for repairing an individual RF device. The new system has proven so cost effective that Bromont achieved the expected return on the investment in just over six months, well before originally anticipated.