Common Warehouse Voice-Directed Technology Myths – Debunked

Jennifer Maloney
October 27, 2020

There are quite a few outdated concerns and myths surrounding voice directed picking automation, and we’re here to clear them up. 

The Numina Group has been implementing RDS™ Pick-by-Voice solutions since 2008 and since that time, the performance speed, efficiency and recognition rate for industrial voice engines has continuously improved. 

In fact, voice technology is now the fastest and easiest technology for both new and existing warehouse operators to use to perform order picking and other work tasks.  

Let’s put the misconceptions to rest and discover how voice can better direct workers in combination with material handling automation to improve efficiencies in warehouses, distribution centers, or manufacturing operations. 

“It won’t work because our employees have diverse accents, dialects, and English skills. The training is too time-consuming.”

Ensure the voice engine you’re considering is based on the latest speaker independent voice engine. If a voice solution requires voice training of employees, it’s an obsolete speaker dependent voice engine, and you should explore better options

Choosing an outdated voice solution is like driving a car without power steering or brakes!

A modern voice solution should require zero employee voice training even if workers have a dialect. This is the definition of Numina Group’s RDS Voice Suite, a paperless warehouse or manufacturing automation solution built on 20 years of natural-language voice engine technologies similar to Alexa or Siri.  

RDS Voice uses an advanced, speaker-independent voice engine and a library of over 5,000 available words to perform real-time recognition of the operator specific word. 

The voice technology works like a finite state machine that prompts the operator to perform a work task, such as “go to a product storage location” and “pick 2” and then listens to the employees response for the  specific acknowledgement word “2 OK”. 

Using advanced digital recognition algorithms makes the recognition extremely high, well beyond 99.9%, and minimizes the need to repeat phrases and the risk of voice fatigue and errors that can occur due to repeats.

Additionally, we equip the operators with the latest generation hands-free back of hand or ring-mounted barcode scanner. RDS Voice uses barcode scan validation to replace a large percentage of the voice responses to increase speed and accuracy, ensuring that it is simple to use, requires zero voice training, and only a handful of voice commands to master.

Adding a barcode scanner increases voice picking accuracy from 97% to 99.9%.

The ROI gained by using the latest generation voice technology, like RDS Voice, starts immediately. 

Our customers have reduced training time for new and seasonal workers to 20 minutes or less, and they’re  productive on “Day 1.” 


In fact, voice-directed technology is rated the #1 picking productivity technology with a 20% or more gain over a mobile wearable computer and barcode scanner with increases in accuracy of 99.9%, a .3% increase.

Training time and costs are minimized, and worker accuracy increases to 99.9%, eliminating the cost of shipping errors and improving customer service. Furthermore, the RDS Labor Management Module bundled with the voice picking suite records and tracks operator work productivity matched to settable tasks and warehouse zone standards using the RDS™ labor management module.

“Our warehouse is very noisy – so voice technology will be hard to hear.”

Don’t believe this voice picking myth. This is a non-issue, thanks to advancements in noise cancelling in Zebra’s latest wearable computers. For example, Zebra’s latest Android mobile wearable computers, matched with the latest blue tooth noise cancelling headsets, virtually eliminates background noise, even in high noise operations.

Due to the effectiveness of noise-cancelling headsets, workers can clearly hear and follow voice-directed work instructions while working alone or side by side with two or more workers and always experience real-time voice commands and responses for picking and other warehouse automation tasks. The latest voice technology operates with no delays or interruptions due to background noise from a fork truck, compressor or loud machinery. 

As an added benefit, the headsets are lightweight and designed for extended wear with 12-hour continuous use battery life while executing multiple warehouse tasks. These features can  decrease employee fatigue, improve their ability to concentrate, and enhance productivity and job satisfaction.

“Isn’t voice-directed technology primarily used for picking? Can it be used throughout our operation?”

Beyond picking, voice-directed technology delivers cost-savings and productivity benefits throughout many areas of the warehouse.

Numina’s RDS Voice solution provides automation in a wide range of warehouse tasks, including: 

  • Receiving and intelligent directed product put-away to storage locations

  • Continuous or batch wave order release  management

  • Cartonization based on SKU dimensions and weight to pick, pack, and verify directly to the shipping carton

  • Managing simultaneous and parallel discrete cart picking and pick to conveyor batch picking of 15-20 or more orders in an optimized travel patch

  • Voice + hands-free 2D barcode scanning for SKU, serial, and lot code capture

  • Interleaving replenishment, cycle counting and inspection tasks

  • Kitting for assembly and manufacturing

  • Directing order consolidation, pallet building and trailer loading applications

  • Pack area automation with automated in-line carton pack-sheet print, insert, void, and seal

  • Workforce productivity tracking by task and work zones with order progress, labor to order tracking, and productivity reporting

Before launching any warehouse automation initiative, we first collaborate with our customers to explore the benefits of RDS Voice and identify opportunities to improve productivity and accuracy across the entire warehouse order fulfillment operation.

During this process, our engineers work with you to define the project, performance metrics goals and develop a roadmap that defines how voice or any of our family of warehouse automation technologies can be used to streamline current operations.

Learn More About Numina’s Warehouse Design Services

Will voice-directed technology impact network performance?

The short answer is No. The voice application can reside on any number of computer platforms from a dedicated to a virtual server. 

The messages between the voice application server are transmitted over the DC’s network are small byte-size messages that are essentially the same size as a barcode scan message. 

Data exchange between the Zebra wearable computer and the voice application causes minimal load on the wireless network.

RDS Voice Technology message size and response occurs in real-time, typically in under 50 milliseconds. The voice application is highly flexible and can reside on a dedicated server, a virtual server, or a cloud based server. 

The mobile wrist computer is very high performance, similar to a PC from a few years ago, operating with quad core CPUs, and running a “thin client” voice engine as a bi-directional messaging software stack, receiving alpha-numeric messages and converting them to warehouse or manufacturing work instructions and acknowledgement messages to enable operators to work in a paperless, hands free and eyes focused manner, without having to stop and read the application instructions or key-in responses.

"It’s hard to measure the return on investment (ROI) with voice-technology."

As with any technology, the key to success lies in developing a well-defined plan with measurable performance goals. The Numina Group has deployed this methodology with many companies to achieve measurable productivity and savings gains typically seeing a range of 30% to 50% gain in operator performance after implementing our voice technology.

Before launching any project, we collaborate with the customer to explore the benefits of RDS™ Voice across the entire order fulfillment operation. Our engineers work closely with our customers to define the project and performance metrics goals that can be enhanced with voice technology. These are written into the project plan, including the system acceptance test plan to measure and verify success.

Based on this methodology, we’ve established a track record of a proven ROI for every project. In our experience, for example, a typical voice-directed picking process can provide a 35 to 50% boost in productivity derived from:

  • Increased pick volume per worker

  • Overall increased efficiency in pick and put processes

  • Increased accuracy in picking, with a reduction in repeat work

  • Safety improvements with greater automation in areas like barcode scanning, reducing repetitive motions

  • Integration of picking and fulfillment processes, yielding greater efficiency from pick to shipment 

Our customers typically see a 15 to 24-month return on investment. 

The Numina Group partners with clients to define, design, and implement automation in warehouse management, beginning with an in-depth lean analysis. Our consultative design approach sets us apart from traditional warehouse automation firms. We know how to roll up our sleeves, analyze data, recognize your biggest challenges, and streamline your process to gain higher profitability.

Don’t believe the voice picking myths. To learn more about the benefits of our RDS™ Voice Picking Suite, download our whitepaper, Turn Your DC into a Profit Machine today.

Contact us for a complimentary consultation with a warehouse automation specialist.

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