Inventory Management, Logistics, Supply Chain Management
Barcodes and their associated scanning guns have been a staple in inventory management. Whether implemented in a library for signing books in and out, or within a large-scale online retailer’s distribution centre (DC), the use of both wired and wireless barcode systems is widespread throughout the supply chain. Tech companies including the Vitech Business Group are currently shaking up the inventory management industry through their integration of voice-directed order picking. Their product allows for order pickers to receive picking lists audibly, then confirm the pick by reading the product name or code out loud , rather than scan it with a traditional barcode scanning gun. The technology, originally developed by Honeywell as Vocollect Voice Total Solutions, has been around for quite some time. Vitech has integrated it into the SAP Extended Warehouse Management (SAP EWM), a component of the SAP’s supply chain management suite of solutions. The recent adoption of Vocollect Voice Total Solutions by Patterson Companies Inc.: a distributer of dental and animal health technology, products and equipment, will be used to demonstrate the effects of voice-directed order picking on the supply chain. This article will provide the reader with an understanding of the subsequent advantages in addition to some risks that may arise in inventory management.




Benefits


Increased picking speed and efficiency

With voice-directed order selection at Patterson, order fillers operate 25% faster than with the traditional barcode scanning system. In fact, pickers were even faster on their initial attempts with the new system than they were on the legacy barcode system to which they were accustomed.

Paperless


Vocollect displays the pick list audibly at the push of a button, with the ability to repeat the audiable list. This alleviates the need for printed picking lists. A reduction of paperwork generally contributes to greater efficiency.

Less Mechanical Error


Damaged barcodes tags lead to errors in the scanning process causing order pickers to input the code manually. This not only causes a delay, it also can lead to input errors. A literate order picker will possess the ability to discern what a marked-up tag represents, where a barcode scanner cannot.

Reduction of training time


Patterson claimed a greater ease and speed for training using the hands-free voice system compared to training employees on a traditional barcode scanning system. This is especially beneficial for temporary order picker hires during the holiday season.

Employee Preference


Paul Courchene, Logistics Core Team Leader at Patterson claims that “No one wants to use the radio frequency (RF) guns…They all want to go hands-free and use voice”. The BBC’s Amazon The Truth Behind the Click Panorama documentary highlights how the constant countdown beeping coming from scanner guns leads to emotional distress, nightmares and has provided evidence of increased risk of mental illness.
 

Employee Pride


Hands-free voice systems are found to produce greater employee cognitive engagement in a repetitive task, leading to increased employee job satisfaction. There is also an institutional benefit derived from the pride associated with the feeling of doing things differently than other organizations.

Risks

Human Error


While Vitech boasts of superb accuracy, voice-directed picking requires validation by the order picker at the pick and at the put in, therefor requiring a second visual confirmation of their voice confirmation. The risks of human error are clearly a possibility within this process. It is up to the inventory analyst to determine whether the increased efficiencies derived from voice-directed picking outweigh the risks of human error.

Barcode Still Required


It should be noted that the implementation of a voice-directed order selection solution will not completely do-away with barcode scanners. As was the case in the Patterson case study, barcode scanning continued to be utilized for receiving and put away functions.

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Logistics, Supply Chain Management, Transportation

Hyperloop pod transportation has gathered plenty of attention in recent years where magnate propelled capsules are pushed upwards of 1,200 km/h with an average speed of 700km/h. Additionally, Hyperloop transportation is completely automated, which promises to eliminate delays and overbooking. While consumers are quick to fantasize of the benefits of high speed Hyperloop travel, the ramifications of Hyperloop freight cargo will be felt throughout the supply chain, and in consumer’s wallets.












There are currently 10,000 trucks en route from Toronto to Montreal every day, with delivery lead time totaling half a day. A similar Hyperloop will take half an hour, while contributing to a reduction in highway traffic in the process.

 

Benefits:

Inventory

Hyperloop’s fast speed and promised reliability will support lean and Just-In-Time inventory practices. Organizations will have the ability to hold less inventory, therefore decreasing their required warehouse footprint, payroll, operational and overhead costs.

 

Lower product costs for consumers and businesses

With the decrease in inventory costs highlighted above, consumer and industrial goods prices will decrease. These cost savings will ripple down the supply chain, all the way to the wallets and budgets of consumers and businesses.

A decrease in traffic along the 401, 7 and 417 highways

If high-speed TransPod travel becomes widely adopted, a decrease in commuter and freight traffic on the highways commuting between Toronto and Montreal or between Toronto and Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa, and Ottawa and Montreal (depending on whether TransPod Hyperloop or Transpod One meet the required Transport Canada regulations). This will directly lead to a decrease in highway transportation between those destinations. Transpod travel will subsequently force traditional trucking and rail companies to lower their rates and lead to shorter delivery lead time throughout all modes.

Increase in Tourism

A decrease in travel time will benefit the domestic tourism industry. Time savings resulting from the alleviation of airport security, the elimination of delays and of course, the significantly faster speed of Transpod travel, will motivate business and domestic tourists to displace themselves for more business, weekend and holiday trips.

 

Environmental Benefits

Mass-transit Transpod pods are propelled electronically at low speeds: during arrival and departure, then magnetically for the majority of the time. Resistance (air) is continuously vacuumed out of the tube using a passive system, leading to ultra-low aerodynamic drag. This results in a highly efficient and environmentally friendly mode of long-range transportation.

Truck Drivers Should Not Be Affected

As the proposed Canadian Hyperloop route is unlikely to be completed prior to 2025, truck drivers are most likely to already have been disrupted by driverless trucks in the form of platooning.


In Canada, two Hyperloop start-ups are competing for regulatory rights from Transport Canada to construct the first domestic route.

TransPod Hyperloop has proposed an eastern Canadian route, back-and fourth from Toronto to Montreal. The trip is estimated to take 30 minutes.

Hyperloop One’s proposed Canadian route runs from Toronto, through Ottawa, ending in Montreal. Time estimates are as follows:

  • Toronto to Ottawa in 27 minutes
  • Ottawa to Montreal in 12 minutes
  • Toronto to Montreal in 39 minutes

Photo Credit: Hyperloop One, TransPod Hyperloop

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