Voice Technology in Distribution Center's

by Deepak Sharma on Friday, May 27, 2005

An article in DC Velocity talks of Voice Recognition technology that optimizes the distribution center workforce.

And in August, Dunkin' Donuts announced that it was installing voice-recognition technology from Voxware to streamline the order picking process. No longer encumbered by clipboards, workers now swarm all over the facility wearing belt-mounted computers and headsets through which they receive (and respond to) picking instructions. Fred the Baker has long since retired, but the workers still hear voices in their headsets telling them it's time—not to make the doughnuts, but to pick a 50-pound bag of flour, or a case of glaze, or a box of coffee beans.


But today, just 36 months later, it's a different story. Engard is now using voice technology in his DC and is more than eager to describe the benefits. Ask him about productivity and you'll get an earful: "In the first week of running the new system, I had workers telling me that I'd have to increase their work load," he says. And it wasn't just the top performers. Within two weeks of the system's installation, even the slowest worker—a picker whose 110-casesper-hour pace had put his job at risk—was consistently exceeding the DC's 200 cases-per-hour goal by 10 cases. The most impressive gains have come from the freezer area, where, under the old paper-based picking system, workers spent up to 20 minutes planning how best to build a pallet. Today, Engard says, the voice system automatically configures the proper picking sequence in seconds.

Accuracy rates have soared too. Prior to the voice system's installation, the DC employed eight people whose sole job was to check outgoing shipments. Today, picking accuracy has reached 99.9 percent, with just one part-time quality checker.

Best thing is that the technology from Voxware is a people-centric solution that maximizes the contribution of each worker, taking into account many variables – such as a worker’s native language, experience level, job role, and abilities – and mapping them dynamically to the job activities at hand. For instance, the system knows the experience and capability level of each employee. It can balance workloads between workers in a team so that the entire group achieves a higher standard. It can give expert workers the ability to take shortcuts for improved productivity while providing extra coaching to temps and trainees. Workers interact with the system using a wearable computer and headset. They hear human voice prompts giving them work instructions, and they speak responses as tasks progress to completion.

Windows® Embedded for Point of Service

by Deepak Sharma on Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Microsoft today rolled out Windows® Embedded for Point of Service software platform for retail industry.

Directly addressing the top challenges at the point of service faced by retail and hospitality organizations, Windows Embedded for Point of Service simplifies setup, deployment and management, includes support for new technologies designed to improve the customer experience and offers low system life-cycle costs....

As the only point-of-service software platform on the market to support peripheral plug-and-play functionality -- the feature most requested by retailers -- Windows Embedded for Point of Service will make implementation and integration with existing systems easier for retailers. Strong default security settings such as a hardened Internet Explorer, Windows Logon and buffer overrun protection, as well as a minimized operating system surface area to reduce system vulnerabilities. Additional support for Windows Update management technologies simplifies update identification and installation on Windows Embedded for Point of Service systems, providing network protection and enabling a more secure experience for customers. Further, support for third-party security solutions from companies such as Computer Associates International Inc. and Sygate Inc. provides customers with enhanced security for their point-of-service systems.

Related: Microsoft and Retail: Nearly Two Decades of Innovation

Beyond the Supply Chain: The Impact of RFID on Business Operations and IT Infrastructure

by Deepak Sharma on Monday, May 23, 2005

Computerworld has a very good article on RFID and it's impact on Business Operations and IT Infrastructure. The article identifies the opportunities enabled by RFID beyond the supply chain to fall into three categories: safety and security, mobile asset management and complex process simplification. The article then talks about the Impact of RFID on IT Strategy.

To realize the benefits of RFID, IT will need to upgrade its infrastructure in a number of areas, and the interfaces with the business will have to be closer than ever before. There are three areas that will be need to be addressed: data management, network and end-user device management, and a new category for many IT organizations, sensor management. In addition, tying all these together and integrating them with legacy systems will require a new level of systems integration capabilities.

RFID Enabled Retail Supply Chain

by Deepak Sharma on Friday, May 20, 2005

MSDN is running an article on RFID Enabled Retail Supply Chain by Javed Sikander.

Use Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) to improve your organization's efficiency in tracking goods and assets, and increase your levels of product and asset visibility.

From the article:
This document will first present a brief overview of the RFID technology, discuss the various aspects of a simple retail supply chain, and identify scenarios where RFID technology can be applied. Next, it will present some key issues for the RFID software infrastructure for such scenarios. Finally, it will propose an architecture to address those issues, and provide guidance on exploiting the Microsoft .NET Platform to develop key components of the architecture.

Welcome !

by Deepak Sharma on Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Customary welcome to all the readers of this blog. Yes, both of you. :)

Intention is to write about Retail industry with a focus on Information Technology affecting this space. Stay tuned.