Keep Workers Safer and More Productive with Voice-Guided Workflows
It’s old news that COVID-19 disrupted supply chains, reduced in-store inventory availability, and made consumers skittish about shopping in brick-and-mortar retail outlets. Likewise, the resulting spike in online sales has been well documented. Yet, although inventory availability has stabilized across most categories, the transformation in consumer buying habits will likely persist as retailers selling goods of all kinds around the world are experiencing similar seismic marketplace shifts.
In an effort to keep up with the demands of increased online shopping, businesses have hired more personnel and invested heavily in equipment. But the costs associated with enhancing employee and customer safety are not expected to shrink anytime soon. Instead, business practices and governmental regulations will likely continue to establish (or extend) social distancing boundaries and require more hygiene practices and personal protective equipment (PPE), such as N95 masks, safety eyewear and protective gloves.
As retailers adapt to a rapidly changing landscape and prepare for an uncertain future, they will need to utilize all the available tools, technologies and fulfillment strategies they can to enhance the safety and well-being of their workforce — and customers — while increasing employee productivity and accuracy. For those reasons, operations should consider voice-guided workflows to establish a seamless omnichannel experience for customers, whether they prefer direct-to-consumer delivery or click-and-collect fulfillment.
Regardless of the operation’s size or type — including small, mid-sized or large distribution centers (DCs) and retail stores — Honeywell Voice technology streamlines these workflows, moving workers safely and efficiently. It makes their jobs easier and enables them to operate more productively, accurately and profitably — all while following new workplace safety and sanitation protocols.
Foundation of Fulfillment Productivity and Safety
Voice technologies, such as Honeywell Voice software and mobile devices, have been a mainstay of distribution and order fulfillment operations for decades. Whether deployed in a store or a DC, they give employees clear, verbal directions that instruct them to perform a task — such as where to find a pick location and how many items to select from that position to fill a specific order. Once the task is complete, the employee speaks a confirmation into a microphone built into their headset. As a result, errors can be reduced by up to 50 percent.
In an era when touchless technologies are preferred, voice-guided workflows also eliminate handling paper and scanners so employees can stay safer and more focused on their work. By freeing up their eyes and hands, employees are much more aware of obstacles and trip hazards while walking around a DC or store. As a result, incidents can be reduced by as much as 20 percent. Further, voice-directed, hands-free associates are up to 35 percent more productive than those following paper pick lists or using hand-held devices.
Additionally, the wireless, mobile devices integrated with Honeywell Voice are powered by software capable of detecting and understanding spoken commands in more than 40 languages — even when uttered from behind a face mask. This enables the rapid training of a diverse workforce, including temporary employees and non-native speakers. Further, intuitive, voice-guided instruction cuts new employee training time in half, allowing new hires to begin working at much higher productivity and accuracy levels, all while wearing the appropriate PPE.
How Voice Enhances Operational Safety Protocols
Working seamlessly in conjunction with PPE, voice technology can help strengthen safety protocols for social distancing and sanitation on the job, whether employees are working in-store or on a DC floor. Honeywell Voice’s proprietary TouchConnect™ technology automatically pairs headsets and terminals to minimize handling. This lessens health risks associated with cross-contamination and reduces shift start-up procedures from minutes to seconds.
Further, there are a variety of recommended best practices for the use and cleaning of Honeywell Voice mobile devices to help businesses enhance the safety and hygiene of employees. These include:
- Assign and Replace Individual Consumables. Consumable components — specifically the individual headbands and protective windscreen that shields the microphone on the SRX3 wireless headset — should be assigned to each individual worker and replaced at designated intervals. These can be removed from the SRX3 wireless headset and reattached at the start of each new shift. This is particularly critical to ensure proper hygiene in situations where the A700x body-worn terminals, Android devices and the snap-in radios on the SRX3 headset are shared among multiple employees.
- Provide Individual Device Assignments. To minimize the potential for cross-contamination, assign wearable units — including the SRX3 wireless headset and A700x body-worn computer and Android devices — to individual users (instead of shared among multiple personnel). If it is not possible to provide individual headsets and computer terminals to each employee, sanitization and cleaning protocols should be established and followed prior to every device transfer.
- Cleaning Protocols. Train employees on how to properly sanitize and clean shared devices before and/or after use. Equipment cleaning should be performed with a solution of 70 percent isopropyl alcohol and 30 percent water or a premoistened alcohol wipe. To ensure consistent adherence to these procedures, dedicated personnel can be assigned the tasks of receiving returned devices and cleaning them prior to placing them back into service for associates on the next shift to use. In addition, Honeywell Voice can be programmed to provide cleaning instructions at user-defined intervals.
- Check-out/Check-in Procedures. Establish processes for device receipt and return at the start and end of each shift in order to create and document a chain of custody for device tracking. This allows for the integration of proper cleaning procedures and contact tracing of used devices, should the need arise.
- Training on Use of Voice Technology With PPE. All employees should be trained on the aforementioned best practices, as well as on how to operate the device while wearing PPE such as gloves or masks that shield the nose and mouth. Additionally, demonstrate to employees that that their responses spoken into the microphone will not be diminished or hindered by wearing a mask.
- Install Vehicle Mounts for Terminals. Honeywell Voice devices can be optionally mounted to a forklift or another vehicle instead of worn on the body, while still maintaining employee connectivity via wireless Bluetooth® headsets. This can reduce the risk of potential cross-contamination in a shared-device environment.
New Voice Capabilities Social Distancing and Contact Tracing
Requirements for social distancing and other health measures implemented during the pandemic are expected to remain for some time. To help associates and their employers quickly determine if they are maintaining the social distancing parameters established by the operation, the Honeywell Voice A700x series’ onboard Wi-Fi/Bluetooth connectivity capabilities can track a wearer’s proximity to others. To verify appropriate spacing, associates speak a “check distancing” command and receive an “all clear” announcement when distancing has been maintained. If one or more other associates have been too close, a verbal message directs them to step apart, and any transgressions are documented for analysis by third-party applications and further training as needed.
Facilities using Honeywell Operational Intelligence software — a remote asset management platform that helps DCs keep their mobile-equipped employees productive — can employ new health crisis response functions to further meet local site health and safety compliance requirements. Among these features are:
- Asset Check-out/Check-in. Assign unique devices or assets to specific users, creating a chain of custody that allows for device tracing data.
- Device Cleaning Manager. Set up configurable cleaning protocols for each asset scheduled on an hourly, daily or in between shift basis. Each cleaning event is logged with the user, time and date for reporting.
- Social Distance Proximity Detection. Prioritize and monitor social distancing with a feature that detects the proximity between Honeywell device-enabled users and logs alerts if they get too close to each other.
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