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How Honeywell Voice Is Bridging the Gap Between Technology and the Mobile Worker

How Honeywell Voice Is Bridging the Gap Between Technology and the Mobile Worker

Honeywell Voice has always been about empowering human workers to work more efficiently and productively with other information technology (IT) and technical systems in a warehouse. It’s about bridging the gap between machines and IT systems and the actual physical work that needs to get done.

We seek to understand problems from a holistic perspective and determine how voice can integrate with other technologies to improve operations, workflows, and the work experiences of the mobile workers throughout the supply chain and industry. That’s where we have excelled and will continue to excel.

Let’s take a closer look at some existing and emerging technologies and what we are doing here at Honeywell Voice.

Next-Generation Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs)

AMRs are transforming warehouse operations, as these truly become more autonomous and intelligent. Gartner estimates that by 2023, over 30% of operational warehouse workers will be supplemented, not replaced, by collaborative robots.1

Honeywell’s partnership with Fetch Robotics provides distribution centers (DCs) with AMRs to help them more effectively fulfill growing e-commerce orders.

Fetch Robotics offers a range of AMRs that use a combination of LiDAR and 3D cameras (similar to self-driving car technology) to navigate unpredictable warehouse environments safely and accurately. Should they encounter an obstacle, these robots can adjust routes in real time — unlike automated guided vehicle systems (AGVs), which depend on preprogrammed, fixed paths. This enables the AMRs to take on repetitive warehousing tasks that may otherwise require significant travel time between locations and transporting heavy loads. Fetch Robotics’ solutions are also able to deploy and redeploy in one day without integration requirements or changes to infrastructure.

AMRs are primarily collaborative robots that support, not replace, people. At Honeywell Voice, for example, we have done proof-of-concepts to call and send the robot. We have combined with AMRs in the order picking process, in which the robot follows a person as s/he case picks, and then autonomously navigates between aisles and to the shipping dock. Another use case can be a robotic pick to cart, in which again the bot does the moving, and the human simultaneously picks and places multiple orders into totes on the cart. Finally, there are goods-to-person scenarios where the robots deliver goods to and from people who stay in one place. We believe that warehouse workers will be supplemented, not replaced, by robots.

The initiative enables Honeywell Voice to show how voice-guided technology and robotics work together in a high-velocity picking environment, which is beyond the traditional way you think about voice. Customers can increase productivity and boost labor efficiency by deploying Fetch Robotics’ AMRs, which operate safely alongside people to transport items through DCs without human guidance or fixed paths. Rather than getting a one-point solution from one vendor, we provide a holistic solution that combines these technologies.

 

Assisted, Augmented Reality and Convergence of Voice Technologies

Warehouse operations are beginning to investigate potential productivity improvements with technologies like augmented and virtual reality. Gartner estimates that by 2023, 20% of warehouse transactions will be processed via augmented reality.1

Augmented reality (AR), using smart glasses, is still in its early stages, with most projects remaining in the prototype stage. Although adoption to this point has been slow, we expect this to change as more use cases are developed. Initially, smart glasses were simply used to replace what was currently being done on mobile handhelds and, in some cases, added in some voice technology. Task and navigation instructions would be given visually or verbally, and then user responses would be provided either verbally or through supplemental mobile technology like ring scanners.

At Honeywell, we see voice and assisted augmented reality as complementary technologies. For example, in the distribution center, you can use augmented reality to light up a pick location in the glasses. Voice directs you to the location area and tells you how many items to pick. Then a virtual rendering of the cart can be displayed in the user’s field of vision showing where to put items that are highlighted visually. This enhances productivity and allows for more flexibility, such as being able to dynamically define the cart at the point of use. This will take AR down a more valuable path, which will drive growth in adoption.

Workflows such as packing can be enhanced by having one device that supports voice interactions, scanning, and image and video capture. In a packing scenario, voice directives using smart glasses could be combined with image capture, where the glasses take digital images that prove a package was packed correctly and is damage-free.

Another example would be with our maintenance inspection product, which is voice outside of the distribution center. The worker uses voice to perform an inspection. During the inspection, the worker needs a drawing of a specific system in the inspection. The drawing is displayed on the glasses and perhaps expanded to see a parts list as it relates to the inspection.

Android-Based OS and Apple iOS Devices’ Platform Growth

Android™ OS is the top platform for many organizations, especially those choosing to replace legacy Windows®. One of the concerns that customers have raised about Honeywell Voice is that our system was proprietary. They wanted and needed a solution that supported their Android OS or Apple® iOS device investments, whether they were Honeywell or another vendor. We have options for anybody who wants to use a voice solution. We’ve created Guided Work Solutions (GWS) and checklist applications for maintenance/inspection and asset management.

Honeywell Voice Advancements

The Honeywell approach to product improvements is simple: We think about what the workers are doing, analyze what they are dealing with in their environments, and then make sure that everything works. Our goal is to make sure that your warehouse is running as smoothly and efficiently as it can.

Some of the technologies we have introduced to make that happen include:

Guided Work Solutions for Android- and Apple iOS-based devices. Honeywell’s Guided Work Solutions is designed for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that need to increase their warehouse productivity, accuracy and worker safety. The innovative software runs on Android or Apple iOS and is designed to fully leverage existing enterprise resource planning (ERP) and warehouse management systems (WMS) to reduce technology investment costs.

Honeywell Guided Work Solutions is a simple, yet powerful package that voice-enables workflows in the distribution center, allowing staff to work eyes-free and hands-free. It comes with native integration to both SAP® Business One and Microsoft® Dynamics 365. Guided Work Solutions allows for multiple forms of input, including voice data capture, barcode scanning and keyboard data entry, which improves productivity, accuracy and consistency. Unlike our product for enterprise that is customizable and takes six to nine months to implement, these tightly integrated, out-of-the-box offerings can be easily configured and rapidly deployed in four to six weeks.

Honeywell Voice for Maintenance and Inspection checklists. Checklists and work cards are essential parts of almost every industry. They are components of a traditional system whereby instructions are read and followed, discrepancies and measurements recorded, and at the end of the procedure, certain steps may be signed off on as verification of accomplishment. This can be a very inefficient process because it forces technicians to enter their observations as a separate step from the inspection process. We have worked with companies around the world to develop applications for:

  • Aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) inspection
  • Fleet truck inspection
  • Automotive inspection
  • Logistics inspection and assembly
  • Oil and gas inspection
  • Utility field inspection
  • Health care inspection
  • And more in process

Honeywell Voice for Maintenance and Inspection supports optimized, best-practice processes that maximize technician procedures and virtually eliminate the cumbersome and inefficient steps traditionally associated with previous-generation technology alternatives.

For example, using voice for inspections cuts down on the outdated back-and-forth data entry and look-up time on a laptop, handheld device or paper form. Instead, simply speak commands and verbally input data findings directly into your system via a headset with a microphone while performing the inspection task.

Here is an example of how Honeywell Voice is used for aviation MRO facilities for repair and overhaul of auxiliary power units (APUs), engines and avionics. The technician wears a wireless headset and a voice-enabled mobile computing device. Through the company’s wireless network, the technician is connected to Honeywell Voice and the company’s in-house ERP/EAM records system.

For example, the first task for an APU received in the shop is an incoming inspection. Once activated, the system directs the technician by voice commands through the incoming inspection checklist and allows for hands-free, eyes-free voice data entry. The system captures all information through spoken commands. The technician responds to work instructions with answers such as “Yes,” “No” and “Check,” provides measurements when the task requires, and recognizes completion of steps.

Using Honeywell Voice for inspections cuts down on the outdated back-and-forth data entry and look-up time on a laptop, handheld device or paper forms by speaking commands and verbally inputting data findings directly into your system via a headset with a microphone, while performing the inspection task. The benefits we have seen across industries include:

  • Streamlined documentation – by completing observations and documentation while performing the actual task
  • Process improvement – through the use of best-in-class processes and actionable operational insights
  • Faster training and new technician onboarding – with easy-to-follow documentation and inspection processes for existing and new technician training
  • Enhanced compliance – with strict adherence to standard operating procedures (SOPs) to ensure standardized processes through consistent technician behaviors
  • Improved safety – by enabling hands-free, eyes-free operations at the point of inspection
  • Greater technician retention – by providing an intuitive solution that motivates and enables technicians to be more productive and increases employee satisfaction

A700x. A700x is more than just a refresh of the A700 series of mobile devices. On its outside, the body looks similar. But on the inside, Honeywell has taken advantage of the recent availability of advanced software, machine learning, new sensors and powerful processors offered by Qualcomm® to provide additional features atypical of previous voice products, including:

  • A new speaker-independent recognition engine allows workers to start using the A700x immediately — particularly important when employing temporary staff
  • Advanced predictive maintenance and troubleshooting built in with Honeywell Sentience 2.0 Cloud, and sensors for temperature, height, drops and falls, etc.
  • Intelligent analytics for evaluating operator performance metrics in real time
  • Battery life to extend beyond a shift to 12+ hours
  • Inclusion of many time-saving features, including TouchConnect™, TouchConfig™, RapidStart™, and other features designed for faster start-up times

Pick Up and Go. Historically, the Honeywell Voice business has been focused on what we refer to as “speaker-dependent” solutions. This is where the user trains the system to recognize their individual language, dialect and speech patterns. This allows the speaker-dependent solution to filter out environmental noise, increasing accurate and robust responses from the user’s voice. We have felt very strongly that is the best way to go; if your livelihood depends on it, it absolutely needs to work all of the time.

Over the last few years, some of our customers have asked that we consider creating additional options to help them address the need for bringing on temporary workers and not having them initially trained using our speaker-dependent solution. In response, we have recently released Pick Up and Go. This is a “speaker-independent” solution where the user does not train the system to recognize their individual language, dialect or speech patterns, but instead tries to match the user’s voice to generic, previously created voice patterns. Pick Up and Go technology eliminates training and enables the mobile worker to simply pick up our Honeywell A700x device and begin their work. Not only does this efficiency help mobile workers in any DC environment, but it also helps DC operations managers who are responsible for hiring temporary or seasonal workers.

SoundSense. SoundSense leverages multiple microphones built into the headset whereby one mic focuses on the worker’s voice and the other is oriented on filtering out background noise. This technology reduces unwanted noise by 50%, providing superior voice recognition for greater worker productivity.

TouchConnect™. Honeywell Voice devices and headsets utilize TouchConnect. With a simple touch, a worker can seamlessly pair a Honeywell mobile computing device and Bluetooth® wireless headset — reducing shift start-up processes from minutes to seconds.

Click here for more information about Honeywell Voice.

Our expert assessment teams will partner with you to understand your unique business requirements and identify where opportunities exist to optimize your workflows and increase efficiencies within today’s competitive climate.

At Honeywell, we work with thousands of distribution centers of all sizes, across a wide variety of industries worldwide. We bring a deep foundational understanding of the businesses we serve, backed with expert research and data that identifies the real, specific needs of today’s DCs.

With over 130 years of on-the-ground experience, Honeywell is uniquely equipped to help you solve the problems that your business faces every day, see improved results, and be a trusted partner to help you reach and exceed your predetermined goals.

1 Gartner. Predicts 2019: Future of Supply Chain Operations. C. Klappich, Rick Franzosa, Christian Titze, et al. Published November 29, 2018.

Barry J. Ewell
SPS BLOG EDITOR

Barry J. Ewell is a Senior Content Marketing Communications Specialist for Honeywell Safety and Productivity Solutions. He has been researching and writing on supply chain topics since 1991.