35 Last Word
HAVEN’T YOU HEARD?
Why are the UK’s top retailers so slow to adopt voice technologies?
In our experience, UK companies operates provided it meets the terms warehouse management strategy, the
are quick to take advantage of new agreed on the SLA. For other retailers, beneﬁts are numerous and can be
technologies, but for some reason, this their margins are so much higher than summarized as follows:
trend hasn’t been seen in the adoption the rest of the supply chain, suppliers
Reduced levels of errors. Voice allows
of dedicated voice technologies within are in a difﬁcult position when trying the retailer or distribution centre to build
the major retail multiples or at their to make an investment decision. Yet, in checks for each action. Typically,
distribution centres. More than 5 years the reality for supply chain partners customers experience between 0.2–0.5%
ago, Zetes began implementing voice is that by adopting a differentiating errors for paper-based or handheld terminal
solutions at many of continental Europe’s technology such as voice, they’d be picking, dropping to below 0.1% for voice.
top tier retailers. Yet in the UK, only the able to take on more customers and
Enables multitasking. Voice leaves hands
Co-op, Argos, B&Q and Waitrose have ultimately do better business. and eyes free, allowing staff to multitask
embarked upon similar installations. Another reason for the relative (such as driving and speaking), supporting
Many of the big UK retailers we have slowness to adopt voice in the UK an increase in productivity of up to 25%.
been working with have instead opted may be due to the types of WMS or
Reduced training time. It is very
for wearable hands-free solutions which, warehouse management systems being straightforward to train users of voice
from an initial cost perspective, are used by the major retailers. Unlike applications.
slightly cheaper than dedicated voice the rest of Europe, the UK is strongly
Improved ergonomics. Particularly for the
solutions. However, factor in productivity inﬂuenced by major US software retail sector, allowing workers to have both
increases and the beneﬁts of voice far specialists, who have little market hands free is much healthier and avoids
outweigh other widely used alternatives penetration within the rest of Europe. future injury and strain.
such as barcode scanning. There must In many cases, these vendors manage
Robustness of system. Average uptimes
be more to this reluctance to embrace their software development out of the for voice systems are much higher, making
voice than a simple case of natural US and we believe this may be hindering maintenance costs lower overall.
English reserve? the adoption of voice. This is because
Improved productivity of personnel. Voice
We believe a contributing factor to voice is not a “plug and go system” and systems create a more even distribution
the slow adoption of voice so far may never will be. It requires a high degree of productivity levels across a distribution
be due to a lack of suppliers with the of specialization and integration into centre, with speed and quality of work
required capability to either advocate existing systems. In other European more equalized among different workers.
the beneﬁts of voice — especially countries, such as Germany, there is This results in a better ability to forward
within the distribution centres used a much higher concentration of local plan warehouse efﬁciencies.
by the major retailers — or to offer the specialist software providers offering
ongoing support necessary to maintain WMS with the capability to integrate
these solutions. The voice sector has voice. For UK companies, it is not so
previously been occupied by a number straightforward to integrate voice into an
of smaller, independent companies existing WMS because the development
“pushing” voice, but they didn’t have work is frequently conducted in the
the resources or gravitas required to US and this results in a much tougher About the Authors
convince the really big retail multiples and costlier process. To help alleviate
to invest. Zetes is looking to counter this problem, Zetes is investing in its Marcel Kars is VP of Innovation at the
this and inﬂuence more of the UK’s 3iV Connector interfacing technology, Zetes 3i Competence Centre in Brussels,
major retailers to adopt voice. making the integration from WMS to a facility dedicated to identifying
In addition to this, few suppliers are voice applications very affordable and wireless applications that improve
making a compelling enough argument ﬂexible and providing the ability to business productivity across the retail,
to the retailer’s distribution partners hook up to any protocol, removing any manufacturing and logistics sectors.
to make such an investment at their problems relating to connecting with
distribution centres. With so many different logistics packages. Rob Wainwright is Technical Director for
retailers now using managed services, Whatever the reasons for the UK’s Zetes UK. For more information on Zetes,
they are less to beneﬁt directly from slowness to adopt dedicated voice visit www.uk.zetes.com.
the way their warehouse management technologies as part of an integrated
Supply Chain Europe June 2007
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