Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

'VoiceExpress' - ‘A Snail Being Mugged by a Turtle'

By Dan Villanueva
Vice President, Marketing
Vangard Voice Systems

Martin Henry Fischer, a German-born,  early 20th century American physician, chemist, and professor of physiology at the University of Cincinnati, known for his research in colloid chemistry said ‘that a conclusion is a place, where you got tired of thinking’.   Last week on April 19th, less than 90 days after the release of a January 2012 Aberdeen Report critical of its pioneering voice technology, Vocollect Introduced Voice Express.

In short the Aberdeen Survey reflected user frustration about the complexity, costs, human resource drain, and integration, required to make voice changes to WMS workflows and applications.

42% of the voice users surveyed by Aberdeen said they batched their voice changes until the work effort was cost-justified. Worse yet, 37% said they simply didn’t make the voice changes at all. 50% said they needed a voice solution that is easier to integrate with their WMS. 33% said they needed a solution that eliminates the excessive cost to make voice changes. These and other related acquisition related factors underscore why after 20 years only 8% of the applicable WMS market has adopted voice productivity in the warehouse.

Vocollect’s press release declares that VoiceExpress (the 5th in a series of server-based, integration dependent interfaces) will “minimize their [customer’s] need to modify the host or tap precious IT resources." 

The initial VoiceExpress includes middleware, client software to initially upgrade multi-vendor vehicle-mount and fixed-mount computers, and again continued dependence the Voice Artisan (custom code development) to aide certified partners and customers to re-engineer voice processes.

Professor Fisher's view is relevant here. VoiceExpress…is a place Vocollect arrived at last week, after being tired of thinking.  Another server-based  ‘interface’ is not the answer for its customers, it’s actually the underlying architectural  problem.

By design it’s causing the frustration of Vocollect customers, and adoption resistance for the remaining 92% of the non-voice installed WMS market.  As long as the IT server is the center for voice integration, the related costs and complexity will  slow WMS voice productivity penetration and adoption.

The solution is to be found in mobility, not the back-end IT infrastructure. VoiceExpress might be incrementally faster, but compared to what? It’s  like the snail, being mugged by the turtle. When asked to describe the mugger, the snail said, I can’t… it all happened too fast’.  

If a fully mobile voice solution alternative powered from the device was an option, why would WMS professionals intentionally complicate their IT server environment with unnecessary voice applications,  links, interfaces and integration?

Today large warehouse operations are using mobile innovation that completely circumvent the IT server. Now WMS voice functionality and application integration is delivered, seamlessly and solely from the mobile device. 

Mobile innovation changes everything.   A genuine solution, not a conclusion. The answer is a simplified mobile architecture for voice-upgrading any WMS, ERP workflow or application.   

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

WMS in the Cloud: The Power of the Mobile Device, Often Ignored

By Dan Villanueva
Vice President, Marketing
Vangard Voice Systems

The excitement, projections, and growth anticipation about enterprise cloud computing in general and WMS-in-the-Cloud specifically, in time will be an absolute game changer for the SMB marketplace. It’s a no-brainer, once the SMB market, not typically risk takers, are satisfied that it can entrust their business to this evolving distribution model.

Few doubt this value in the model or and all hope that this innovation 'evens the playing field' for all customers.

However, the ‘Rodney Dangerfield’ of cloud-computing’s future is the role of the mobile device in this proposition. It’s not always just about ‘the cloud’ per se. It’s also about the increasing power of today’s mobile devices. So significant, the ruggedized mobile computer can also function as the ‘mobile server’ driving the all the on-board data access and data collection capabilities to support a diverse mobile workforce.

Our recent partnership with BellHawk Systems Corporation exemplifies how sophisticated manufacturing, industrial and retail supply chain applications can be cloud-deployed to devices operating a web-browser, or alternately as a .Net application. The .Net application can operate in a wireless and un-wired store-for-forward environment. When bandwidth is available, the flexibility allows the updating of back-end data bases and other associated applications.

This mobile paradigm continues to reassert itself with our device-centric, server-less voice solution for existing mobile applications. Because of mobile innovation we offer ‘voice made easy'. All of yesterdays complexity, simplified on today’s mobile platform.

The upside of wireless mobility and mobile voice deployments remains its lower cost to buy, apply and maintain compared to server-based and dependent implementations. PLUS it offers the flexibility to deploy over the cloud. And we owe this architectural alternative to the power of the ruggedized mobile computer, the new server, in a mobile world.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Enterprises Report Frustration with Outdated ‘Pioneering’ WMS Voice Technology

by Dan Villanueva

It was no surprise to us when a recent research report was published indicating that enterprises using older ‘pioneering’ voice technologies in their DCs were disappointed with both the costs and complexity of their existing (server-based) WMS Voice implementations. The report indicated the WMS voice users were using outdated rigid architectures, incapable of keeping up with rapidly changing business processes.

The survey indicated that because of the lack of flexibility and the substantial change management costs related to their existing WMS voice solution, that when business processes changed:

• 42% said ‘we batch a number of changes together to justify the time and money’, or;

• unbelievably, 37% said ‘we don’t consider [voice] changes because the cost to have the vendor modify the [WMS] application is just too high.

Three Steps Backwards

Imagine that. Voice productivity is all about optimizing your workforce, streamlining business processes and remaining competitive. Now, enterprises are ‘taking three steps backwards’.
They either delay voice productivity upgrades to their WMS until they can afford it, or avoid them all together. Why, because 1990’s voice technology, simply can’t keep up with today’s fluid distribution processes. Again, we're not surprised by the results of the survey. And our customers…they know better.

Innovation changes everything. Discover how mobile voice innovation can be a game changer in your distribution system.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

‘Voice Picking Not Gaining Traction’, After 20 Years, Why?

By Dan Villanueva

It’s taken some by surprise that Logistics Management’s 2011 Warehouse & DC Operation’s Survey (Web Cast)reported a down-turn in the use of voice-directed picking by companies in the operations and fulfillment world. Only 3% of the companies surveyed in 2011 indicated the use of voice-directed picking, a down turn from the 5% in the 2010 LM Survey. Conversely, RF [barcode scan] Picking increased to 42% in 2011, compared to 37% in 2010. So why the shock? After 20 years of evolution, voice technology has only achieved 8% penetration of the applicable WMS market (Tern Systems, 2011 Voice in the Supply Chain).

Everyone knows this. That’s not the point. There’s other recent research that predicts an increase in voice picking in the next few years. That’s not the point.

The broader question is: Why has WMS voice, after 20 years only penetrated a fraction of the applicable WMS market? And, is there something to learn from much deeper market penetration of barcode scanning technology in warehouse operations?

Bill Kuipers, president of operations consultancy Spaide, Kuipers & Co. in Voice-Directed Picking Not Gaining Traction says his clients tell him these[server-based]voice systems are too complex and expensive in terms of required [server]integration, new hardware and the need for additional server-based middleware. He’s absolutely right. In addition, these expensive voice implementations also require a significant change in business processes, which adds yet another dimension of business risk to the proposition. Only certain types and size companies will use them, leaving the remaining 92% of the WMS market off-the-table for voice.

So as ESPN’s Chris Carter says, C’mon Man! Barring the adoption of a lower cost, simplified voice innovation, yesterday’s ‘pioneering’, complex server-dependent voice technologies, will remain the distant productivity ‘step-child’ compared to RF Scan Picking. For many warehouse professionals it’s like choosing between the complexity of brain surgery to an out-patient colonoscopy. How many warehouse professionals are willing ‘bet the farm’ or their jobs on such complex and risky voice implementations? Compared to these older voice technologies, RF Scan Picking is simply a lower-risk, higher return WMS productivity option for large and particularly small and medium size companies finally converting from paper. Unlike barcode scanning, these legacy voice architectures, are by design, incapable of capturing a substantial portion of the WMS market. It’s a technological reality, reflected by marketplace statistics.

The January 2011 DC Velocity article ‘Voice Made Easy’ reports there is a next generation fully mobile WMS voice alternative to the risk and expense of older pioneering voice technologies.

In 'Voice Made Easy' Kevin Thompson, senior system manager for distribution for Cabelas’ World’s Foremost Outfitters, found a completely mobile, ‘server-less’ voice solution that seamlessly integrates with their Manhattan WMS that supports 3 national distribution centers and 1100 warehouse workers. Thompson said “both productivity and accuracy have jumped since the voice technology was deployed”. But here’s the kicker, The DC Velocity article goes on to say that “ in Thompson’s eyes one of the key selling points of the new system has been the ease of integration and low costs."

By completely eliminating the IT server as center of voice services and WMS integration and placing all integration and voice on today’s powerful mobile devices, voice productivity can become an affordable, practical and high value productivity option for the remaining 92% of the WMS market.

Friday, January 13, 2012

’Hands-Free, Eyes-Free Voice Productivity’: For Many a Hollow Promise

by Bob Bova

For many IT professionals responsible for supporting large mobile workforces at Fortune Class companies, the promise of ‘hands-free, eyes-free voice productivity’ is quite possibly, with few exceptions, the most disappointing mobile and wireless technology in the last decade. Many have either ignored it, been sucker-punched by it, under-whelmed by the actual functionality and often shocked by the investment required to deploy it. Even we have stopped using the ‘hands-free, eyes-free’ moniker. It has become a hollow, throw-away expression to those seriously evaluating productivity solutions.

In the world of voice (or speech recognition) technologies, what does ‘hands-free, eyes-free really mean? Because of excessive hype and poor performance, it means limited and often unreliable voice functionality…yet its declared a productivity solution. It’s like mobile hardware manufactures charging you $2K for a mobile computer with only 2 F-Keys and 10 alphabet keys.

Voice has been credited for what would be consider fairly simplistic mobile functions. Say you’re a director of store operations for 5 retail locations in your district. On your mobile device, you use a voice command to search and call up a sales performance report for your Poughkeepsie location from your back-end database. Boom. There it is. OMG! ‘Scotty you’re a miracle worker! But still you have to stop, look down and read the report. Is voice search ‘technically’ hands-free, eyes-free? I suppose…technically.

Are simple voice functions like ‘go to my documents’ and voice search, real productivity accelerators? If so, we all owe an apology to Motorola Solutions, Intermec, LXE, Psion Teklogix and the other enterprise mobile computer manufacturers. They market powerful mobile devices used for a myriad of complex work directed applications; i.e., warehouse management, mobile inspections, dispatch & delivery, mobile maintenance and repair. These devices are often used by very capable multi-tasking workforces, each worker pivoting from application to application, using the device to guide them through reporting, business process flow, specific work dynamics and truly provide a level of productivity unthinkable even 4 years ago. That’s productivity. Voice search? Not so much.

Now let's raise the ante. If you’re a police officer, 1st responder, electric, a warfighter, what voice capabilities would make you genuinely‘hands-free-eyes free’?

To serve as a legitimate productivity alternative voice technology must mean complete voice collaboration between you and your existing mobile applications. And that means: 1) voice driven navigation for all application and device commands; 2) the ability to collect heavy data needed for mobile complex transactions and reporting, and; 3) it must mean that your mobile computer should be able to talk to you, voice reporting or alerting you with the information you want or need, when and where you need it. And all these capabilities need to be easily adaptable to all mobile workforce applications, not just for warehouse workers, but anyone in the field dependent on industry grade mobile apps.

Now, if Scotty can build you a voice solution that can do that…then genuine voice productivity can follow in the foot-steps of today's mainstream mobile and wireless productivity technologies.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

WMS Voice and Voice Picking: Only 8% Market Penetration?

by Bob Bova

In the 2011 study ‘Voice Technology in the Supply Chain 2011’ developed by Tern Systems, Inc., it was confirmed that only 8% of the potential WMS market that could be taking advantage of voice directed applications were actually doing so. Why is voice data collection a ‘second cousin’ to barcode scanning, RFID and other ADC technologies? The pioneering voice technologies which brought voice to the warehouse in the early 90’s proved the productivity metric for WMS voice (especially for voice picking and cycle counting). So why has such a small segment of the WMS market embraced voice technology… what’s the other 92% of market worried about?

Our company markets our voice solution to scores of supply chain professionals, that manage a variety of mobile applications that support mobile workforces serving both Fortune Class and SMB markets. When we ask them why they have resisted the adoption voice productivity solutions, they tend to categorize their objections in four areas; business risk, relative performance of existing systems, complexity, and costs.

One customer said, ‘I have an existing high performance WMS system, my small warehouse team is knocking out 22+ million pieces a year. I just couldn’t justify, the change in my business processes and the costly complex server-integration from the other vendors in exchange the bump in promised productivity. Another customer said “ I want to implement productivity improvements quickly, when and where we determine it works best, the other guys didn’t offer me that…they’re implementations are simply too complex, and didn’t provide the flexibility we needed.”

The complexity of legacy voice systems over the last 20 years have been costly, resource intensive endeavors, in most instances leaving the small and medium size business (SMBs) out of the picture. Even larger companies have blanched at the inflexible implementations that require substantial investment and 12-18 months for deployment and training.

We don’t own the crystal ball on all things regarding the WMS market…but my guess is the 92% of the non-voice market have resisted voice productivity for a combination of these and other reasons.

It has always been our goal to alter the resistance to voice productivity, not only in WMS marketplace, but for mobile applications throughout the supply chain…from mobile field services, mobile inspections, dispatch and delivery, mobile maintenance and repair, wherever mobile workforces are deployed. IT professionals are managing huge inventories of custom built and commercial applications, supporting ‘boots-on-the-ground’ mobile workforces. The voice productivity metric proved in the warehouse market, is viable for the entire supply chain.

Like other ADC technologies, voice technology should be easy-to-adopt and applicable across the supply chain, an additive benefit not a huge rip and replace money pit. It should not be relegated to a specific terminal emulation or hardware platform; voice should be flexible, dependable and reliable on all software presentation products (terminal emulation flavors, .NET. browsers) and all types of mobile hardware (smartphones, bar code scanners, tablets, laptops, PC’s etc). The evolution of device based voice technology now empowers business operations to get real work done faster and more efficiently, to bolster profitability.

Voice can now be embraced as a strategic direction for enterprise wide mobile applications, providing the operations teams with new incremental productivity, while providing the IT departments the assurance of ease of integration, implementation, use and management.