Voice Pick Technology Pilot Program Goes Live at DLA Distribution San Joaquin, California

By Annette Silva, DLA Distribution San Joaquin Public Affairs

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DLA Distribution San Joaquin, California went live with the Voice Pick Pilot program Feb. 11 and will continue to test the technology until June.    

This pilot is in direct alignment with the DLA Strategic Plan 2018-2022 under the First Line of Effort, Warfighter First; Objective 1.4 Predictive Technology. The voice pick technology gives DLA Distribution the platform to test the benefits to obtain an overall goal to reduce cost and gain efficiencies by automating and modernizing DLA storage and distribution functions.

Currently, the voice pick pilot is going well at DLA Distribution San Joaquin.

To date, 44 operators have received template training where the employee must say different phrases repeatedly to enable the Voice system to recognize their voice. Additionally, 24 operators are fully trained on the new technology.

According to Bin Division Chief Anthony Zuk, the test area in the Bin Division has successfully picked nearly 1,000 line items more efficiently in the very early stages of this pilot program. Further, the Workload Management System provides a multitude of options from managing/ assigning workload to verifying that picks have been completed from a high-level view.

As with any pilot program, there will be challenges to overcome.

“There have been several challenges that we’ve faced but they have been resolved very quickly by our J6 programmers working with the contractors,” said Zuk. “Although we are still testing and need more volume to ultimately test the full functionality and capability of Voice, we are optimistic that this system will be successful and provide greater efficiency in assigning workload to employees, managing our workload more effectively and improving our operators’ productivity.”

Some specific challenges faced included the materiel movement label, which prints when a voice pick is confirmed. The right information must be available on the label to allow the operators packing the materiel to verify that it is compliant with audit readiness standards at time of pack. The contractor is near completion of the required changes to allow the Bin Division to fully test this part of the process and expand testing to the next phase of the pilot. Further, programming is being completed to ensure that a zero-balance condition is always verified when the recorded location balance reaches zero at the time of pick.

Anthony Kotta, distribution process worker and lead voice pick tester of the Bin Division has been trained on this technology and enjoys using it.

“In my opinion, the voice pick equipment is user friendly. The initial setup was straight forward for creating a voice template that will recognize the way you say certain words, phrases, and numbers,” he commented.

Kotta went on to explain that he feels this technology will benefit the selection process of the Bin Division.

He stated that it was beneficial not having to stare at paper and key/scan data into a radio frequency gun while navigating down some narrow aisles increasing the speed processing.

Further, Kotta felt that hearing and speaking the quantity definitely improved accuracy by eliminating the possibility of misreading the quantity from a paper pick ticket.

As with any new technology, there is a learning curve.

“It was easy to learn the voice equipment; however, getting down the correct speech commands was the hard part. For instance, if you didn’t hear the location you needed and spoke the command “repeat”, the voice will not respond.  But if the correct command of “say again” is used, the voice will respond with the required location. After you get the commands down the rest is easy. Listen to the voice and do what is says,” Kotta said.

Upon completion of the Voice Pick initiative, the expected results include increased productivity, accuracy and safety. This technology will be beneficial to the Bin Division, as the contractor has stated that it can improve efficiency by up to 35 percent. Zuk agrees with the statement based on the preliminary testing results.

Upon the successful conclusion of the pilot program, DLA Distribution San Joaquin plans to roll this voice pick technology throughout the mission area of the distribution center.