Present The Big Picture
More productive operations grow and flourish; less productive ones lose business. That, of course, is the reason for investing in new performance tools in the first place. The leadership challenge for voice is in getting employees to see the real win-win performance benefits that voice enables. As with any change effort, companies need to clearly communicate to all stakeholders that the voice deployment is the new way of doing business. By the time of the actual deployment, this mindset should be well-established and understood by all.
Equally important, front-line employees need to understand the overarching reasons behind voice, not only from a business perspective (improved productivity, accuracy, and/or safety), but also from an individual user or human perspective. Companies need to clearly convey the message that voice will make people’s daily jobs easier and increase their efficiency.
Workers also need to know the game plan for implementation, and what labor and management expectations are for team and individual performance.
It’s not unusual for employees to raise issues at the start of a voice deployment. Therefore, organizations should anticipate typical questions and concerns and address them in advance as much as possible.
Many initial concerns can be alleviated by emphasizing that the voice system is based on the most natural form of human communication: listening and responding.
Luedde is manager, training and education with Vocollect Inc., Pittsburgh, and Miller is director, strategic consulting, sales and professional services.
Recommended tips and strategies for ensuring a smooth voice deployment:
Make sure your warehouse management system (WMS) is defining the optimum assignment order. Check with your WMS team to make sure it is fair and reasonable, based on best practices from years of other deployments around the world, tempered with the unique needs of your site.
Utilize voice data to identify additional training opportunities. Be sure to provide incremental recognition for performance improvements.
Analyze and understand your specific data. What works in another environment may not work for you. While looking at similar places may provide a guideline and some ideas, ultimately the system must meet your particular needs.
Train your operators to record their voice templates in a natural and realistic environment, preferably in their work area. This allows the system to create a realistic voice template. The more normally they speak, the better the system will work.
Encourage employees to voice their opinions about work flow and warehouse layout improvements. Their experience and insights can be extremely valuable in helping to improve ongoing operations.
Utilize your voice “champions” as vocal advocates for voice with their work team peers, and also as possible trainers when you expand your deployment to other sites.
Review employment contracts prior to the deployment to clarify performance measurement rules. Most labor union contracts have process improvement sections; if not, suggest adding one during the next negotiations.
Ensure that productivity measures are fair and reasonable. Do a risk/benefit analysis of the cost of increasing the productivity requirement, amid the extra physical stress demanded by a faster pace, and potential resulting medical concerns. Protecting worker health is a bottom-line issue.