Coffee Talk

Voice technology is brewing at Dunkin Donuts' Mid-Atlantic Distribution Center.


"Speed is the number one benefit-the technology substantially speeds up the process," says Joe Licciardelli, an order selector who's been with the MADC for a year and a half. "With Voxware, there's no paper whatsoever, so you're not fumbling around with paperwork. The system puts everything in order for you, tells you where to go and how many items to pick. You can ask it anything you want, say to repeat a location, and it will give you the information."

While Licciardelli was excited to learn the system, Phil Howard, a relatively new selector, had doubts about the technology at first. "I started out on paper when I first joined the company and became pretty comfortable with the process. I was skeptical about switching to voice, but the learning curve was short-it only took me one week to get up to speed on VoiceLogistics. Plus, once I was comfortable with it, I was able to do my job much faster."

That's one of the major benefits of the voice technology-it significantly reduces training time. "It used to take up to eight weeks for a new worker to reach our standard performance level, but with VoiceLogistics someone with little or no warehouse experience can move to standard in half the time it used to take," says Warren Engard, director of operations.

Using voice, the MADC had to change the way it trains its selectors. "We used to have a new selector train with an experienced selector, but with the trainer wearing the headset, the trainee couldn't listen in, so we've been trying different ideas to improve the training," says Engard, adding that he's found it easier to transition the newer order selectors to VoiceLogistics than the more experienced workers.

"We've decided to train one week on paper picking and then move them right on to VoiceLogistics, with a minimum exposure to paperwork," he says. "The paperwork gives the seasoned selectors comfort because when they get their order, they can see the entire order in one glance, and with VoiceLogistics, you don't get that.

"Once they start to realize that they don't need all that information, they learn to trust the system and just go."

The solution speaks for itself. "I'm really into technology, so I'm all for anything that will make my day easier and faster," says Licciardelli. "I haven't found any drawbacks--and I would never go back to paper picking."

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