In an industry where high velocity, tight margins and aggressive customer service commitments are the norm, the increased demands of the holiday season provide additional stress on distributors’ fulfillment resources. Regardless of the added pressure, distributors know the importance of getting their customer’s orders correct and exceeding their expectations in the order-to-delivery cycle.

In order to fulfill demands and deliver a better customer experience, companies must leverage the latest and most advanced technologies for optimizing warehouse processes. The ability to leverage the correct technology can be the difference that allows an operation to achieve new levels of efficiency and productivity. The distributors best equipped to satisfy these demands often employ voice technology.

Known as a food and beverage industry best practice, voice technology enables a hands-free working environment that allows workers to safely, accurately and quickly complete tasks, increasing productivity while reducing costly errors. The ability for workers to more easily receive and communicate critical information is especially important during times of increased volume and demand, such as that experienced during the holiday season.

Hands-free, high quality voice solutions also allow food distributors to scale to meet increased demands in order volume and staffing requirements while maintaining the high standards of their warehouse operations. Two of the most important processes within the warehouse that benefit from a voice-enabled approach are capturing traceability data and catch weights.

Electronic traceability within the food and beverage supply chain is a growing issue. Programs such as the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) add specific guidelines for identifying and tracking perishable items in order to provide visibility to all fresh products and facilitate product recalls when required. While the goals of traceability initiatives are beneficial for end consumers and will also provide food and beverage service organizations with a valuable database of product information, applying new guidelines can be a large undertaking.

To comply with traceability guidelines, distributors may need to change their warehouse processes, employ new technologies and retrain workers. These operational changes make implementing traceability guidelines financially challenging for many distributors. Designing new processes and employing the correct technologies to efficiently and accurately record traceability data from GTIN and lot numbers from the GS1-128 barcodes is essential to support a “one up, one back” tracking system. However, many distributors’ current processes and technologies are not optimized for recording traceability data.

By using a voice-enabled process in conjunction with an RF scanning application, recording traceability data is efficient and accurate. Employing voice allows workers to focus on the task at hand rather than shifting their attention between the information and the input mechanism. Additionally, the ease of use and cost-effective nature of voice technology helps distributors alleviate some of the costs associated with becoming compliant with traceability guidelines. A voice-enabled process helps facilitate the collection and transmission of traceability data, while providing distributors the ability to extend the benefits of voice to other processes as they work toward compliance.

Recording the catch weight information of items is another potentially time consuming process; however, the proper collection of catch weight information is critical to ensure correct customer billing. In an industry where many products are billed by their weight, inaccurate data collection affects distributors’ bottom lines. Voice offers a faster, hands-free solution that ensures the accurate collection of catch weight data while increasing worker safety as they lift and move heavy items.

As the importance of accurate product selection and recording of data has increased, the need for voice technology in food and beverage distribution also has grown. Already an industry best practice, many large, mid-size and small organizations have yet to realize the benefits of voice due to the costs associated with traditional voice deployment projects. However, voice software is joining the migration to the cloud. With fewer on-site requirements, cloud-based voice solutions bring the benefits of voice to organizations that traditionally could not support an on-premise voice deployment project.

Cloud-based voice solutions help organizations more effectively receive, act on and communicate information critical to their business without requiring significant internal IT costs. Using Internet connectivity, organizations can quickly implement voice software to improve business processes, bypassing the traditional up-front cost, time and resource commitments associated with on-premise solutions to realize return on their investment in 90 days or less. The ability to run without an IT infrastructure and the pre-packaged, configurable nature of cloud-based voice solutions allows organizations to free up resources and eliminate costs associated with server hardware, maintenance and IT personnel.

With cloud-based voice, organizations — regardless of size — can gain the same advantages from voice that larger companies have realized for years. This enables them to stand on more equal footing in an incredibly competitive industry while ensuring they can more safely, quickly and accurately meet customer needs — helping them deliver an exceptional brand experience and increase profitability.