Voice technology can drive operational efficiency and improve safety.
By Jesse Robbins
In the modern workplace, teams are increasingly dispersed and mobile, forcing companies to face the challenge of keeping employees connected despite their distance. This challenge is even more urgent in the transportation and logistics field, where employees operate in traditionally siloed environments. When these processes are managed inefficiently, worker productivity suffers, and as a result, so does revenue.
In an industry where speed is everything and competitive advantage is more important than ever, organizations must equip employees with the technologies that improve performance and efficiency. In fact, data from Government Fleet’s annual trends survey found that fleet sizes grew by nearly 50 percent this past year, a figure that has consistently increased since 2014. With this influx, the time is now for organizations to adopt and deploy the technologies that workers can rely on to stay connected, and ultimately more productive, wherever the job takes them.
Teams in the transportation and logistics field need to work collaboratively throughout their daily workflows to keep time-sensitive deliverables on schedule. But traditional text-based communication can be confusing and time consuming, not to mention that it often leads to costly mistakes. That is why 85 percent of professionals want to use voice tools in their organization, according to the Voice in the Workplace Report from Orion Labs. In 2017, demand for new voice services, particularly among enterprise users, increased significantly, and workers today are looking for ways to easily implement voice services in their day-to-day.
Using voice communication tools enables workers to focus on the task at hand, without dialing a phone number or sending a text message. In fact, the same report found that manufacturing employers were the most likely to provide communication tools to their workers, compared to other industries surveyed. The industry is beginning to witness increased, rapid adoption of push-to-talk (PTT) technologies, like real-time voice services, two-way radios and consumer radios, and they are slowly becoming the primary communication tool for both large and small logistics companies. Limiting text-based communication also allows workers to keep their eyes up, and reduce back-and-forth time by relying on instant, real-time communication with colleagues anywhere in the world.
In simple terms, heads up, eyes up communication, like push-to-talk, not only reduces the distractions associated with text-based communication and manual data entry, but it also reduces the risk of human error – a common issue among logistics workers that often work long hours.
Get More Done with Less Distraction
To say that interruptions and distractions in the workplace are common would be an understatement. According to The New York Times, we get interrupted on average once every 11 minutes at work – that’s more than 40 interruptions per day, 200 per week and 11,000 per year. Employees who work in logistics face this challenge too, as warehouses are notorious for being noisy, cluttered and generally chaotic environments.
For those on the road, drivers are often communicating between dispatchers, suppliers and customers, and that requires manual data entry on a separate device inside the vehicle. Dealing with these distractions not only increases the amount of time required to finish the job, but it decreases the quality of work, puts workers at risk and potentially hurts the company’s profit.
Most organizations already have their operations team plugged into a series of tools that are essential to workflow, such as inventory tracking and fleet management. In order to optimize use of these platforms, organizations can work with a technology vendor to automate the processes, reducing the tasks that can lead to distractions and compromise safety. Today, nearly any process can become automated through a voice command, chatbot or other customized trigger.
Imagine, for example, that a trucking company’s central computer system is down, negatively impacting every vehicle on the road. The potential short- and long-term ramifications could be very costly and harmful to the employees and the brand. In this instance, had the trucking company used an automated voice platform, drivers within the organization would have been automatically notified in real-time that the system had failed. There are also more typical applications where bots can alert drivers when a truck’s freezer has lost power, or notify fleet managers when drivers are navigating erratically or making unexpected stops.
Instant Communication at Your Fingertips
Workers need technology that provides a flexible, easy-to-use way to communicate with their team in real-time. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone today, and as new mobile technologies come to market, communication is becoming faster, easier and more widespread than ever before. Logistics organizations are beginning to realize that using a pen and paper tracker, or even a heavy laptop, is not getting the job done for workers in a warehouse setting. We already know the risks associated with distractions, and organizations cannot afford to introduce safety hazards for workers responsible for tracking and recording data while operating a tug vehicle or performing maintenance work.
To eliminate the need to toggle between different devices, many organizations are equipping workers with wearable devices that can easily clip onto clothing or be worn on the wrist. Wearables sync easily with a mobile app, and can be used as an all-in-one tool for everything from voice communication, to checking inventory, to giving direction to other employees in different departments. Voice technology, specifically PTT, enables workers to use their wearable essentially hands-free, with just a simple tap of a finger or push of a button to access all the information they need to complete a task.
The transportation and logistics industry is currently undergoing a digital transformation – and the result is an increasingly connected business environment. There are many areas where manufacturing companies can use digitalization to improve their bottom line, but one of the most rewarding is employee productivity. A study from IDC finds that improvements in worker efficiency are worth nearly $162 billion, and operational efficiency follows closely at $117 billion. For organizations today, it is easier than ever before to find the tools and devices that meet the specific needs of their team. New technologies are providing even more ways to improve workplace efficiency so businesses can ensure that deadlines are met, employees are safe, customers are satisfied and profit is high.
Jesse Robbins is the founder and CEO of Orion Labs, a platform for instant, real-time team communication for enterprises. Robbins’ experience as a volunteer firefighter, EMT and emergency manager inspired him to create the company, and profoundly influences his efforts in technology. For more information, contact him at @jesserobbins on Twitter or www.linkedin.com/in/jesserobbins/.