Scott Powell: Improving maintenance and inspection tasks through voice technology


For a number of years, maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) operations across sectors such as aerospace, truck fleet, automotive, process control, utilities and rail have been performed using pen and paper based operations. It used to be the same in warehouses and distribution centres, where the picking process was often carried out using paper pick lists.

Today, warehouse operations have realised the productivity and quality control benefits that come with switching to voice-directed technology, particularly within the last 10 years, and are keen for others, like MRO, to follow suit.

Voice-directed solutions have a number of different benefits that outweigh the outdated method of pen and paper. Work processes become automated so that workers can perform tasks more productively with voice technology. They no longer need to look down at their list, or take notes; – they can work hands-free and on the move, meaning they’re not wasting any time. Voice technology is also beneficial to workers from a health and safety standpoint. Operators are more aware of their surroundings, as they don’t have to spend time looking down at a checklist searching for the next location whilst driving, or juggling clipboards and devices while handling heavy objects. Additionally, distribution centre workers performing fulfilment tasks can pick orders with greater accuracy than before as they as they are looking at what they are picking and therefore more focused on their tasks. Statistics have shown that voice technology enables companies to typically achieve a 99.99% picking accuracy rate.

Voice technology takes flight

Voice-directed technology has been successfully utilised by contractors supporting Hill Air Force Base in Utah, to help workers perform maintenance and inspection activities on critical components in aerospace vehicles.

Technicians at the base have been able to work far more efficiently following the decision to abandon paper based methods. In the past, when boxes had to be physically checked off, there was a lot of wasted time – moving back and forth from the engine to the paperwork, grease and oil from the dirty engines would frequently be transferred onto the paper – thereby making certain parts illegible. But implementing voice solutions has rendered pen and paper methods in the air base obsolete.  What’s more, the technicians have been able to work on more engines in a day than ever before. Previously contractors could feasibly work on 8 or 9 engines, but this number has risen to anywhere from 11 to 12.

Technicians are also able to capture vital maintenance and inspection (M&I) information on a tablet or PC. The data collected is accessible in real-time, even to engineers based off-site. They can instantaneously study and analyse why specific engines are having certain problems and work to find a solution as soon as possible. This ability to collect and store data is also especially important in the aerospace industry, as data must be kept for several years in the event of a major incident – such as a crash that requires a thorough investigation.

Voice technology and soaring savings

The decision to modernise maintenance and inspection operations at Hill Air Force Base has meant that they have followed warehouse operations in becoming more efficient. Additional plus points of voice technology include workers performing more productively, improved accuracy levels, compliance with processes and better health and safety standards. But perhaps the biggest benefit for organisations turning to voice technology is the data collected. It enables a business to gain further insight into operations for improved business decision making. This may sound inconsequential, but in fact companies can perform more profitably and save millions in the long run. All things considered, it would be no surprise to see more companies continuing to modernise practices by embracing voice technology, once they realise what it can offer.

By Scott Powell, Global Product Lead for Honeywell Safety and Productivity Solutions.




About Author

Kizzi Nkwocha is the editor of My Logistics Money Magazine and My Entrepreneur Magazine. Kizzi Nkwocha made his mark in the UK as a publicist, journalist and social media pioneer. As a widely respected and successful media consultant he has represented a diverse range of clients including the King of Uganda, and Amnesty International. Nkwocha has also become a well-known personality on both radio and television. He has been the focus of a Channel 4 documentary on publicity and has hosted his own talk show, London Line, on Sky TV. He has also produced and presented both radio and TV shows in Cyprus and Spain. Nkwocha has published a number of books on running your own business and in 2011 his team won the Specialized Information Publishing Association (SIPA) award for best use of social media. In the UK he runs a successful consultancy called Social Biz Training which trains people on how to use social media for business.

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