Post-IFDA Thoughts

Posted November 1, 2011 by Patrick Downey

Recently, we attended the International Foodservice Distributors Association's (IFDA) Distribution Solutions Conference. It was an important year for the industry, as the economy is forcing customers out of restaurants and into their own kitchens.  Foodservice executives find themselves repeating the old adage, Do More With Less, to keep up with razor thin margins. 

The theme of the conference this year was "Innovation" – an apt motif, given the circumstances.  Mike Roach, President of Ben E. Keith Foods and Conference Chairman, spoke with Caroline Perkins in an interview before the conference.  He commented on hVideo portraying voice picking software vendor Voxwareow "The industry continues to contract, and we have to find new and improved ways to deal with that."  Innovation is more important now than it ever has been.  But why is this industry so reliant on it?  Can't cost savings be had at the expense of some cut corners?

No.  This industry doesn't prefer quality – it demands it.  Wrong shipments turn into lost customers real fast.  Restaurants simply can’t afford losing a menu item because of a DC error.  Order accuracy is paramount, but costs must come down.  This is where innovation comes in.

Conference attendees saw how voice picking is a perfect example of a cost-cutting, quality-saving tech innovation that can keep the industry robust.  Voice’s unparalleled order accuracy rates take care of quality, while its productivity boost gives enterprises the labor savings that they so desperately need.  High accuracy eliminates auditing processes, so workers are picking and not double-checking.  But advanced voice tech can bring even more cost savings to bear.

Beyond the obvious (hands-free, eyes-up) productivity benefits of voice, a few more sophisticated software qualities can keep foodservice DCs humming without worrying about accuracy:

  • A "manager-on-the-shoulder" help functionality, which gives workers the ability to prompt the system with help requests like "what do I say?" in case they need assistance
  • Configurable skill level settings, such as the availability of an "expert mode," lets you get the most out of each worker
  • A speaker-dependent recognizer, which is trained to understand each individual worker’s speech pattern, cutting down on misrecognitions and keeping workers moving instead of repeating themselves

All of these advancements are boosts to productivity that also impact quality in a positive way.  Necessity is the mother of invention.  And right now, this economy is squeezing the best innovations out of voice.


Patrick Downey is the Manager of Sales Operations at Voxware.


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