Walking into the distribution warehouse of a major SA retailer, visitors are greeted by a buzz of voices saying things like: “Yes, yes, okay”, and “Repeat, repeat”. The people appear to be talking to themselves but they are not. Wearing headsets and wristband devices, they are responding to instructions from a “voice-picking” system that tells them what items, where and how many to collect from the various shelves. This kind of technology has been used in SA since about 2015 and is credited with significant efficiency improvements and reduced errors in the fast-moving consumer goods environment, where its hands-free, eyes-free features reportedly make it easier and quicker for human operators to locate the selected products. Wearable devices of this nature can also monitor the individual’s productivity and time management to the second. They can instantly detect that a particular worker is not meeting the product-picking targets set for the day and flag this for a performance discus...

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