Americana, owner of fashion retailer Bench, is hoping to lift productivity in its warehouse by using voice technology for stock picking.

Americana has signed a contract for an undisclosed sum with suppliers VoiteQ and Vocollect to use middleware software and mini computers that can be attached to staff’s clothing. The technology replaces a paper-based system for picking stock.

The technology talks the warehouse worker through a task by directing them to where the stock is and checking that the operator has chosen the right item.

The Manchester warehouse, which is Americana’s international distribution centre, processes about 7.5 million items and has about 2,500 pallets and 20,000 shelves.

Americana logistics director Damion Laycock said: “The implementation of voice middleware was the perfect solution for us. It enabled us to gain additional functionality, but without having the expense or disruption of altering our warehouse management module. This meant we increased our productivity and accuracy quickly and cost effectively.”

He added that Americana planned to use the technology for its wholesale division.

Voice-directed technology has become increasingly popular in the retail industry over the past few years, as retailers attempt to squeeze efficiencies from their supply chains.

WHSmith, another VoiteQ customer, last year said stock picking productivity in its travel division increased by between 15 and 20 per cent after voice technology was introduced, while its pence per unit cost was the same as it was six years ago, despite wage inflation.