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Is Pick to Light Right for You? Streamline Picking Processes with Easy, Visual Cues

Kevin Niehoff | 27 April 2022

Are you looking for a way to eliminate waste within your picking process? Are you struggling to achieve accuracy metrics? Does your operation suffer from constant turnover or accommodate seasonality?

If any of these scenarios hit a little too close to home, a pick to light solution may be a good choice to optimize your operation! In this article, I will go over the functionality, advantages and operations best suited for this technology. 

How PTL Works

PTL (pick to light) is an order-fulfillment solution that directs associates to pick items off the shelf, utilizing lights and alphanumeric technology. Since its inception in the 1980's, PTL has been a mainstay in distribution centers around the world due to its simplicity and proven productivity increases. Watch PTL in action below.

An easy way to understand how PTL increases efficiency within a distribution center is to imagine being a warehouse operator working in a fulfillment process for the first time. The operator will need to navigate a layout they are unfamiliar with, likely following a picklist to fulfill orders. This time-consuming process requires training and constant supervision until a sufficient working knowledge is obtained. With a PTL system to guide them, new operators can easily see which SKUs need to be picked for outbound orders when their respective lights activate.


A PTL system is an effective solution for eliminating waste and saving money within an operation. This method has a proven 30-50% increase in pick rate efficiency, as opposed to reading from a picklist or using an audio directed system. PTL also is a good solution for a multilingual workforce, providing an easy-to-learn process that leads to a quick ROI. This only covers a few of the many benefits of pick to light systems, Top 5 Benefits of Pick to Light Explained takes a closer look.

Optimal Pick to Light Applications

When determining if a light directed system is right for your business, consider the following scenarios that best suite a PTL.

  1. Small Selection, High Volume - Most operations that contain picking large volumes from a relatively small number of products are better suited for a PTL solution. From a logistics perspective, the Pareto Principle 80/20 Rule means 80% of volume shipped comes from 20% of the actual inventory. PTL is most effective when a small amount of the total products (about 20%) account for a large amount of the daily order volume (about 80%) for the following reasons:
  • Utilizes Less Space - Consolidating the highest-moving products (top 20% of the total) into designated zones combined with installing a PTL solution will save space within the warehouse.
  • Increases Efficiency - Smaller pick zones will provide quicker order-picking intervals as there is less travel required by operators and less space for products to travel from inventory to outbound.
  1. Efficient Floorplans - If you are looking to reduce the footprint of your picking process, PTL should be considered as it promotes a condensed layout. Light directed solutions are especially effective for dense pick faces – many pick locations in a small area – because there’s little walk time involved. Most of the task time is spent on location acquisition, which is improved by the light guidance.  

  2. Small Product Sizes - Since PTL is a manual process, smaller product sizes are beneficial for a successful operation as they take up less space in storage and require less time and effort to pick. This includes kit assembly, piece picking, or broken case picking. Smaller products in a dense area also limit the number of steps an operator needs to take for a pick.

PTL in a Modern Warehouse

For PTL to optimize your business, there are many determining factors to be considered such as integration with other automation equipment and software, product mix, and future business needs. Our team of engineers are available to discuss your needs and analyze your operations to find the best technology and system options available.

Author: Kevin Niehoff

Kevin is a Logistics Consultant for Bastian Solutions in the software division located in Louisville, Kentucky. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering from the University of Louisville. Kevin has experience designing warehouse control and execution systems for his customers. Systems include integration with highly automated goods to person technology, conveyor routing and more.


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