Have you ever been given a shopping list to a grocery/retail store that you have never been to? You get that helpless feeling of trying to find out what exactly a “jackfruit” is let alone trying to locate it in the produce section (thank goodness “fruit” is in the name). Sure, maybe you have some clues to help get you there (aisle plaques, general intuition), but you know you’re in for a frustrating scavenger hunt over the next hour to complete your list.
What if there was an easier, automated way to locate these items? Say, when you want to find an item a beacon of light illuminates to direct you to the appropriate aisle, and then another beacon of light illuminates to get you to the correct shelf, and eventually the exact location on the shelf.
Now, what if you were directed by these lights in a pattern that would eliminate any back tracking to aisles or sections in the store you have already been to? (Unless I’m the only one that forgets something on the list and doesn’t catch it until check out). These lights would all but assure you get the exact right product on the list to ensure you get in and out of the store as quickly as possible. Maybe this isn’t practical in today’s stores (yet), but this is a standard pick to light application that is being utilized in warehouses across the globe.
Pick to light uses light devices mounted on flow rack, workstations, or mobile carts to guide operators to the correct location and quantities of the items needed to fulfil an order.
Pick to light (PTL) provides five key benefits to any type of warehouse and manufacturing operations.
In today’s logistics, returns due to mis-picks/qualities errors can bury distributors resulting in both their pocket books and from a reputation perspective. Consumers expect their shipments to be on time and 100% accurate. Pick to Light is a proven technology that provides near 100% accuracy to even the newest operators in the field.
Scanning features can also be added to provide additional validation checks such as universal product code, batch, lot, and location. For large quantity picks, PTL can also “chop up” the portions of the line item pick. So instead of an operator picking 20 items at a time, and keeping track of the count in their head, the system can “chop” those into subsets of 5 for a more manageable pick. Overall creating an experience that is highly efficient for both the operation and the employee.
Pick to light has commonly been used to facilitate operations needing to move and sort high velocity items. This isn’t a requirement of the technology; however, it speaks to the speed of picking that pick to light systems offer.
There are many factors to consider when calculating your potential pick speed: lines/order, units/line, walking distance, scanning requirements, etc.
Regardless of those requirements, PTL has proven to be a faster technology than traditional pick methods (paper, RF scanning), and has an accuracy rate of 99.5%. It is important to understand these factors that drive the process to not over/underestimate the expected operator’s productivity. PTL operations can have rates of 350 lines per man-hour or more, compared to voice picking in the same applications run 300 lines per man-hour or less
3. Ease of Use
One of the most valuable benefit of PTL, is the minimal learning curve to utilize the technology.
Peak seasons drive temporary labor, it’s the nature of the business. With this, operations do not have the luxury to train employees for multiple weeks and get them used to standard operating practices or cumbersome technologies.
Pick to Light allows operations supervisors to insert new operators at will. Scan the carton, look for the light, pick the quantity, hit the button. Rinse. Repeat. Rinse. Repeat.
This greatly reduces walk time and travel of the operators compared to searching a large warehouse on foot with paper picking.
4. Integration with other material handling technologies
- Software Integration – Warehouse Management Systems and Warehouse Control System
- Pick to Voice
- Goods-to-Person workstations
- Conveyor Systems
5. Increase customer service
At the end of the day, it is the end user that will experience the combined benefits of pick to light. The customers will now receive their orders quickly and more accurate. This will result in higher customer satisfaction with less returned inventory.
The combination of accuracy, speed and ease of use continues to make pick to light a staple of warehouse distribution.
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