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In the News: Pick-to-light's evolution

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Pick-to-light remains a great picking technology, but it hasn’t remained 20191029-Dicks_Sporting_Goods_Ecom_Conklin_NY-DSC_0954the same. That is actually a good thing, as it’s evolving to become more flexible.

Providers of light-directed solutions say the technology is no longer necessarily hardwired to shelf cubbies or used only for order picking. Light-directed solutions are also being paired with other technologies like wearable scanners—or can be augmented by voice.

What has remained consistent with pick-to-light and put-to-light systems is their efficiency in processing small, e-commerce sized orders. That keeps lights highly relevant, given that e-commerce has grown at close to 15% per year in recent years.

According to analysis by Adobe Systems, e-commerce shopping levels during Covid-19 (April to May 2020) were 7% higher than e-commerce during the 2019 holiday season. That’s a lot of small items to sort, pick and pack.


Though not limited to picking, another development is augmented reality (AR) picking in which the operator would wear smart glasses that would display any needed visual cues. While AR technology could be leveraged to create a virtual put wall, it can also be used for other reasons such as cycle counting or put away, explains Will Tritle, a logistics consultant with Bastian Solutions, a warehouse automation and software provider.

“AR provides that visual cue aspect, but instead of one device at each location, the glasses worn by the operator provide the visual cues for every needed location,” says Tritle. “AR has many capabilities, but generally, it’s more complex and requires more operator training than pick-to-light.”

The key trend, adds Tritle, is integrating lights with automation such as goods-to-person systems, whereby an operator could perform batch picks, with the needed inventory presented by the automation, and the put actions to select inventory into multiple customer order containers facilitated by light displays. This leveraging of light technology, adds Tritle, requires software integration between the lights and the automation, but carries the same simplicity and speed benefits as traditional pick-to-light set ups.

“The biggest trend going forward is probably combining pick-to-light with these automated systems,” says Tritle. “With lights, the key benefits are speed and simplicity. All that an operator has to do is scan a pick order, or a carton, and that lights up all the locations and all the quantities so the operator can see what needs to be done. I don’t think it gets any simpler than that from a picking perspective.”


Read the full article on Modern Materials Handling. 


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