The continuously evolving marketplace has given rise to customers with varied tastes and preferences in products. This is compounded by the emergence of multiple engagement platforms where customers can avail or purchase these products. This includes both online channels and brick-and-mortar establishments.
These changes in demand spurred the need for more industrial warehouses that can meet the fast-paced and complex requirements needed to fulfill orders. Such warehouses carry multiple SKUs than can range in the thousands, depending on the popularity of the brand and the diversity of their portfolio.
Such warehouse scenarios require thousands of orders and pick processed at each passing hour. Relying on traditional, paper-based, and highly manual warehouse workflow will not work in such an environment. What is needed is an end-to-end use of innovative technologies that can automate or optimize the picking process.
Among the many industrial warehouse systems that have emerged in recent periods, one of the most innovative and most results-driven tools are Pick to Light Systems. These technological advances have provided favorable results as experienced by thousands of industrial warehouses across the globe.
The following provides an overview of the Pick to Light System and how industrial warehouse can implement this innovative technology to streamline and optimize their picking workflows and processes.
How the Pick by Light System Works
In a large industrial warehouse with multiple sections and thousands of SKUs, the picking process is a crucial step for successful order fulfillment, particularly in a fast-paced consumer market. The warehouse picking system used should not only be fast enough to handle multiple items of varying volumes, but it should also be accurate enough to ensure that the right items are delivered to intended recipients within a reasonable time.
In such an environment, the traditional way of having pickers, with a clipboard and paper list on hand, walking through the whole warehouse estate to search for and look for the items required on the order list, will not be efficient enough to get the job done. This can also be compounded by the fact that manually driven processes are not accurate and are highly prone to errors.
Advancements in technologies have given rise to innovative tools and a system like the Pick to Light that is geared towards optimizing the picking process, making it also more accurate and error-free. The Pick by Light is a system for picking items that make use of color-coded lights in combination with alphanumeric characters that makes it easier for pickers to locate and track the required items on their picklist.
Many of these systems make use of LED lights placed or installed in specific locations on bins and racks that contain the items or products. Some systems used these lights in combination with Electronic Shelf Labels (ESL) that provide other information regarding the product or item that the picker may find useful.
Whenever an order list needs to be fulfilled, the LED indicator lights above the bins or racks where the items are required will light on, and the required quantity will be displayed on an ESL Display terminal or a separate LED display. The picker will then proceed to the lighted areas, pick the required quantities displayed, scan the barcode or RFID, and will repeat the process until all light indicators and turned off – meaning all required items are fulfilled.
Advantages and Benefits of Pick by Light Systems
There may be variations on how the various Pick to Light Systems in the market is operated. This will depend on how extensive the systems have been deployed in the warehouse, the integration with a Warehouse Management System and the Inventory Management System, and the tools and peripherals the order pickers have at their disposal.
But one thing is certain in Pick to Light Systems, and that is the favorable results they can deliver to the performance of the Industrial Warehouse. The following describes some of these advantages and benefits that industrial warehouses can achieve when implementing a Pick to Light System.
- • Improved Warehouse Performance
Pick to Light Systems are designed to make the order picking process faster, more accurate, and less prone to errors. Results can also be monitored in real-time while the order list can be updated in real-time as well. This eliminates the need for multiple printing of pick lists or waiting in queue for pick lists to be printed and deployed.
This makes the Pick to Light System an essential tool for streamlining the performance of the industrial warehouse in a cost-effective, highly efficient, and highly accurate warehouse operations.
- • There is No Need for Language Requirements
Other picking systems, such as the voice-guided system is required to have multiple language options to accommodate the language diversity of the warehouse staff. Since the Pick by Light System makes use of lights and visual guidance to assist pickers, there will be no need for language options.
- • Improved Staff-Hours Utilization
One of the biggest losses in traditional warehouses is the wasted time order pickers are losing as they walk back and forth from one area to another within the warehouse facility to pick up items and fulfill the order picklist.
In a Pick to Light System, light indicators can be color-coded or divided into zones. Specific order pickers are assigned to each zone and will move accordingly, depending on the items required and lighted. The result will be more items picked up and processed within a lesser amount of time.
- • Pick to Light Systems Can be Integrated to Other Technologies
Many industrial warehouses are already equipped with centralized systems such as the Warehouse Management System (WMS), the Inventory Management System (IMS), and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). However, many picking systems cannot be integrated with these existing systems and would have to be executed separately.
Pick by Light Systems, however, are designed to be integrated with existing systems, making the order picking process much more convenient, accurate and less prone to errors. On top of that, they can also be integrated into analytics systems that provide a window where administrators can gain insights about the performance of the warehouse and the business.
- • Pick by Light Systems Can Easily be Taught and Trained
Warehouse operations are labor-intensive. In times of upsurges in the marketplace, there may be a need for additional personnel to perform the order picking tasks. However, this additional personnel may not have warehouse experience, thus requiring training and guidance.
Pick to Light Systems are easier to operate and do not require extensive training. New employees can easily learn the basics and be able to perform order picking and fulfillment in no time.
How to Implement a Pick by Light System
As mentioned earlier, there are many variations of Pick by Light Systems. These systems may require different resources than others or have unique aspects that need special considerations. The following describes steps and guidance on how to implement a Pick by Light System in an industrial warehouse setting.
- Make an Internal Assessment of the Qty and Volume of Your Existing SKUs
Industrial Warehouses with varied products and a huge number of SKUs are the ideal users of a Pick to Light System. However, the use of a Pick by Light System may not be practical for use for small-to-medium enterprises. In this regard, it would be best to make an internal assessment first on your product portfolio and SKUs if it will be worth it to invest in a Pick by Light System.
- Perform an Assessment on Your Existing Staff
A Pick by Light System is an ideal system to use when you have a very diverse warehouse staff as there will not be a need for language options and requirements. If you are also historically using seasonal or temporary warehouse labor to augment your staff on peak seasons, then a Pick to Light System would be an ideal system for your warehouse to use.
- Perform a Logistical and Layout Assessment of Your Warehouse
Before implementing a Pick to Light System, it would also be best to perform an assessment first of your existing warehouse facility, space, layout and equipment. There should be enough space and headroom on your bins and racks to accommodate the LED lighting system.
It would also be necessary to allocated space where ESL Displays are to be attached and located. If you are planning to upgrade to an Automated Storage and Retrieval System in the future, alongside your use of a Pick to Light System, then make sure that you have enough space for future installations.
- Establish Your Order Picking Performance Goals
It would be to your advantage to set and establish performance goals alongside your new Pick to Light System to gauge if your implementation is at par with what other industrial warehouses have successfully achieved. Set your goals according to the utilization of staff-hours, accuracy of order picking, incidence of errors, picking speeds and quantity.
Some established industrial warehouses reported achieving up to 450 picks per hour when they successfully implemented a Pick by Light System. This is basically up to 10 times faster than manual picking processes. This would be a good gauge to see if you can achieve the same performance.
- Assess Your Existing Warehouse Management System
As mentioned earlier, most Pick by Light Systems can be easily integrated with existing Warehouse Management Systems (WMS), Inventory Management Systems (IMS), and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. However, it would still be to your advantage to make an assessment of your existing systems and see if the Pick to Light System that you are planning to select can be integrated properly.
It would be best to require a Proof of Concept (POC) from your Pick by Light System vendor first before committing to the purchase deal of the system. Make sure that there are no integration issues, or if there are, ensure that this can be resolved or a workaround can be implemented. Otherwise, it would not be to your advantage to implement a system that is not fully pick to light.
- Select a System that is Scalable or Expandable
When choosing a Pick by Light System, it would be best to work with a provider and a product that is scalable or expandable to accommodate possible future expansions that you may have in your industrial warehouses. Such scalability or expansion should be seamless and non-disruptive to operations. This ensures that future growth can be covered and remain optimized.
The Take Away
The order picking process is a critical step in warehouse operations that can spell how successful and effective a warehouse and the business can fulfill orders and deliver products that are accurate and according to the published and promised time frame.
Traditional order picking flows and manual tools would not be a practical system to use in such warehouse scenarios. What is needed is Pick by Light Systems that make use of innovative technologies that make it easier, faster, and more accurate to deliver goods and products.
Some considerations and prerequisites should be fulfilled first before a good Pick by Light System is established in your industrial warehouse. But once these are fulfilled, you can be assured that your warehouse and business can enjoy the same benefits other industrial warehouses have already successfully achieved with their Pick by Light System.
Optimize your industrial warehouse with a Pick by Light system powered by SOLUM ESL solutions. For further inquiries, visit our website today at www.solumesl.com