Any business moving materials or goods from one place to another in high volumes probably already uses material handling solutions. These are systems and equipment that support operatives in moving items around safely and effectively and could be as small as one pallet truck or as large as a network of conveyors, or as high-tech as a fleet of Autonomous Mobile Robots. Material Handling solutions are mainly used in industries like warehousing, distribution, logistics, and fulfilment/eCommerce.
At Guidance Automation, we have several automated material handling systems that are specifically useful in sorting and selecting goods and materials. The right automation in these processes can increase warehouse efficiency dramatically, saving businesses time and money.
Light-Directed Material Handling Solutions
Two of our popular sortation systems have very similar names, so this blog is intended to separate them and their characteristics and uses. These are pick-to-light and put-to-light, and they work on the principle that people recognise light more quickly and accurately than labels. While both of these systems use lighting displays, they have almost opposite purposes, so it’s important not to mix them up.
Pick-to-Light uses a lighting display and a scanner to help warehouse workers find the right SKUs for an order. The lights show where items are on a shelving rack or pick wall so that operatives can find them easily. These are particularly useful for broken-case or piece-picking for order fulfilment in eCommerce centres.
When you scan the list of items for picking (or picklist), the Pick-to-Light device lights up, showing where the products are and how many to pick using a digital display. You then simply take everything with a light on and add it to the order tote. Some systems require you to acknowledge that you’ve taken the item by pressing a button or scanning a barcode on the picked item. Simply repeat this process until the picklist is completed.
Put-to-light is a very similar system, but some parts of the process are reversed. This is most useful where there are a set amount of orders and varied amounts of SKUs. Our Put-to-light system works using a put-wall, which helps operatives sort items for multiple orders in one pass. On arrival at the put-wall, you just need to scan one SKU, and every order that requires that item will illuminate. Pickers can distribute the items into each lit area and turn off the light once they’ve completed the task. Then, scan the following SKU and repeat.
When an order is complete, the put-wall can indicate that it is ready to ship. Our put-wall can include lights on both sides, so where one person is sorting SKUs into orders on one side, another person can take and pack completed orders as directed by the lighted array from the other side. This automation can save huge amounts of time and helps avoid errors. Pickers and packers do not need to read labels or order manifests to find the right place for each item. They simply look for the light.
Main differences between pick-to-light and put-to-light
The main difference between these light-directed material handling systems is indicated in their names.
- Pick-to-light means you pick or take SKUs from where the light is turned on.
- Put-to-light means you put or add SKUs to where the light is turned on.
There are a few more differences to cover here, including the parts of a picking and packing process in which these systems can best be applied.
- Pick-to-light systems are more suitable for use in broken-case picking. This is where operatives pick different quantities from open cases. Businesses can configure the lights to indicate the amount needed as well as the location, so the picker can accurately gather the correct number of each SKU for a batch of orders.
- Put-to-light systems are more suitable for use after the picking stage is complete. It streamlines the part of the process in which operatives sort the items into their individual orders for packing.
One of the best things about these semi-automated solutions is that businesses can use them together to create cumulative gains in efficiency. For example, you might take a mobile pick-to-light cart containing a batch of items to a put-to-light station or put wall, sorting the goods as directed by the lighted displays on each. This method has already facilitated high-speed sortation for users in this high-volume eCommerce fulfilment centre, increasing the number of orders handled in one shift by 480% and “all but eliminating error rates.”
Pick-to-Light and Put-to-Light from Guidance Automation
At Guidance Automation, we supply small-to-medium businesses with automation solutions. These include autonomous material handling systems such as Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs), light-directed materials handling systems and warehouse software. Our technologies and tools can support increased efficiency and accuracy in your warehouse, fulfilment centre or logistics facility, providing s opportunities for growth.
Our solutions are scalable to any size of business and worthwhile in even the smallest applications. We can install pick-to-light and put-to-light systems with minimal disruption to ongoing processes, helping you achieve ROI in minimal time. Feel free to get in touch with our sales team to tell us about your business and find out how light-directed manual handling systems can improve your throughput times.