The fulfilment of an order from a warehouse would appear to be quite a straightforward process: identify the product location, collect the correct quantity of that product from inventory, and pack the customer order.
Yes, the principle is simple, but there are multiple ways in which products can be picked from the warehouse, ranging from pick through paper and pick-by-barcode, to pick-by-voice, pick-by-vision and pick-by-light. The choice of system can depend on a number of parameters – such as the scale of the warehouse and order size, to the volume and variety of products in an order.
Probably the simplest and rudimentary is pick-by-paper, which involves using printed order slips with picklists, used by warehouse staff to go and pick individual orders from their specific locations. This may be great for small operations with small order sizes but is difficult to scale up, can be slow, and also doesn’t provide real-time management information.
A step up from this system is pick-by-barcode. Linked to a warehouse management system (WMS), a barcode scanner is used by the picker to locate and identify the product(s), and once the product is picked, information sent back to the WMS can ensure that inventory information is automatically updated. Pick-by-barcode will reduce picking times compared to pick-by-paper and can reduce order picking errors.
While the above takes you into the realms of paperless scanning, pick-by-voice goes one further by freeing up the picker’s hands. In this system, the picker is equipped with a headset and microphone, and receives instructions through the headset to indicate what to pick, how many, and where. Using speech recognition, the picker’s acknowledgement through the microphone is fed back into the WMS. The main disadvantage of this system is the potential for errors.
Another hands-free solution is pick-by-vision, which involves the picker wearing smart glasses connected to the WMS. This can significantly improve productivity and reduce training time for pickers. Images and text on screen guide the picker to ensure better accuracy and potentially fewer errors due to mis-picks. And the picker confirms a pick by a button or gesture via the smart glasses.
Finally, the pick-to-light system involves guiding the picker with step by step instructions with light signals in displays indicating which products to pick and how many. The picker confirms the action by pressing the button, which then updates the WMS.
The smartCAP solution from CAPTRON is a pick-to-light system which, when integrated with a SENSORhub, can operate up to 80 storage locations to guide warehouse pickers to the correct picking location and pick the correct quantity of product.
This pick-to-light system has advantages similar to some of the others – in terms of being paperless, improving productivity and accuracy and enabling the tracking of key performance indicators (KPIs). Training time for pickers is also reduced. Since the lights direct the picker to the correct location, it is not necessary for the picker to have detailed knowledge of the warehouse.
Pick productivity can be improved by up to 50% over paper-picking, as lights help warehouse pickers locate the correct items on their picklists quickly. Additional productivity gains can be obtained by optimized path planning which can also reduce walking time – especially with newer picking systems which optimize picking by directing pickers along the most efficient path.
Miss-picks or inaccurate picking can be costly not just in terms of having to process returns and re-ship, but also in terms of customer service and brand reputation, as well as impact on product margin and ultimately profits. Pick-to-light using smartCAP helps improve accuracy by helping ensure operators pick the correct items and put them in the correct bin or other location.
Other benefits of pick-to-light include optimized batch and cluster picking and reduced order cycle time. By accurately and efficiently packing multiple orders in one pass through the warehouse, batch and cluster picking can be optimized. Lights can be installed on racks and on the picking cart. A picklight installed on a rack indicates which item should be picked. When the picker acknowledges the pick, a put-light on the cart indicates which bin or tote should receive the picked item.
By using pick-to-light, a whole host of KPIs can be measured. For example, order cycle time indicates the time between when an order is placed to when it is delivered. Shorter order cycle times positively impact a business' ability to attract and retain customers. With the metrics enabled through the picking system, this time can easily be measured. In addition, by measuring picklist initiation and pick acknowledgment, it is possible to access other order fulfilment metrics such as fill rate, pick rate and productivity. It is even possible to determine and reward the fastest or most accurate pickers and work out which operators are underperforming.
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If you are interested in learning more about CAPTRON's pick-to-light systems please contact our sales team via firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at (914)-619-5422. We look forward to increasing the efficiency, user-ability, and speed of your picking processes!