In this article, we will answer the question ‘what is warehouse picking‘, looking in particular at the two types of pick to light and put tu light, and how material and/or product picking operations are speeded up with a view to preparing orders.
Warehouse picking consists of the selection and partial picking of materials in order to assemble products for shipment. Specifically, on the basis of the order received, materials are selected from different loading units to be prepared during the order preparation phase, which are destined for shipment in a single parcel or pallet.
It is essential that picking activities in the warehouse are carried out efficiently, smoothly and ergonomically in order to ensure efficient warehouse and stock management, reducing errors and product picking times as much as possible.
Zone picking is an order preparation method that serves to improve and speed up picking operations. Zone picking is achieved by dividing the warehouse into sections assigned to one or more operators; in this way not only does it drastically reduce the time taken by operators to move around, but it also makes the overall level of productivity more efficient.
Extremely effective tools can be used to optimise the preparation lines, including the installation of warehouse management software (WMS) and pick-to-light and put-to-light devices, which we will elaborate on shortly.
Once the initial investment linked to the installation has been overcome, such a system can be a considerable cost saver, as there are many advantages that it brings, from speed of operations to working ergonomics, from error reduction to punctuality of shipments.
Pick to light / Put to light: the differences
Let’s go into detail to define the two systems of put-to-light and pick-to-light. They perform opposite functions to each other, although both are characterised by the use of light devices. Put-to-light tells the operator where to put the goods and in what quantity (sorting); pick-to-light tells the operator where to pick up the products required by the shipping order each time.
Often, the two methods complement each other and can be chosen depending on the type of racking and merchandise cataloguing available.
The Pick-to-light system
Pick-to-light (PTL) reduces order processing times through the use of devices (with numeric display and lights) that help the operator quickly identify the product to be picked on the shelf. In addition, these devices signal to the operator the exact number of items to be dispatched in a given order.
Pick-to-light technology is controlled by the warehouse management software (WMS) to which it is connected. Pick-to-light equipment can be used if you have storage systems such as gravity parcel racking or pallet racking.
The main advantages of this withdrawal method are:
- the streamlining of picking procedures;
- the reduction of the margin of error during the preparation of orders;
- the possibility of associating each operator with a different light colour in order to pick with several employees at the same time
Through the use of special light devices, the put-to-light system (also known as sort-to-light) improves the preparation of orders during the order picking phase.
These solutions, also associated with a warehouse management software (WMS), indicate, by means of LED lights, where to place the goods and in what quantity. In particular, in the put-to-light system, each container/sector of a trolley has an associated light device that illuminates when necessary to indicate to the operator where to place the products during the preparation of orders.
The advantages of semi-automatic put-to-light include:
- increased speed and simplicity of order preparation thanks to the possibility for the operator to organise orders even simultaneously, during the same passage through the warehouse;
- the reduction of errors typical of manual order preparation operations;
LCS Group and fast picking solutions
For over thirty years, LCS Group has been designing and building automatic handling systems that make the production environment more efficient and safer, as well as reducing operating costs. Always focused to its customers’ requests, LCS customises each solution from the point of view of both the mechanical component and management software development.
Particularly interesting for LCS are the fast picking systems mentioned above, which, among other features, guarantee:
- consistent performance over time (up to 1.000 order lines per hour per operator);
- easy operation by staff;
- optimal ergonomics that allow the operator to adjust the height of the operation and avoid any uncomfortable upper body rotation.
LCS works closely with important Italian manufacturing companies such as Chiapparoli Logistica and Limonta for which, as you can read in the in-depth analysis, it has designed ad hoc automatic handling systems ready to optimise production while minimising the possibility of error.
Contact LCS here to find out how you can enhance your company with the most innovative solutions in the industry.