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  Manufacturing Insights   |   May, 2010
The Role of Pick-to-Light Benefits in Automation
by Thomas R. Cutler
 

Although it has been around for more than twenty years, the benefits of Pick-to-Light solutions cannot be overlooked.

What is Pick-to-Light?
There are extensive benefits of Light-Directed Order Picking. According to Bernie McCabe, Manager of Lightning Pick Technologies, “Pick-to-Light is a light directed order fulfillment system.” McCabe’s firm led the cable-free light module revolution and the innovative engineering of hardware technology continues to provide extreme operational advantages. All Pick-to-Light solutions do not possess the same robust software that drives powerful and flexible order fulfillment systems.

Media
The flexibility of best of breed Pick-to-Light technology solutions offer cable-free light module hardware; this flexibility enables the productivity of light-directed order fulfillment to virtually all popular material storage and handling media found in distribution centers and manufacturing plants. This includes static shelving, carton flow rack, batch picking carts, pallet rack, horizontal and vertical carousels, and others.

Hardware
McCabe shared the importance of cable-free light module revolution with the firm’s exclusive Twin-Wire design: “The innovative engineering of our hardware technology provides unprecedented flexibility for a variety of Light-directed order fulfillment solutions. The Twin Wire design allows modules to operate independently, without interconnected cabling, for fast and easy installations and system maintenance. Convenient surface mounting onto existing rack or shelving systems reduces installation time and costs. Product additions, re-slotting and maintenance are simply executed with a track lighting style configuration.”

It is critical that light-directed solutions have bright, clear, and functional lights. A variety of size profiles, light colors, and orientations must be available to best meet all application requirements.

Software
Users of Light-to-Pick solutions must have complete control through the Lightning Pick Management Console to quickly add products and locations, change staffing and work zones, expedite hot orders, access real-time statistics on picker productivity (including on an individual level), order volumes and all system activities. Advanced data management capabilities must also provide easy manipulation of business intelligence and reporting needs.

Pick to Light for Lean Manufacturing Environments

Pick-to-Light solutions are ideal for continuous improvement environments by reducing errors and defects in parts and components handling processes. The light-directed methodology is an effective poka-yoke (error proofing) device. Lean operations mandate that operators are directed to the correct parts and quantity required for the active Bill of Materials. McCabe notes, “Lightning Pick methodology also supports kaizen events by eliminating wasted touches common to paper-based material handling approaches.” Pick to Light is used in many mini-markets, supermarkets, warehouses, and other dedicated parts storage areas where operators are kitting, sequencing, or picking parts for the production line. Optimizing Just in Time and pull production processes enable the right parts to be delivered at the right time, build after build. As a result manufacturing customers have reduced downtime costs associated with defects, stoppage, and re-work to improve overall process efficiency. McCabe warns, “It is critical that a Pick-to-Light solution must be fully integrated into any MRP, MES, ERP, WMS or internally developed host system. We have many manufacturers who also want the option of Pick-to-Light installed as an independent, stand alone product in which Bills of Material, kits, or recipes can be entered, maintained, and used to control the light-directed activity.”



“Our deep catalog of light module model LED colors, size profiles, and feature options provide the perfect hardware for any application. Lightning Pick retrofits existing rack system, shelving, carts, workstations and other media for fast, easy and cost effective system installation,” according to McCabe.



Pick-to-Light is Fast.
By lighting the exact location or locations needed, Pick-to-Light is acknowledged as the fastest operator-based picking strategy available. In the time it takes to hear and interpret a location number or read a location number from a pick list of an RF terminal screen, the pick-to-light operator is already making the pick.

Pick-to-Light is Accurate.
By getting the operator to the right location each time the picking process is greatly simplified. Task simplification and replication produces accuracy.

Pick-to-Light is Paperless.
No more pick sheets to handle and tally marks to record. Pick-to-Light operators simply scan an order number on the carton or tote and the system does the rest. Paperless picking reduces costs, reduces errors, and streamlines operations.

Pick-to-Light is Simultaneous.
Other computer-based solutions like RF terminals and voice terminals are sequential in nature. The equipment is only capable of showing what the computer thinks should be the next pick. In a Pick-to-Light system ALL locations required in an area light up at once. This allows the operator to choose the best pick path and even pick in both directions.

Pick-to-Light is Team-Based.
Operators work in assembly line fashion. Each worker’s area is called a zone. Orders are passed from zone to zone on a conveyor, cart, or other transportation mechanism. This assembly line approach further enhances productivity by reducing walking.

Pick-to-Light is Cost Effective.
Pick-to-Light has been around for nearly twenty years. Originally, only the largest facilities with the fastest processing requirements could afford it. Recent advances in technology and the advent of Windows-based computer systems have brought the cost within reach of nearly all order fulfillment operations.

Lightning Pick’s slogan, “Done Right. At the speed of light,” captures the bottom-line lean impact of this long-proven, cost-effective technology.



Thomas R. Cutler is the President & CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based, TR Cutler, Inc, (www.trcutlerinc.com). Cutler is the founder of the Manufacturing Media Consortium of three thousand five hundred journalists and editors writing about trends in manufacturing. Cutler is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, Online News Association, American Society of Business Publication Editors, Committee of Concerned Journalists, as well as author of more than 300 feature articles annually regarding the manufacturing sector. Cutler is also the developer of lean technology C.E.O (Continuous Experiential Optimization). Cutler can be contacted at trcutler@trcutlerinc.com. See More Details.

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