Warehouse logistics is an ecosystem of solutions and tools that coexist and operate in synergy to achieve common goals, including efficient storage and preservation of goods and order preparation. Technological evolution has made warehouses a key component of ongoing progress, thanks to the use of systems which are capable of speeding up the management of goods and order preparation, enhancing operating conditions, reducing errors, and increasing productivity. These efforts towards more efficient warehouse operations certainly involve personnel, too: warehouse operators are no longer simple workers but the coordinators of an advanced, easy to manage and innovative system designed to facilitate their work.
In the complex world of warehouse logistics, we can distinguish:
- storage solutions, that is, the actual structures where goods are stored, such as automatic vertical and horizontal storage systems;
- software designed to manage warehouse automation and to be integrated with automatic storage systems;
- picking solutions, that is, systems that optimize the preparation of orders starting from the picking of goods from the storage areas.
In this article we will explore picking solutions and analyse their impact on warehouse logistics.
The put to light system and the elements that enhance its functionality
The put to light system is a picking solution developed to achieve greater efficiency in warehouse management, goods picking, and order preparation. The put to light system can make use of two elements that enhance its functionality, designed to work in synergy and to further improve warehouse logistics: the picking cart and the picking station.
Let’s start from the heart of the system, the put to light, which is the perfect solution for faster, more practical and intuitive order preparation. The put to light is part of the outbound internal logistics flow and is a valid aid in the sorting of goods. In fact, in the put to light system displays positioned on counters or roller conveyors visually guide the operator to the individual areas where the picked products and items must be placed. More precisely, each specific position is dynamically associated with an order and is combined with a lighted display that indicates to the operator where to place the item(s) and in what quantity. Through the implementation of dedicated WMS (Warehouse Management Software), it is possible to manage different picking processes such as batch picking (same SKU to be distributed on different orders) or multi-order picking (simultaneous preparation of multiple orders without batch picking). The put to light system can be applied to both automatic storage systems and traditional storage structures such as static shelving.
After introducing the put to light (PTL) system, it is time to further explain the characteristics and functions of two critical elements supporting the put to light method, the picking station and the picking cart:
- Picking station
The picking station can be considered the infrastructure (hardware) of the put to light (the core system). It is an intermediate storage point, consisting of a sturdy coated steel structure equipped with multiple shelves for the containers where the goods are placed. Each container is associated with a put to light display with its own control unit and power supply. The picking station can be used in combination with manual or automatic handling systems like belt conveyors. The picking stations are modular and thus can be placed side by side to expand the operating area (with operators on one side or both sides), which is very useful when it is necessary to process multiple orders simultaneously. The basic structure of the picking station can be customized with additional modules, to facilitate, for example, the installation of monitors, barcode readers, label printers or other accessories.
- Picking cart
The picking cart is a steel trolley equipped with 4 pivoting wheels, designed to be maneuvered with extreme ease. It has shelves for containers, put to light displays with the related control units, power or backup batteries, and WiFi systems for wireless connectivity. The picking cart can be moved manually by the operator or by autonomous mobile robots. The picking cart can be used with vertical or horizontal automatic storage systems as well as with “traditional” storage systems based on static shelving. Picking carts facilitate the handling of goods throughout the warehouse.
Picking stations and picking carts can also be supported by specific picking applications for smartphones and mobile devices which track picking and placing operations within the entire warehouse.
The advantages of picking solutions for warehouse logistics
All these new picking tools are aimed at improving the safety and efficiency of the warehouse personnel. The put to light, the picking station and the picking cart are 3 complementary elements which can work in synergy to improve productivity, a critical factor for many sectors such as distribution. Some of the main objectives of the picking solutions include:
- improve operating speed (for example, the number of picking operations in a given time unit) and therefore obtain savings in terms of processing time;
- increase precision and significantly reduce errors (which can occur in the case of manual processing);
- minimize the impact of reverse logistics;
- implement high-performance picking aids which require limited maintenance and upgrades to always guarantee top efficiency.
Do you want to optimize warehouse picking operations? Download the manual to learn more about how to improve picking processes.