By Deborah Catalano Ruriani, December 2013, Inboundlogistics.com
For distribution operations where 80 percent or more of item-level picking volume comes from 20 percent or less of the SKU base, pick-to-light solutions can help optimize productivity and accuracy. Christina Dube, marketing communications manager of Westbrook, Maine-based materials handling solutions provider Kardex Remstar, offers these tips for selecting and implementing pick-to-light technology at your facility.
1. Evaluate your SKU volume. Pick-to-light works best for companies that generate a large number of SKUs through their warehouse. Does your facility have enough SKUs moving through the DC to warrant the expense of implementing pick-to-light?
2. Consider your current staff. If you employ a diverse staff, a pick-to-light solution—which does not have language requirements—might be more suitable than a pick-to-voice system. Pick-to-light allows seasonal or temporary labor to perform picking operations with minimal training, because workers simply need to see the light to initiate the pick.
3. Survey the warehouse to find the best fit. Before implementing a pick-to-light system in a warehouse, ensure the facility meets space requirements. Many companies decide to implement automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) along with pick-to-light solutions, so you must verify the space is suitable for all the equipment you plan to install.
4. Consider redesigning to maximize impact. If you are implementing AS/RS with the pick-to-light system, the warehouse might require some redesign. Remember that implementing AS/RS reduces the floor space available for other revenue-generating activities.
5. Select performance goals. Most companies implement pick-to-light systems to increase productivity. These solutions also reduce labor needs, improve accuracy, and increase picking speeds.
6. Analyze your existing process to prepare for measuring return on investment. Use statistics and metrics from current processes to compare to proposed pick-to-light processes.
7. Evaluate the existing WMS. Most pick-to-light systems can integrate with an existing warehouse management system (WMS) or enterprise resource planning system. Perform due diligence in analyzing the current systems’ capabilities in relation to adding pick-to-light. If the systems do not integrate correctly, workers may need to perform duplicate data entry, cancelling out any productivity gains from faster picking due to pick-to-light implementation.
8. Consider speed and accuracy levels. By instituting a pick-to-light system, you could expect 450 picks to be made each hour—10 times the number made by the average operator using a paper system. Pick-to-light systems can provide accuracy levels up to 99.9 percent, making them worthwhile for operations with high mispick costs.
9. Do your homework. Research and interview prospective providers, and match your needs against their pick-to-light product. Ask for references, then call them to solicit their input.
10. Select a system that can grow with you. It’s not necessary to equip the entire DC with pick-to-light technology overnight. Instead, consider implementing a pick-to-light solution in one or two work zones. Once you are familiar with pick-to-light and see the cost justification, then continue to introduce the system throughout your facility.