Integration of put-to-light technology in the WMS developed by Axes Software
As part of the “Innovative platform for artificial intelligence management of work processes in factories and warehouses” (Code 129490) project, which has been co-funded by the European Social Fund through the Competitiveness Operational Programme 2014-2020, Axes Software has recently developed a new xTrack WMS functionality, integrating put-to-light technology into the process of automating activities in warehouses – for a start, during the order sorting process that follows picking.
Let there be light … in warehouse business optimization processes
In recent years, lighting systems to quickly select and identify warehouse locations in order to increase productivity have become increasingly used in everyday logistics.
Using a combination of two types of equipment: mobile computers (barcode scanners, for example) that capture the necessary information from product labels, and light-signalling systems mounted on shelves placed in various areas of the warehouse, workers are able to skip preliminary checks and complete their tasks much faster and much easier.
Put-to-light, Sort-to light, Pick-to-light
The new technology of identifying locations based on light signaling is used to speed up both inbound and outbound processes.
There are ‘varieties’ of this technology, with names that highlight the logistics activities for which they are used to optimize. Put-to-light (also known as sort-to-light) not only speeds up and eliminates errors in the sorting and shelf placement processes in the putaway stage, but also in the grouping of products by order in the sorting stage.
Pick-to-light technology contributes, as the name suggests, to optimized picking, and together with WMS applications, ensures fast and error-free picking of products from the shelves so that costly returns caused by the delivery of products the customers have not ordered are eliminated.
The role of picking methods in the selection of put-to-light technology
The use of put-to-light technology depends on several factors such as the size of the warehouse, the variety of items stored, the daily volume of deliveries and the picking method used.
Why does the picking method dictate whether or not put-to-light technology should be used during the sorting stage? Picking methods are diverse, but only some of them involve a sorting stage, i.e. grouping the products collected from the shelves according to the orders before their packing and shipment to the final customer. With single order picking, for example, warehouse operators pick each order allocated to them separately, and sorting is “out of the question” because the products are grouped from the start.
In the case of an Axes Software xTrack WMS deployment in a warehouse of an online business, the method mainly used is pick and pass, also known as zone picking.
Description of the practical use of the technology during the sorting stage
The sorting area is separated from the packing area by a row of shelves, with “cells” in which the products corresponding to each individual order are placed. Each cell is fitted on both sides with a system of LEDs that indicate to both sorters and packers the state of product grouping for each order (in their corresponding cells).
Through xTrack WMS, the Axes Software team has achieved a complex integration of the mobile computers used and the light signalling system mounted on the sorting racks so that, when workers scan each product in the picking trolley separately, the LEDs corresponding to the cell in which it is to be placed light up.
The sorting status is marked by a colour code. If the sorting of products belonging to an order is in progress, the LED colour is blue. When all the items specified in an order are sorted, the LED of the respective cell turns white with a red border and one of the packers knows that they can take and put them in a parcel or a box.
The introduction of the put-to-light technology is a new development in a project that has been in place for several years and marks a step forward compared to the previous sorting method that was more demanding for workers.
Put-to-light WMS integration benefits
When activity in a warehouse is hectic and numerous parcels need to be packed for quick shipment so as to meet the rising order volumes, optimization means:
- speeding up the rate of sorting and grouping the picked items by order,
- minimizing human error and drastically reducing returns,
- eliminating manual verification of picked orders and avoiding partial shipments (xTrack WMS indicates the order pick rate at the sorting shelf as it automatically matches, during sorting, the items and quantities from ongoing orders with the items and quantities picked and grouped),
and last but not least,
- easing the workload and reducing stress for workers, who no longer have to rely on data other than the light signal during sorting.
If we’ve drawn your attention to how to improve order processing times and delivery accuracy with put-to-light technology, and you’d like to learn more, fill out the form under the Contact button and we’ll… contact you.