Modern Materials Handling Equipment Report: Lights, voice, action

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A look at what’s new in voice, mobile and pick-to-light technology for today’s warehouses and distribution centers.

By Bridget McCrea, Contributing Editor
July 01, 2015

As technology continues to advance at the speed of light, the equipment used to manage warehouse and DC fulfillment is improving and expanding exponentially. Every year, in fact, suppliers churn out an array of new voice, pick-to-light, and related innovations that enable processes and help employees work smarter, better and faster.

Concurrently, historical roadblocks like long implementation periods and the constraints imposed by propriety software are coming down and allowing companies to more effectively combine different technologies, use cloud-based options, and integrate various software platforms. This development helps enable a cohesive, streamlined operation that can effectively handle even the most demanding omni-channel environment.

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Breaking out of traditional “zones”
With an eye on supporting omni-channel operations and other specialized and personalized warehouse operations, Lightning Pick recently introduced the LP Light Sled. According to Joe Pelej, marketing manager, the sled is equipped with lights, positioned on a conveyor, and used in manual picking environments.

Used primarily in warehouses that have pick-to-light systems in place, the sled lets companies effectively “break out of the typical, zoned pick-to-light” setup and allows them to conduct cluster picks, says Pelej, and go beyond just picking orders that are for a specific customers or stores. “When the products arrive at the store, DC or other destination,” he says, “they are already grouped together for easier replenishment.”

With omni-channel exploding, Pelej says he’s seeing more applications and equipment being introduced that support both pick- and put-to-light technology. These innovations support the ongoing trend toward smaller orders, single-line orders and cross-channel orders, he says. “Vendors are creating hardware and software (including those where pick is integrated with conveyor control, motor-driven rollers and lighted conveyors) that lets retailers handle more and different channels as their DCs change,” says Pelej, “and to do a combined pick-and-put to accommodate those various channels.”

Looking ahead, Pelej expects warehouses to become even more flexible to meet the changing demands of their customers, be it related to store replenishment, e-commerce, and/or shipments to single customers. “There’s a lot of active, agile, cross-channel fulfillment going on in the warehouse,” says Pelej, “and much more personalization than we’ve ever seen before.”

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