IIoT Pick-to-Light leasing model: Game changer in pay-as-you-go scalability

Thomas R. Cutler of TR Cutler, Inc

IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) real-time, web-connected leased Pick-to-Light devices are the best choice for more than 90% of the distribution, warehouse, and cellular manufacturing assembly markets. According to Trevor Blumenau, CEO of Voodoo Robotics, based in Plano, TX, the characteristics most needed for an effective picking solution must offer machine to machine real-time productivity. SKU to SKU, Picker to Packer, high visibility, robust order pick displays with flexible mounting methods allow adaptable warehousing operations.

Comparing pick technologies side-by-side often reveals that Pick-to-Light solutions have best-practice picking accuracy. The light indicators make it difficult to pick from the wrong location – or the incorrect amount – when the light is both the pick instruction and location indicator, says Thomas R. Cutler, president & CEO of TR Cutler, Inc.

There is a clear cost-advantage and scalability to Pick-to-Light solutions determined by the number of SKUs; a display is required for each SKU picked. With voice or RF scanning equipment, the variable cost is determined by the number of operators picking. These characteristics for picking solutions are a great starting point, but what matters most is picking the right product at the right place at the right time.

Voodoo Robotics IIoT real-time web-connected leased Pick-to-Light devices

Achieving the highest productivity from a warehouse operation may require different technologies better-suited depending on the SKU order frequency and value. Until now, purchasing pick lights has represented a large capital equipment purchase with fixed costs.

It has also carried the detriment of immobile equipment, a serious flaw with fluctuating inventory, and variable SKUs. That has changed in the IIoT environment.

Pick-to-Light and IIoT

When the new devices are web-connected, providing real-time accurate picking data, immediate corrective actions can be made on the plant floor or distribution centre. Analysis of most warehouse orders will show a Pareto curve, where few SKUs account for a large percentage of orders. These fast-moving items are the “A” parts. Any small amount of efficiency gains in picking these “A” parts have a large impact on the overall productivity of the entire operation.

With exponential growth in SKUs, the permutations of one product can be complex. That variety and variability does not need to translate into the design, deployment, and maintenance of an effective picking solution. Blumenau insisted that hardware components should be modular and user-replaceable, minimising maintenance and costs.

Having these devices leverage IIoT technology instructs quarantining information or out-of-stock data. The messaging can be directed to a picker, by name or in the language spoken. This represents a disruptive approach to Pick-to-Light technology.

IIoT picking allows for the elimination of costly mispicks

Nothing represents a negative impact on relationships with customers more than product mispicks. Avoiding mispicks is critical if outsourcing order fulfillment; businesses are utilising 3PLs (Third Party Logistics) firms at the highest rate in recorded B2C (Business to Consumer) transactions. IIoT data ensures manufacturers can keep tabs on operational costs.

Just one incorrectly shipped SKU in the e-commerce space can be the entire margin of the shipment. Often the corrective action involves reshipping using costly overnight delivery services, like FEDEX, to keep the customer happy. With IIoT oversight in real-time, such mispicks can be completely avoided.

Trevor Blumenau

Voodoo Robotics’ starter kit allows customers to test the efficacy of the IIoT solution including access to inventory management called SKU Keeper. It is vendor agnostic and works with most WCS (warehouse control systems) and WMS (warehouse management systems). The ability to utilise these IIoT sensors increases effective inventory management, cycle time counting, conduct single picks, and do batch picking. Without the expense of costly RF Guns, operators, or warehouse managers (on-site or off-site) can verify items picked and packed.

IIoT Pick-to-Light scalability

For the first time, users do not buy lights; they lease them, just as software moved to the SaaS (software as a service) model years ago. Lights are leased monthly. If more are needed, more are ordered. If fewer are needed, they are returned. This pay-as-you-go approach changes the entire consideration about testing the efficacy of the concept.

There is no capital equipment purchased; users get started for $500 (€419.80) and test the product in their environment. This scalability up or down is particularly crucial in those warehouses experiencing any type of seasonality or variable expansion/contraction.

The author of this blog is Thomas R. Cutler, president & CEO of TR Cutler, Inc

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