Amazon's Strategy for Pick to Light Systems in Warehouses

Elevated view of large distribution warehouse similar to Amazon, with pick to light systems

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Companies that operate fast-moving and complex warehouses are constantly looking at technology and processes that increase the efficiency of the warehouse. When there are thousands of picks to be performed each hour, the warehouse staff has to be accurate as well as fast so that customer orders are fulfilled, ensuring customer satisfaction is maintained.

Over the years, there have been a number of technological advances in warehouse systems and one of those is the “pick to light” method, which is used in thousands of warehouses across the US.

How Pick to Light Works

In a high-density order picking warehouse where there are multiple picking locations that require pickers to be fast and accurate, a “pick to light” or light-directed system can be implemented to enhance the capabilities of the employees and productivity of the warehouse.

The basic system will include lights above the racks or bins where the employee will be picking from. An operator will scan a barcode that is on a tote or picking container which represents the customer order. Based on the order, the system will require an operator to pick an item from a certain bin.

A light above the bin will illuminate with a quantity to pick, the operator will select the item or items for the order, and to confirm the pick, the operator will press the lighted indicator. The operator knows the picking for the order is complete when no further lights are illuminated.

Companies install light-directed systems when they require accurate and fast picking to be performed. The competition to light-directed systems, such as voice-guided picking systems, can, depending on the solution, operate slower as operators interpret the voice command and then perform the task.

Because the light-directed systems constantly show the quantity of the product to be picked, it does not require any repetition of the command.

Light-directed systems also allow simultaneous picking. In a voice-guided environment, the system informs the user of the next pick, based on the algorithm in the system. The light-directed system shows the users the remaining picks to be made on the order and the operator makes the decision, based on their experience, which is the next pick to be made.

Advantages of Pick to Light Systems

Some voice-guided systems offer companies the ability to operate the system using different languages based on the diversity of their warehouse staff.

However, the light-directed systems do not require any language requirements as only numbers are displayed. This allows companies to have a completely diverse warehouse staff without worrying about issues concerning understanding the systems voice or any language skill issues. It also allows companies to use temporary labor during busy seasons to perform picking operations with limited training requirements.

A light-guided system will give real-time feedback on order picking and the productivity of the operator. This reporting can be used to identify picking issues and how productivity is improving.

Companies that operate pick to light systems report that they can expect over 450 picks to be made per hour by each operator. This is approximately ten times the picks made by a warehouse operator using a paper-based system.

The equipment used in light-directed systems is simple and can be integrated with a company’s existing warehouse systems (WMS) or enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementations.

In order to optimize logistics throughput and overall supply chain efficiency, many companies that operate fast-moving and complex warehouses are looking for the exact type of advantage a pick-to-light system offers. When a company is working to supply its customers with what those customers want, when those customers want it and optimize revenue and reduce costs while accomplishing that, the increased throughput and speed of a pick-to-light system can be exactly what that company needs.