Automation: A twist on multi-modal picking

A new solution brings together lights, voice and bar code scanning into one solution

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The data collection industry has been talking about multi-modal data collection for the last couple of years. That’s hardware that gives the user the option between scanning a bar code or using a voice-enabled headset without switching devices. Other configurations might include a keyboard for manual entry and there has been talk of throwing RFID into the mix.

Last week, I talked to Zane Daggett, a general manager with Wynright, about a new picking solution Wynright is introducing. Daggett referred to it as hybrid picking, but in reality, it’s a multi-modal picking solution designed for multi-carton picking applications. That is one where the order selector is picking to multiple orders at one time.

“We’ve developed an application where lights and voice work in conjunction with one another,” Daggett explained, adding that a bar code scan may initiate the process, which means it ultimately brings together three data collection technologies.

In essence, the system is a pick-to-light, put-to-voice solution. In most scenarios, an order selector would be working in a carton flow pick zone with multiple SKUs to select from. The order selector will scan in a group of cartons or totes at a picking station, with each container dedicated to a unique order. At that point, lights will identify which donor cartons to pick from. When the order selector turns after picking from the donor carton, the voice system will identify the shipping carton for the put.

“In a traditional system, the order selector is picking for one tote at a time,” Daggett says. “In this situation, the selector can pick to a cluster of orders at one time. It takes the thinking process out.” Daggett says two systems are already in place and those customers are seeing 18% improvements in productivity.

I asked two questions. First, isn’t this similar to the way goods-to-person solutions that deliver a donor tote to a work station work? “Yes, but at a much lower cost to implement, especially if the end user already has one of those two technologies in place,” Daggett says. For the end user who doesn’t have either pick-to-light or voice already installed, the start up costs may be prohibitive. “They would be very cautious to take this on,” he says.

The second was what type of application is Wynright targeting? “We see it as both store replenishment and direct-to-consumer,” Daggett explains. “It’s the facility that can benefit from picking to multiple orders at one time, and already has at least one of the two picking technologies already in place.”

About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Bob Trebilcock, editorial director, has covered materials handling, technology, logistics and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. In addition to Supply Chain Management Review, he is also Executive Editor of Modern Materials Handling. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

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