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Pick-to-Light technology - The right ingredients for success

01 February 2019

Pick-to-light technology first came to prominence in the automotive industry and is a tried and tested method of reducing human errors in production processes.

Pick-to-light systems direct operators precisely and quickly to the correct bin locations in order to select the right parts and quantities. Light-directed picking is an effective error-proofing system that can significantly reduce assembly error rates. As a manufacturer of inductive proximity sensors, Turck Banner have a long and successful relationship with the automotive industry and were well placed to offer pick-to-light solutions.

Success followed in other sectors such as logistics and internet shipping. With light-guided systems no special language or product knowledge requirements are necessary, allowing companies to have completely diverse operating staff. This is particularly useful in the warehouse and logistics sector where companies utilise temporary labour during busy periods to perform picking operations with minimal training requirements. 

Seeking new opportunities, Turck Banner turned its attention to traditionally labour-intensive industries. In the food industry, for example, pick-to-light technology is used in a variety of confectionery selection operations and, in the fast food arena, extensive trials are underway for point-of-sale applications including sandwich and pizza preparation. In its ongoing quest to deliver a total solution, Turck Banner has teamed up with leading software company, Odema who are well versed in the demands of leading fast-food franchises. 

Major companies in the fast-food industry succeed by offering customers a bespoke choice of fillings in sandwiches and burgers or pizza toppings. Chiller cabinets, divided into sections or trays contain the various ingredients. When a customer’s order is entered onto the system a sequence of lights guides the assistant to the correct trays to fulfil the order. Bacon, lettuce and tomato are, after all, component parts of a BLT sandwich, in the same way as cogs and wheels are component parts of an automotive gearbox. Admittedly an incorrectly prepared sandwich or pizza represents minimal cost to the customer when compared to a gearbox. However, a faulty gearbox will be fixed, whereas the sandwich buyer will simply go elsewhere next time. The resulting damage to a company’s reputation and the loss of brand loyalty in a fiercely competitive market is incalculable.

Light-guided food preparation offers excellent opportunities for up-selling as a range of optional extras can be offered. More importantly light-guided systems help to minimise the health risk to customers with particular food allergies.

Turck Banner offers a comprehensive range of light-guided assembly solutions. Pick-to-light products are available in various rugged housing styles that are wash-down resistant to IP69K. The K Touch series in 30, 50 and 70mm diameter housings offer a choice of verification functions. The K Touch series require no pressure to operate, eliminating hand and wrist stress associated with repetitive mechanical operations.

In addition the K50 Optical series offers reliable photoelectric sensing for non-contact part picking applications in fixed-field or polarised retro-reflective versions.

The range is completed by a series of one and two-piece parts verification arrays including the one-piece PVD series with I/O-Link technology that can be used to automatically parameterise sensors and to transmit and/or receive process data. 

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