How to Breathe New Life Into New & Existing Put Wall Applications
Warehouses, distribution centers, retailers, and other order fulfillment operations have been leveraging put walls for years. Though the underlying strategy and technology that they are built upon aren’t often considered to be “high-tech” or “cutting edge,” put walls still offer many operations an easy, cost-effective means of order consolidation, enabling you to get greater pick efficiency out of your systems.
Paperless, scalable, and modular, put walls allow for improved order accuracy, shorter total order cycle time, and—because they empower you to do more with less labor—increased profitability. They can be particularly beneficial to operations dealing with SKU proliferation, more varied order profiles, and high throughput/velocity requirements.
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Put walls are particularly popular in ecommerce operations which handle small average orders, as a worker can pick multiple orders to a single tote, but then split them into individual orders at the wall. They can be leveraged as a part of both manual and automated picking systems.
But just because put walls are a tried-and-true solution, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways to improve upon them. Below, we discuss two ways that you can optimize your put wall applications to get even more value out of them for your operation.
2 Ways to Optimize Put Walls for Order Picking & Consolidation
1. Tailor your wave size to match the scale of your wall.
Some operations find themselves in trouble due to the size of their waves: They design waves without taking into consideration the number of cubbies, or compartments, which are ultimately available in the put wall. When waves consist of more orders than compartments, it’s possible that you may end up with a backlog of orders that can’t be put away, because all of the put wall compartments are full.
While this may seem obvious, it speaks to the importance of having the right WES directing your system. By simply ensuring that the number of orders you’ve assigned to a put wall match the number of available compartments, you can prevent the potential for backlog and streamline your workflows.
2. Leverage the different put technologies available to you.
It’s possible to leverage a number of other technologies to further increase the productivity and efficiency of your workers. Put technologies work by guiding the picker to the specific compartments or cubbies that they’re meant to deposit their orders into, removing confusion and shaving precious seconds off of every order that is fulfilled.
Put-to-light and put-to-voice are two time-tested put technologies which are often paired with put walls for this very reason, while augmented vision is emerging as another powerful option:
A put-to-light system leverages lights to give the worker a visual cue, indicating which compartments should receive product and which orders are ready to be packed. PTL is very common in the industry, and is often paired with put wall applications. But the technology does have its downsides: Namely, because lights must be installed, it can be expensive and time-consuming to implement.
A put-to-voice system uses auditory cues and voice instructions to direct the worker to the correct location. Guided by a headset, the worker has their eyes up, enabling them to quickly move between tasks, making the technology particularly helpful in operations which require speed. Still, it is not commonly used in conjunction with put wall applications.
While a relatively new technology, augmented vision brings a number of powerful benefits to a put wall application, supporting both the putting and picking activities associated with the wall. Augmented vision pairs the hands-free capabilities of pick-to-voice with the efficiency-boosting visual cues of pick-to-light, and because there is no hardware (lights, wiring) to be installed, it is often a much less expensive option. Additionally, augmented vision technology can allow an operation to generate additional positions during peak requirements, circumventing the issue discussed in #1 above. These positions can be on a section of shelving, rolling rack, a table top—any location that you attach a QR code to.
Weighing Your Options
Whether you have leveraged a put wall in your facility for years or you are only now beginning to consider adding one to your operation, it’s important to consider all of the various ways that you can optimize the application to get even greater value from it.
Tailoring your workflow so that the number of orders in each wave matches the number of available compartments in the put wall is one excellent strategy. Similarly, leveraging various put technologies such as put-to-light, put-to-voice, and augmented vision can also help you maximize efficiency.
Are you unsure of your best path forward in optimizing your put wall application? Do you need help determining whether put-to-light, put-to-voice, or augmented vision are right for you? Do you simply want another set of eyes to help guide your decision? Speaking with a trusted systems integrator can be an excellent place to start. Click here for a no-obligation consultation.