Pick-by-Light accelerates manual logistics by over 60 percent

How a lightguided system significantly accelerates sorting and picking processes and drastically reduces error rates

Sioen Apparel is a specialist in technical textiles and protective clothing, and develops, produces and sells yarns, fabrics, nonwovens, textiles and garments for various applications worldwide. To optimize inbound and outbound processes at its distribution center in Mouscron, Belgium, Sioen has implemented a high-performance warehouse management system in combination with a pick-to-light solution based on the PTL110 series from Turck's optical sensor partner Banner Engineering and Turck's TBEN IP67 I/O modules. By using the cascadable display modules with optional touch button and optical sensor, error rates have been drastically reduced and sorting and picking processes significantly accelerated.

  • After scanning, the WMS indicates via pick-to-light the pallet on which the carton is to be placed

  • Goods at the logistics center in Mouscron are processed, stored, picked and prepared for shipment

  • The employees place the carton on the displayed pallet and acknowledge the action via the PTL110

  • Turck's TBEN-S multiprotocol I/O modules ensure reliable communication between the PTL110 and the WMS

  • PTL110 with touch button, optical sensor and three-digit display is ideal for reliable operator guidance

  • Filiep Vanwymelbeke | Sioen Apparel

Anyone who works in challenging and potentially dangerous environments needs quality protective clothing that protects against injury or accidents. The Belgian company Sioen specializes in technical textiles and protective workwear and produces more than three million pieces of protective clothing at 22 sites in 20 countries worldwide. At the Mouscron site, the family-owned company operates a large shipping and distribution center in addition to four production plants. Garments produced worldwide are processed, stored and picked there so that they can be shipped to customers quickly and efficiently.

Previously, the inbound and outbound processes were largely carried out manually. After delivery, the pallets were transported to a coworker who scanned the individual cartons and placed them on defined pallet positions. This took four to five coworkers around five hours to process a truck. 

A coworker in the outbound area would receive a pick list for each customer and go through the stores in order to collect the goods. “This was obviously not an efficient way of working,” recalls Filiep Vanwymelbeke, head of logistics at Sioen Apparel. “We therefore looked for a system that could handle the challenges of both the inbound as well as the outbound logistics.” We finally implemented a powerful warehouse management system (WMS) to solve this problem, in combination with an error-free pick-to-light solution based on the PTL110 series of Turck's optical sensor partner Banner Engineering.

Inbound: pick-to-light as a playmaker 
In the incoming goods area (inbound), employees lift the cartons from the pallets onto a conveyor belt. A scanner automatically captures the labels on the cartons as they pass by. Depending on the label, they are then directed to one of six conveyor belts. Once a coworker at the end of the conveyor belt has scanned the delivered carton, the WMS immediately indicates via the pick-to-light system which pallet it must be placed on. The coworker places the carton on the appropriate pallet and acknowledges the action via the touch button of the PTL110 device located above the pallet. 

The pick-to-light system provides several signal states. When, for example, the pallet is complete and can be removed, the LED of the PTL110 lights up blue.

Outbound: reliable order consolidation
Two streams of goods converge on the outbound conveyor: Cartons with standard contents and cartons with a mixture of different goods. The coworker scans the carton, whereupon the WMS determines the pallet on which it is to be placed. The PTL110s indicate the correct location of the pallet by means of simple color signals. "We are very satisfied with this way of working," says Vanwymelbeke. “We're thinking about doubling the number of PTL110 devices in the outbound area to serve even more customers and carriers at the same time.”

Multiprotocol I/O module ensures reliable operation
The communication of the PTL110 devices with the WMS is crucial for the optimal operation of the solution. All PTL110 devices are connected for this purpose via Turck's TBEN-S multiprotocol I/O modules. The robust IP67 modules can be mounted directly on the conveyor line without a control cabinet and feature as standard the web-based ARGEE field logic controller software. 

Communication with the WMS can be easily configured by using PickIQ. The customer's IT personnel do not need any special knowledge of automation software for this. 

Error rate reduced to zero 
The versatility of the PTL110 devices is demonstrated by their application in both inbound and outbound systems. They stand out on account of their fast response time and flexible installation options, which allows for easy customization and expansion of the system. The M12 connectors enable fast and safe installation of multiple devices. 

“The inbound error rate has dropped to virtually zero,” Vanwymelbeke notes. “Where it used to take five coworkers up to five hours to handle a truck, it is now handled by three coworkers in two to three hours. This corresponds to a time saving of up to 16 hours per truck per day. In this way we are able to use our employees for other tasks.”

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