pack-to-light pack-to-tote

One of dozens of PQDs used in an Invata pack-to-light system in which inventory needed for store replenishment orders is packed to totes before being routed to a final pack station.

Pack-to-Light is a sophisticated goods to person order fulfillment solution specifically designed for distribution operations with retail store allocation and replenishment requirements. Ideally suited for companies servicing retail store locations, pack-to-light is a highly accurate and cost effective, hybrid put-to-light fulfillment process in which full cases can be efficiently broken down to store-ready quantities and packed for individual store locations.

How Pack-to-Light Technology Works:

Like a Put-to-Light system, Pack-to-Light systems utilize PutQuantity Displays (or PQDs) to direct operators in the order fulfillment process. A PQD is a bright, easy to read, LED display panel that is used to direct an operator in packing an assortment of goods into a carton, tote, or container associated with a store location.

While there are a wide range of Pack Quantity Displays available, they usually consist of:

  • An indicator light (used to draw a packer’s attention to the location).
  • One or more numeric and/or alphanumeric displays (used to indicate the quantity of items to be put to that location — and an SKU #, if needed).
  • One or more push buttons (used to confirm task completion or indicate that the order is short and the location is in need of replenishment).
  • Up/down push buttons (used to increment/decrement the quantity of items packed, if needed).
  • Illuminated arrows to indicate exact product location (if that PQD is shared between two pick locations).

Optional features can include:

  • Audio alerts (for pack confirmation)
  • Hand held RF device integration.

The Pack-to-Light Process:

The pack-to-light process is one in which Put Quantity Displays are assigned to shelves that are associated with individual retail store locations. On the shelves are cartons or totes ready to be packed for delivery to a store.  When totes are used, they are routed to a final packing station where tote contents will be transferred to cartons for shipment.

The pack-to-light process begins when merchandise arrives at the pack area usually via conveyor. As cases of inventory arrive, an operator scans the cases (usually with a portable hand held RF device). This triggers Invata’s warehouse control system software to evaluate store allocation and replenishment orders for matches with those inventory items.  As locations requiring the scanned items are identified, PQDs for those locations  illuminate to direct the operator where to put, or pack, the items while indicating how many to pack.

A put wall used in an Invata  pack-to-light operation.

Operators move along the pack-to-light line packing the items to their appropriate store cartons or totes and confirm that the task is complete by depressing an illuminated task complete push button.

When a store location has all of the items needed to complete an order (based on the calculated cube of the items required), the pack-to-light PQD indicates that the order is complete for that location and the carton(s) or tote(s) is placed on a conveyor for delivery to shipping. Confirmed pack results are updated on a real-time basis for updates to the host ERP via Invata’s warehouse software.

pack-to-light system

An Invata built pack-to-light system in which totes are associated store locations in need of allocation or replenishment. As inventory is brought into the system via conveyor, it is dispensed to totes to fulfill orders.

Enhanced Productivity through Pack-to-Light:


RF Terminal being used to scan item in pack-to-tote operation.

Uniquely suited to retail store distribution wherein the system must integrate to the entire operation of inbound sortation, cross docking, and inventory allocation, Invata pack-to-light systems are both cost efficient and easy to learn.

Order selector training on a pack-to-light system usually requires just a few minutes of time, easily enabling the use of temporary labor to meet seasonal peaks.

And with light direct picking systems both the accuracy as well as the productivity of the order processors is dramatically improved over results obtained in either paper or radio frequency based order fulfillment applications.

Benefits of an Invata Pack-to-Light solution:

  • Specifically designed for distribution operations with retail store allocation and replenishment demands.
  • Optimizes cross docking operations in which a percentage of cases are broken to accommodate individual store requirements.
  • Eliminates the need for paper pick lists and continuous RF terminal handling.
  • Frees operator hands for efficient product handling.
  • Requires minimal operator training — easy to use.
  • Dramatically improves productivity, while decreasing counting errors.
  • Supports an unlimited number of SKUs, since PQDs are only needed for pack locations versus SKU storage locations.
  • Easily scalable and configurable with wireless PQDs that can accommodate put location modifications and growth in a wide range of rack and conveyor configurations.
  • Enables productivity and accuracy tracking of individual operators.
  • Enables proactive throughput management through real-time productivity reporting.
  • PQD’s include feature built-in diagnostics for use in system maintenance.
  • System is fully integrated with Invata’s FastTrak warehouse control software for host reporting and management, and real-time decision execution.
  • Includes fully integrated exceptions processing capabilities.
  • Costs less than pick-to-light system as fewer PQDs are required.
  • Enables use of mobile applications with wireless PQDs.

Pack-to-Light Integration Considerations

Of equal importance to the performance of a pack-to-light system is the warehouse management system (WMS) and warehouse control system (WCS) software used to integrate a pack-to-light into an intralogistics system. Invata’s own FastTrak® WM+ warehouse software suite is a key asset to achieving optimal performance for pack-to-light systems of all types.

To learn more about what an Invata pack-to-light solution can do for your operation, contact us. We’ll be happy to share more about our rich history of employing pack-to-light technology to enhance order fulfillment productivity.

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