Robotics & Automation News

Market trends and business perspectives


Next generation pick-to-light offers dynamic automation scalability


By Thomas Cutler

Until now pick-to-light equipment has represented a significant fixed capital expense with little consideration for variable use, often driven by seasonality, warehouse/distribution variance, and project management flux.

From manufacturers to 3PL (third-party logistics) companies, these swings in low or high usage represented a level of waste as purchased lights went unused and wasted.

Pick-to-light is a fulfilment technology which uses alphanumeric displays and buttons at storage locations to guide the manual picking and recording of items for shipment. 

Upward scalability in the pick-to-light space simply meant buying more lights with no options for downward scale. One company, Texas-based Voodoo Robotics has invented a different model for the new generation of pick-to-light.

The new value proposition, according to Trevor Blumenau, CEO of Voodoo Robotics, recognizes that small manufacturers, distribution centers, and 3PLs are seeking flexible, easy-to-learn, and affordable technology solutions that are fully scalable to grow or shrink with any company’s requirements.

The system includes very economical Pick-to-Light devices which manage inventory in the warehouse.

These devices are leased on a month-to-month basis, so small manufacturers can reduce capital outlay, paying for only the lights needed (returning those unneeded).

It becomes the first variable inventory control expense in the industrial market based solely on use and need.

With the increasing demand for customizable manufacturing throughout the supply chain, a newer pick-to-light technology was needed that pioneers and advances the next generation of cost-effective picking solutions.

By deploying a standard cloud-based system using modern Industrial Internet of Things devices, there’s no expensive server to buy or depreciate.

Voodoo Robotics opens a new window

The Window Outfitters, also known as Two USA, believe that homes are more than just a place to live.

Recognized for manufacturing the industry’s best wood and aluminum shutters, the company has seen significant growth when their product is used to enclose outdoor patios and balconies as well as many other creative applications.

The products are used in both residential and commercial settings.

With its birthplace in Australia and US headquarters in Dallas, Texas, Two is very much an international company distributing in five different continents.

Texas-based The Window Outfitters, makers of custom wood and aluminum shutters
Ryan Fitzgerald, vice-president of The Window Outfitters, says: “We struggled with a large number of SKU’s [stock-keeping unit, an ID code for items of stock] and running them on Excel.

“We were not able to accurately report on WIP (work in progress) as jobs can be in the system for up to eight weeks. We needed a solution that would accurately forecast our inventory requirements.

“The biggest issue was that our inventory took three months to receive from ordering…by not including our WIP orders in the system, we were running out of stock.

“It affected our customers; lead times were drastically pushed out if we ran out of stock. We were attracted to Voodoo Robotics due to the simplicity and low cost. Voodoo Robotics created a system for account for WIP, live inventory depleting.”

Like Two, more manufacturers are seeking cost-effective options and Voodoo Robotics’ pick-to-light system paired with its SKU-Keeper Inventory Management package, offers a new best-of-breed inventory management with basic functionality and an interesting pay-as-you-go automation model.

An affordable solution, the system keeps track of received inventory and movements throughout the warehouse or manufacturing operation, while continuously updating information in the pick-to-light devices.

Voodoo Robotics SKU-Keeper Tablet with picklist

Mike Raboy, Director of Customer Relations at Voodoo Robotics, installed the Pick-to-Light devices and SKU-Keeper Inventory Management system.

Raboy described it this way: “Installation was very simple: I just used double-sided tape to attach the devices to the storage locations. When I was registering the device locations in the SKU-Keeper system, the guys from Two were looking over my shoulder.

“I showed them what I was doing and how easy it was and they took over and did it themselves! Setting up the Pick-to-Light devices with a WMS or ERP is also very simple. All that’s need is a URL to communicate.”

Businesses, whether in order fulfilment or manufacturing, see the need to resolve certain pain points; the trigger is usually when a company sees the costs of delivery rising, increased labor costs, and a need to control inventory.

There is a clarity, the company has lost control and this newer model of pick-to-light quickly and easily brings back inventory control and accuracy.

Thomas R. Cutler is the President & CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based, TR Cutler, Inc., ( Cutler is the founder of the Manufacturing Media Consortium including more than 6000 journalists, editors, and economists writing about trends in manufacturing, industry, material handling, and process improvement. Cutler authors more than 500 feature articles annually regarding the manufacturing sector and is the most published freelance industrial journalist worldwide. Cutler can be contacted at and can be followed on Twitter @ThomasRCutler.

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