So-called »pick-by-light« solutions have been established in order to optimize picking and assembling processes, thereby making intricate and unclear pack-lists in paper form obsolete. A signal lamp located directly on the storage bin indicates which article a warehouse worker must take when filling a commissioning order and a receipt button confirms that the correct article has indeed been picked up. There are many obvious advantages to this method. Personnel responsible for filling orders are guided step by step and steered quickly and clearly by light signals designating correct pick-up locations. There is no need for supplemental lists and there are no documents to carry or fill in. Search time can be dramatically reduced and the speed at which items can be picked up therefore substantially increased. However, until now, pick-by-light systems have been predominantly cable-connected and retrofitting individual storage bins has been cumbersome and cost-intensive.
Fraunhofer proposes an alternative solution using radio-frequency identification (RFID)technology. Research Manager Prof. Dirk Reichelt explains, »RFID tags wirelessly capture the energy required for their operation from the radiated electromagnetic field of the RFID reader. They are maintenance-free and have an almost unlimited lifetime. The advantage of using passive, i.e. battery-free RFID sensors is that cables or batteries are not required for retrofitting a bin«. In the Fraunhofer IPMS solution, for example, warehouse storage or stacking bins are equipped with passive RFID tags. These »intelligent« containers can be unequivocally identified and precisely controlled. Integrated on the RFID tag, an LED indicates the correct pick-up bin by lighting it up. At the same time, an integrated RFID weighing sensor determines the weight and material stock on-hand and, if necessary, initiates a refilling process thereby eliminating the need for material withdrawal confirmation and the manual inventory of current stock.
RFID sensor development for intelligent storage bins is just part of the complete range of RFID services offered by Fraunhofer IPMS. Comprehensive services begin with an initial individual consultation on RFID applications, followed by the development of RFID circuits with an integrated sensor-bridge to allow for the connection of almost any sensor, and the installation of hardware for sensor transponders as well as their individual adaptations to specific application scenarios. Services are completed with final bonding into existing software systems with integrated data analysis and process control. The Fraunhofer IPMS research institute provides customer evaluation kits which allow clients to test the benefits of its RFID sensor technology for a wide range of applications.
The institute will introduce its pick-by-light solution at the 2017 LogiMAT international trade fair for distribution, materials handling and information flow from 14 to 16 March in Stuttgart. Visitors can view the Fraunhofer IPMS solution at the AIM industrial community booth (Hall 4 / F02). Together with AIM, Fraunhofer IPMS will also present scenarios with exemplary process procedures in production, material flow and logistics within the framework of the so-called Tracking & Tracing Theaters (Hall 4 / F05). Here, the various, single steps of how moving objects are tracked with AutoID technologies as well as sensors will be demonstrated.
Together with its industrial partners, Fraunhofer IPMS is well represented at three stations. Guided tours of the T & TT are provided for LogiMAT visitors several times throughout the day.