June 23, 2023
June 23, 2023

Pick-To-Light Systems: A Guide

Learn what pick-to-light systems are and how they can help improve picking accuracy.


Pick to light systems are becoming increasingly popular in warehouses and distribution centers around the world. Such automated systems use light displays and sensors to guide workers through the picking process, resulting in increased accuracy and efficiency. In this article, we will explore the features and benefits of pick-to-light systems, and how they more specifically can help scale your business and increase ROI.

What is a pick-to-light system?

In the context of warehouse automation, a pick-to-light system, also referred to as pick-by-light system, is an advanced technology used in warehouses and distribution centers with the purpose of improving order picking efficiency and accuracy. The system works by employing light modules mounted on racks or shelves, which indicate the location of items to be picked as well as the quantity required. When an order is received, the system guides the operator to the right location, and the light module illuminates, prompting the operator to pick the required quantity. The main value of the technology is that it helps companies reduce errors and increase productivity in their order fulfillment process.

What is a put-to-light system?

The similar word “put-to-light system”, which can sometimes be compared with the pick-to-light system, is nevertheless different in terms of both purpose and practice. 

A put-to-light system is a material handling technology used in warehouses and distribution centers to facilitate the sorting, sequencing, and routing of products to their designated locations. The way it works is by using a series of alphanumeric displays mounted above storage or sorting locations to visually indicate the correct location for each item to be placed. Once the item is placed correctly, the display will acknowledge the completion of the task and hence signal the next location to be processed. 

In short, a pick-to-light system is used to pick items from storage, while a put-to-light system is used to put items into storage.

A game changer: Reduce your cost and improve efficiency with pick-to-light

Integrating a pick-to-light system can provide several advantages. Some of the benefits are listed below.

  • Increased productivity: The system can help reduce picking errors and increase picking speed, resulting in higher productivity levels.
  • Improved accuracy: By using lights to indicate the location of items, the system can help reduce errors and increase accuracy in picking and sorting.
  • Better inventory control: The system can help track inventory levels in real-time, allowing for better control and management of stock levels.
  • Reduced labor costs: With the increased productivity and accuracy, the need for labor can be reduced, resulting in lower labor costs.
  • Improved order fulfillment: The system can help reduce order cycle times, resulting in improved order fulfillment and customer satisfaction.
Close up image of the AutoStore FusionPort showing the bins at the two bin openings and controls
The AutoStore FusionPort Workstation comes with an in-built pick-to-light (PTL) system.

Pick-to-light systems improve order fulfillment and productivity

In summary, pick-to-light systems are a game changer when it comes to overall improvement of warehouse operations. The system can improve order fulfillment and productivity by reducing picking errors, increasing picking speed and accuracy, providing real-time inventory management, reducing training time for new employees, and improving overall efficiency in the warehouse or distribution center. As a result, implementing a pick-to-light system will likely lead to an increased ROI based on multiple factors.

How does a pick-to-light system work?

A pick-to-light system works by using light modules to indicate to the operator which items to pick, where to pick them from, and where to place them afterwards.

In depth, a pick-to-light system consists of a series of modules, each representing a different SKU (stock-keeping unit) or picking location. Each module contains a light (or several lights), a display, and a button (or several buttons).

When an order comes in, the system directs the picker to the first location on the pick path. When the picker arrives at the location, the pick-to-light module lights up, indicating the quantity to be picked. Once the picker has picked the first order in the path, the picker confirms by pressing the button (or buttons) on the module, and the system then directs the picker to the next location on the pick path.

The pick-to-light system can be integrated with a warehouse management system (WMS) or order management system (OMS) to ensure that orders are picked accurately and efficiently. 

AutoStore pick-to-light lamps
Pick-to-light systems generally have an accuracy rate of 99.9% or higher, which significantly reduces errors and improves efficiency in warehouse operations.

99.9% accuracy in picking and sorting

How accurate are pick-to-light systems then in picking and sorting? The answer is rather short: Pick-to-light systems are highly accurate in picking and sorting items. However, the accuracy of the system depends on several factors, such as the quality of the system, the training of the operators, and the consistency of the picking process. 

In general, pick-to-light systems have an accuracy rate of 99.9% or higher, which significantly reduces errors and improves efficiency in warehouse operations. 

Various industries benefit from a pick-to-light system

Pick-to-light systems are widely used in industries that involve order picking and sorting, such as e-commerce, retail, grocery, pharmaceuticals, and manufacturing. They are particularly beneficial in environments with high volumes of small orders and quick turnaround times, where efficiency and accuracy are critical. Below are some examples of specific industries that usually benefit from pick-to-light.

  • E-commerce and retail: Pick-to-light systems are widely used in e-commerce and retail distribution centers to ensure fast and accurate picking of individual items.
  • Automotive: The automotive industry uses pick-to-light systems for kitting and assembly operations, where different parts and components need to be picked and assembled in a specific order.
  • Pharmaceuticals: The pharmaceutical industry uses pick-to-light systems for accurate picking and sorting of drugs and other medical supplies.
  • Food and beverage: The food and beverage industry uses pick-to-light systems for accurate picking and sorting of both ingredients and finished products, such as beverages, snacks, and packaged foods.
  • Electronics: Pick-to-light systems are used in the electronics industry for accurate picking and sorting of small electronic components and devices.

Integration of pick-to-light with your existing systems

The integration of a pick-to-light system into an existing picking operation can be a challenging task, but, on the other hand, it can offer significant benefits in terms of accuracy, efficiency, and productivity. 

How to integrate pick-to-light systems with other warehouse management systems

Integrating pick-to-light systems with other warehouse management systems can greatly enhance warehouse productivity and streamline the order fulfillment process. In order to achieve successful integration, certain steps need to be taken into consideration. 

Firstly, it is important to select a pick-to-light system that is compatible with the existing warehouse management system. This may involve researching and consulting with vendors to ensure that the systems can communicate effectively with each other.

Once a compatible pick-to-light system is selected, integration can begin. This typically involves programming the pick-to-light system to communicate with the warehouse management system, for example by mapping out data fields and setting up the appropriate communication protocols.

It is additionally important to train staff on how to use the integrated system. This may involve providing training sessions and documentation to ensure that employees are comfortable with the new system and understand how to use it effectively to minimize the risk of human errors. 

How to connect pick-to-light systems with other automation technologies

To maximize the benefits of a pick-to-light system, it must be integrated with other automation technologies such as conveyors, AS/RS systems, and warehouse management software. Integrating pick-to-light systems with these technologies involves connecting each system through a central automation interface and configuring communication protocols for seamless data exchange and efficient performance. Please check with your distributor the best solution for your warehouse before integrating.

Matching the pick-to-light system with your business needs

When it comes to optimizing warehouse operations, integrating a pick-to-light system can be a game-changer. However, with so many options on the market, choosing the right system can be overwhelming, which is why certain key factors must be taken into consideration to ensure maximum efficiency and productivity in your warehouse.

Selecting the right pick-to-light system

Selecting the right system for your specific needs is crucial. While most pick-to-light systems offer benefits such as faster picking times and improved accuracy, each system has its own unique capabilities and limitations to take into consideration.

One of the most important factors to consider when selecting a pick-to-light system is the type of products that your business handles, as different systems are designed to handle different types of products. Therefore, determine whether your products belong to the category of small, lightweight items or larger, heavier items. 

Other factors to consider when selecting a pick-to-light system include the system's accuracy, speed, ease of use, and compatibility with other warehouse management software and automation systems. Additionally, it is important to consider the total cost of ownership, including installation, maintenance, and training costs.

Some warehouse automation technology also comes with pick-to-light systems already integrated and eliminates the need to integrate it separately. In AutoStore, both the FusionPort and FusionPort Staging Workstations (Ports) come with pick-to-light pre-installed.

Overall, selecting the right pick-to-light system for your business requires careful consideration of your specific needs and requirements. However, once decided and implemented, you can improve efficiency, accuracy, and overall performance in your warehouse or distribution center.

Cost of a pick-to-light system

Additionally, make sure to consider your budget when choosing a pick-to-light system. While cost should not be the only consideration, it is essential to select a system that provides a good return on investment (ROI). Therefore, consider the cost of installation, training, and maintenance, as well as the ongoing cost of operating the system.


In summary, pick-to-light systems are automated warehouse technologies that use lights and displays to guide workers through the picking process, reducing errors and improving efficiency. Implementation of the system offers benefits such as faster pick times, improved accuracy, and reduced training time for new employees. Pick-to-light systems are relevant in various industries, but specially useful in high-volume and high-variability warehouses, as they can contribute to streamlining operations and increasing productivity, eventually leading to a higher ROI. 

Do you want to learn more about how to automate your warehouse operations to improve efficiency and ROI? Let's get in touch today.

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