Empty Tote and Level Monitoring for Retailers

Tote inspection is critical to allow for an efficient retail facility. With this, retailers gain the ability to determine the fill level of a tote and its direction of movement or if a tote is empty. Various solutions are available to detect if a tote is empty or the fill level of a tote. Three types of sensors can be used to detect empty totes: 2D LiDAR sensors, 2D and 3D vision sensors, and ultrasonic sensors.

In this five part blog post series, we’re highlighting five applications for intelligent sensor solutions that contribute to a fast, efficient, and economical supply chain in a series of blog post. In the third blog post, we discuss sensors for empty tote and level monitoring.

2D LiDAR Sensors

It is difficult for standardized picking processes to be 100% fault-free. Products can stay in totes when they should not, even with targeted optimizations. These types of logistics mistakes can affect every section of the business, from material handlers to customer service. For modern, omni-channel sales networks, knowledge of the exact amounts at each item location is critical, which is why the TiM3xx 2D LiDAR sensors do just that. They detect whether products have been left in totes. This makes it possible to report faults in the picking process before an order is sent with incorrect contents.

2D and 3D Vision Sensors

For retailers looking to determine the fill level of a tote and its direction of movement, the picoCam 2D vision camera is ideal, especially in the SIM4000 Sensor Integration machine (SIM). The picoCam supports complex image processing and is suited to applications where space is restricted. The 2D vision camera is available with 1-, 2-, or 4-megapixel resolution and in color, monochrome, or near infrared (NIR) camera variants. Image recording and transmission are decoupled in the internal 60 MB memory bank, which supports multi-camera applications.

As another option, 3D vision sensors work well for empty tote and level monitoring in the retail industry. SICK’s TriSpector1000 3D vision sensor is a configurable stand-alone sensor for this exact purpose. First, it records height profiles of moving totes with its laser line and puts them together as a high-resolution 3D image with intensity overlay. Using configurable tools, the TriSpector1000 detects the position and alignment of totes. It also detects and measures the interior of the tote. It is also able to switch between different parameter sets via the trigger for fast adjustment to different tote types.

Ultrasonic Sensors

Empty tote monitoring done with ultrasonic sensors can also prove useful for retailers. The high measurement accuracy due to internal temperature compensation, the color-independent detection of optically challenging objects, and the immunity to dirt and dust all enable reliable operation, even under the most challenging conditions. Synchronization and multiplexing of several sensors ensure efficient area monitoring without the sensors experiencing mutual interference.

Want to learn more about empty tote detection solutions? And don’t miss the next article in this blog series where we discuss how robot guidance solutions for tote picking applications.