A sortation system (sorter) is an integrated material handling conveyor system that automatically diverts product to a conveyor or chute for delivery to other areas of the DC including put-away, consolidation, replenishment, picking, audit, and outbound shipments. A sorter usually is chosen when the required speed and accuracy of an operation are too great to compensate for with manual labor.
Selecting a sortation systems depends on several factors. It is recommended to invest a significant amount of time to understand the entire process and to interview all work areas and levels of operation. The following questions, however, will typically help narrow the options for a shipping sorter, and you can also schedule a free Operational Audit with KMH to have one of our Team members help you assess your facility and operational needs.
What are the goals? Specify the needs among speed, accuracy, reducing human touches, freeing up floor space, process changes, building expansion, etc.
What are the product characteristics (dimensions, weights and types)?
Is the product trucked by pallet load, individual cartons or in another fashion?
Will cartons be shrink-wrapped or have other reflective properties? This adds complexity to the system’s equipment selection such as scanners and photo eye.
Does each individual carton have a readable (via inline scanner) bar code and where is the bar code located on the product?
What is the average weight and the maximum weight of the product? This will affect equipment selection and/or drive size requirements.
How many cartons need to be conveyed and sorted across a specific amount of time? Simple math provides the average throughput rate required for the system.
If it is a shipping sortation system, how many dock doors will the sorter feed?
Can this quantity of doors accept the volume of product being delivered by the sorter?
What is the anticipated growth of operations?
These key questions will narrow the applicable sortation options so one can begin understanding the rough cost. An example would be a distribution center that receives truckloads of unsorted boxes of shoes and sorts them onto pallets by style, size, width, and color. A sortation system can identify and sort based on the desired characteristic to a specific location so they can eventually be consolidated onto a pallet for further processing or storage.
“A place for everything and everything in its place” is a philosophy nowhere more applicable than when you’re overseeing a distribution center (DC). Your DC can thrive at top speeds with the proper sorting systems in place.