Sortation is the process of identifying items on a conveyor system and diverting them to specific destinations using a variety of devices controlled by task-specific software. Sorters are applied to different applications depending upon the product type and the required rate.
In a distribution center, sortation is used at different steps of the order fulfillment process:
- Return Processing – Once disposition of goods has been performed, items can be sorted out for return to stock or putaway.
- Putaway – When trailer loads of mixed SKUs are received, usually floor loaded containers. A receiving system is helpful removing cases from the trailer and then sorting the cartons by SKU, so items can be palletized with one touch prior to being put away in reserve storage.
- Cross docking – For just in time inventory to active orders being consolidated.
- In split case picking there may be many different areas to be picked from, so a sorter is used to route cartons/totes into the proper zones. This maximizes the productivity of order fulfillment selectors by only touching orders that have picks in their zone. Not to mention, it also shortens order cycle time.
- A sorter can be used to consolidate multiple tote orders within the same pack station so that they can be shipped in the same carton.
- The sorter can be used to route split case orders to specific types of packing tasks based on the type of shipping container required, ie. poly-bags, cartons, gift wrapping, etc.
- Orders can be sorted by LTL, small package, or other carrier/service method.
- A sorter can be used to consolidate full case picks and split case picks to the same lane, so they can be palletized together for shipment or loaded directly onto a trailer to maximize the cube being shipped.
Conveyco has been delivering sortation systems for clients for over 35 years, and our sortation system capabilities are among the most advanced in the industry. From highly specialized vertical market segments in the distribution space to robotic palletizing systems, we have successfully designed and installed some of the highest rate sortation systems in North America.
There are an extraordinarily wide range of options for case level sortation, unit level sortation, and in-motion fulfillment. There are a variety of criteria that needs be considered when selecting available sortation technologies. There are many things to be taken into consideration when selecting the RightFit technology.
Characteristics to take into consideration before sortation
- Fragility of the materials to be handled
- Product geometry (size, weight)
- Materials (bags, cartons, envelopes)
- Flat bottoms or uneven bottoms
- Rate considerations
- Function of the sorter (packing, routing, shipping)
- Sound level
- Available footprint
There are two major types of sortation: case level and unit sortation. The technologies available to handle each type of sortation fall into two primary types of sortation systems: linear and loop (also known as circular) sortation systems.
To categorize by sorter type is often confusing and incomplete. What follows below is the most complete sortation resource available listing all the major types of sortation technologies with the following metrics that each can achieve as well as their application:
Conveyco has also designed and implemented custom solutions for clients, including sliding shoe, unit, and other high-speed sortation systems for over three decades.