4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Selecting a Sortation System for Your DC
If you work in order fulfillment then chances are that you’ve given some thought as to whether or not you should consider upgrading or changing the sortation system that your operation uses. With warehouse automation technology advancing as rapidly as it has in recent history, a system as little as 5 years old can be substantially out of date—costing you efficiency and, ultimately, money.
Unfortunately, making a decision about changing your sortation system is never as clear-cut as a simple yes or no question. Getting this decision wrong will cost you a lot of money to correct, so you need to put in the groundwork before pulling any triggers.
Free Guide: Choosing a Sortation System for Your DC
Beyond a desire for change, you need to be able to answer a number of questions that will help you determine the pros and cons of switching systems, as well as which sortation technology is the right fit for your business.
To help you in the decision-making process, here are five questions that you need to answer to assist you in choosing the sortation system that is right for you.
1. What are my goals with regard to implementing a new sortation system?
Before landing on any specific type of sortation system, you will need to fully understand why exactly you are looking to make a change. Do you want to increase your speed and accuracy, reduce the number of human touches within your process , free up floor space, expand your production, or achieve some other objective ? Understanding your goals will help you land at the right final decision when selecting your system.
2. How will the characteristics of the products I distribute impact the type of sorter will be successful in my operation?
There are many sortation systems on the market today. Unfortunately, they don’t all work with any product. Product specifications (including geometry, weight, and rigidity to name some) can have a real impact on whether a particular system will work for your operations. You need to know if a particular system can handle the product that you create or the orders that you ship.
Pro Tip: To assist in this process, keep accurate item master data that includes the geometry and weight of all products along with their velocity over time. Additionally, those same metrics for outbound shipping cartons (and bags or envelopes, if used) are equally as important to have available to ensure the full range of materials to be handled can be included in the evaluation.
3. What is the peak rate that the system will need to accommodate?
If you are looking at a new sortation system, then chances are that means you want to increase the efficiency of your operations. That means that, at a minimum, the sortation system you select as a replacement needs to at least meet the peak rate that you experience now with your current system. (If it can’t meet that rate, then making a switch is liable to cost you money instead of earning you more of it due to unexpected overtime or downtime due to jams or other mechanical problems that are preventable through proper design and application.) Know your current peak rate and make sure that any system you select will improve upon it instead of hindering it.
Pro Tip: It is important to consider not just the average rates to be shipped or sorted over the course of the day, but also surge rates. For example, an e-commerce business might ship upwards of 80 percent of their orders in the last 2 hours of the day, depending on how late they decide to accept orders for same-day shipment. If you offer this or a similar service to clients, the system design must account for that throughput requirement and not simply meet averages.
4. Do you expect that your operations will grow substantially in the years after installing the new system?
If you expect substantial growth in throughput or destinations, then this could potentially impact the type of system that you select today. Either you will need a modular system, which can be expanded as needed, or you will need to select a non-modular system that can accommodate the growth that you expect in the future.
The Bottom Line
Moving to a new sortation system is not a decision to be made lightly. It can be a substantial investment, and as such it deserves your attention and time. Before trying to decide which system is right for you, sit down with your team and answer the questions above. Doing so will help you to more easily rule out the systems that don’t work for your business so that you can more quickly land on a system that does.