Crossbelt Sorters: Everything You Need to Know
Automated sortation technology has made modern order fulfillment—with its smaller, more numerous orders and same- or next-day shipping requirements—possible. Without an automated means of sorting units, cases, and orders, it would be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to meet the demands of the modern buyer.
An important differentiator in crossbelt technologies is the use of modular design. Because the crossbelt utilizes modular construction, a systems integrator like Conveyco can deliver systems that are faster, often less expensive, and easier to maintain and operate. These are key differentiators in the crossbelt marketplace.
While automated sortation is a powerful tool, it’s important to note that there are many different sortation systems available today. Which one is right for your operation will depend on your throughput requirements, as well as the specific types of inventory or orders being processed.
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One incredibly powerful and popular piece of sortation technology, especially in operations with high throughput needs, is the crossbelt sorter.
Below we explore everything that you need to know about the crossbelt sorter: The different applications you can use it for within your warehouse, the types of operations it is best suited for, and new developments in robotic sortation technology that may be a viable alternative.
What is a crossbelt sorter?
A crossbelt sorter is a type of sorter that is built atop a continuous loop conveyor. The actual carrying surface is itself a miniature belt conveyor that holds the product to be sorted and sits on top of the continuous loop. When the order or inventory reaches the appropriate location, this miniature belt conveyor activates, diverting the product off of the continuous loop and either down a chute or onto a take-away conveyor.
The name “crossbelt” comes from the fact that this miniature belt conveyor runs perpendicular to the floor of the loop.
Depending on the specific model that has been deployed, the number of diverts, and the type of product being conveyed, it is possible to reach a throughput rate of approximately 25,000 units per hour. This is amongst the fastest and highest throughput rates of all continuous loop conveyors.
Crossbelt sorters are especially well-suited for handling cartons, polybags, totes, and individual units which weigh between 10 and 30 kilograms. Because the carrying surface is flat, the crossbelt is not typically well-suited for handling inventory that might roll, such as balls or cylinders.
Note: Crossbelt sorters are often discussed alongside tilt-tray sorters due to certain similarities that they share. It is important to recognize, however, that these are different technologies, each better suited for different needs. The crossbelt sorter is often a bit gentler compared to the tilt-tray, and can have a slightly higher throughput. Additionally, because you can pre-position your inventory on the crossbelt in a way that isn’t possible on the tilt-tray, you have more control to achieve the optimum divert.
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Crossbelt Sorter Benefits
A crossbelt sorter offers a variety of unique benefits that other high-speed sorters may be unable to provide, including:
- High-speed sortation throughput of more than 25,000 units per hour
- Technology that is both scalable and expandable
- The ability to handle a wide range of products both gently and accurately
- Efficient energy consumption characteristics
- Dense pos-sort chute configuration
- Elaborate chute design that leverages a divert location to allow for multiple order destinations
- Proven technology with excellent uptimes and machine availability
Crossbelt Sorter Applications
The crossbelt sorter is specifically designed to be leveraged for sequencing and sorting within your operation. That being said, it can be used in a number of applications within its role as a sorter, including:
- Order fulfillment
- Store returns and replenishment
- Mixed mail sorting
- Inbound sortation to put-away
The Ideal Operation for a Crossbelt Sorter
As mentioned above, the crossbelt sorter is one of the fastest sorters on the market today, capable of sorting up to 25,000 units per hour. This makes it an ideal choice for any operation that requires high-speed sortation and high throughputs. An ecommerce operation that processes a large number of small orders consisting of small-cube items will likely find a great level of success with a crossbelt sorter.
Recent Advancements in Crossbelt Sorter Technology
One of the greatest recent advancements for crossbelt sorters was the development of a linear model (as opposed to the original loop-based model). The linear model can be a great way of saving floorspace in a warehouse or distribution center that does not have a ton of extra space. Of course, it will not work for all operations, so it’s important to evaluate your options carefully before committing.
Additionally, new induction technologies have made it possible to automate even more of the sortation process and reduce labor costs even further.
Most recently, the development of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) has led to a variety of sortation options that are more flexible, more affordable, and more scalable compared to traditional conveyor-based sortation. Because the system consists of individual bots instead of a single piece of machinery, there is also built-in redundancy which reduces the impact of unplanned maintenance.
There are a wide variety of AMRs that you may be able to leverage within your facility. Two models, the Hi-Tilt-Bot and TiltSort-Bot, are essentially a miniature crossbelt and tilt-tray sorter except in bot-form. This combines many of the benefits of the crossbelt and tilt-tray sortation system with the flexibility and scalability of AMRs.
Is the crossbelt the right sorter for your operation?
It’s easy to see that the crossbelt sorter is a powerful piece of technology capable of revolutionizing your operation. But is it truly the best option for your business, or would a different type of sorter potentially be a better fit? Ultimately, the answer to that question will depend on your throughput requirements, growth plans, and type of product that you handle.
A trusted systems integrator can help you understand all of your sortation options and guide you to the best possible decision. Reach out to connect with a member of the Conveyco Team for a free consultation.