Pros and Cons of Popular Sortation Systems
If you’re considering making the switch from one type of sortation system to another, then, of course, you want to make sure that you are choosing the right system for your needs. But with so many different systems available, and with so much information floating around out there, it can be a real challenge to keep everything straight in your mind while you consider which sortation systems are adequate for your operation.
To make things easier, we’ve gathered together the pros and cons of three of the most common and popular sortation systems used in order fulfillment and materials handling (Pop-up Wheel Sorters, Sliding Shoe Sorters, and Tilt-tray/Cross-belt sorters) that you can reference as you seek to automate your warehouse.
Free Guide: Choosing a Sortation System for Your DC
This information, along with knowing the answers to some common questions related to your sorting needs, will help you come to a more confident decision when selecting the sortation system that is right for your operation.
Pop-up Wheel Sorters
This popular sorter consists of wheels or rollers embedded in a belt conveyor which “pop up” to lift or transfer items at an angle to another downstream conveyor.
Pros: Pop-up Wheel Sorters require a relatively low investment of capital compared to many other sortation systems. The system is modular, allowing for sections to be added and removed quickly as needed.
Cons: This type of sorter has a low to medium sorting rate, which can limit the maximum throughput for an operation. Because the system does not offer a positive divert, the types of items that it can handle are limited.
Sliding Shoe Sorters
Sliding Shoe Sorters consist of a “shoe” that is attached to the conveyor surface that positively diverts items onto an aftersort conveyor. This type of sortation system is fed by a single stream of products merged from multiple areas of a building upstream. Sliding Shoe Sorters are a popular choice for shipping needs.
Pros: Sliding Shoe Sorters can handle a higher peak rate (anywhere from 20 products per minute to hundreds of products per minute, depending on product size and weight). Because of the mechanics of the system and its positive divert, a wide range of materials can be handled.
Cons: This type of sorter is relatively expensive compared to other sortation systems. It also has fixed divert centers, limiting the flexibility of the system, and produces a fair amount of noise, which can be a health and safety hazard for your workers.
Tilt-tray and Cross-Belt Sorters
Tilt-tray and Cross-belt sorters are different, but similar, and as such are often lumped together in discussions about sortation systems.
A Tilt-tray sorter consists of trays mounted to carts which run on a continuous-loop conveyor. These trays “tilt” and transfer products into a chute when it has reached its sorting destination. Items are inducted either manually or automatically onto the trays via induction stations at multiple locations throughout the loop.
Cross-belt sorters consist of motorized belt conveyors mounted to carts running on a continuous loop. Like tilt-trays, cross-belt sorters transfer items into a chute when it reaches its sorting destination.
Pros: Tilt-tray and Cross-belt sorters offer the highest sorting rate when compared to other sortation systems. They are also capable of handling the most diverse range of product types, making them ideal for operations which handle many types of product. Low noise levels make for a safer and more comfortable working environment for personnel.
Cons: The biggest drawback to these sorters is cost: They typically have the highest price when compared to other sortation systems.
One More Quick Comparison
Before you make your final decision on which sorter to go with, it’ll be helpful to see how they compare to each other (and other) sortation systems on two key metrics: Throughput by technology and cost per destination. The following charts will help you plot in your mind how each technology compares to others.
Sorting Things Out
When it comes to making any big decision, it can be easy to fall into the trap of burning out from decision fatigue: You’re so overwhelmed with information that you can’t figure out the best way forward. But the decision is an important one, and we hope this quick reference guide will be useful in helping you choose the right sortation system that can help you get your KPIs on track.