Sliding Shoe Sorter: Applications & Use Case
In the world of automated sortation for order fulfillment, there are a plethora of sorter types to choose from depending on the specific needs of your operation, from tilt trays to crossbelts to pocket sorters and everything in between. Which technology you ultimately leverage will depend on a number of factors, such as your required speed and throughput and the types of inventory and packaging that the system will handle.
That being said, few sortation technologies are as tried and true as the sliding shoe sorter. With a proven, reliable track record, this is one of the most popular and commonly leveraged sorters in the industry.
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Below, we take a look at how the sliding shoe sorter works, the different ways it can be leveraged within an operation, and recent advancements in the technology that can help you decide whether or not this is the right sorter for your operation.
What is a Sliding Shoe Sorter?
A sliding shoe sorter, also sometimes called a slat sorter, consists of a long and typically straight conveyor, atop which sits a series of slats which conveys the product. These slats are positioned very closely to one another to limit the possibility of product falling into the machinery, but still maintain a small channel between each of them. It is in these channels that the sliding shoes, which act as the main divert mechanism, sit and glide.
When the product that is being conveyed reaches the appropriate divert, one or multiple shoes are activated. Upon being activated, the shoes slide across the slats in order to divert the product positively.
Since sliding shoe sorters are adept at handling a wide variety of products, they have proven to be very versatile pieces of equipment. Operations with a diverse product mix can benefit from these capabilities, as can operations which are undergoing an evolution in their SKU or product line.
While not quite as fast as tilt tray sorters or crossbelt sorters, sliding shoe sorters are still a high-speed option that can work well for most operations.
Sliding Shoe Applications
Sliding shoe sorters are really meant to be leveraged to perform a single application: High-speed sortation. They are commonly used to sort orders for shipping, but can also be used to route orders or inventory to different process areas for buffering.
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When a Sliding Shoe Sorter Makes Sense
A sliding shoe sorter can be an extremely effective option for an operation which:
- Requires medium- to high-speed sortation
- Has throughput requirements of 100-300 cartons per minute
- Handles diverse order sizes
- Handles a range of packaging, from bags to boxes to totes
- Requires gentle handling, made possible through the sorter’s positive divert
While certain technologies may be better suited for a particular industry and application, the sliding shoe sorter has a tremendous amount of benefits and uses.
That being said, the sliding shoe sorter may not be the best option for every operation. For example, while the sliding shoe sorter is one of the faster sortation options available today, it is not the fastest. A distribution center which requires a higher throughput than what is possible with a sliding shoe sorter may require a tilt tray or crossbelt sorter instead, which currently offer the higher speeds and throughputs. Slower throughput requirements might be best served by sortation conveyors such as our narrow belt sorters or pop-up sorter and strip belt sorter systems.
Likewise, your application might have other requirements in which an AMR (autonomous mobile robots) sortation system such as the TiltSort-Bot or the Hi-Tilt-Bot might make more sense.
In any case, by utilizing Conveyco’s seven step RightFIT methodology, it will be clear which sortation technology is best for your application and meets your business requirements.
Recent Advancements in Sliding Shoe Sorters
The sliding shoe sorter has been around for a number of years, and as such is a rather mature technology. That doesn’t mean that it is without innovation, however. Manufacturers are constantly iterating upon the technology in order to make them ever more efficient and productive. A few examples of recent advancements in sliding shoe technology include:
- Ability to hit higher speeds
- The evolution of the “soft-touch” divert, which increases precision and decreases the force of the impact, making it ideal for fragile items
- The development of special components and better design, which can now allow the systems to handle polybags and plastic sealed packaging
As time goes on, we expect that manufacturers will only continue to improve upon the sliding shoe’s technology.
Is the Sliding Shoe the Right Sorter for Your Operation?
If it sounds like the sliding shoe sorter is a fantastic piece of equipment, that’s because it is!
However, as in sports, the sorter is only one player of a larger team and the sorter is only as good as the equipment and processes found both up and down stream. The accumulation conveyors and merge systems you are using will have to be able to match, or exceed the rate of your sorter. If this does not happen, sorter starvation occurs.
You will also need to think about the divert type. If you are sorting at fast speeds you need to be able to get products out of the way of the next carton? Would a 30 degree spur do the trick? Or do you need 20 degrees? What about the processes downstream of the sorter? Are you going to fill up downstream lines so the sorter will have to recirculate cartons, lowering your sortation rate (even though the machine rate stays high)?
Many seemingly little questions go into ensuring that you are selecting exactly the right sorter for your operation’s unique needs. A trusted systems integrator can help you evaluate all of your options and come to the decision that is right for you.
Here at Conveyco, we are guided by our RightFIT Methodology, which seeks to craft the perfect solution in a technology-agnostic way. That means that we’ll never push a specific technology on you—only the solution we believe will offer the greatest benefits to your business. Reach out today for a complimentary consultation to speak about your needs.