Sorter Rebuild: Signs Your Sorter Needs an Overhaul
Sorters are a lot like the circulatory system of your operation, receiving product in one location, organizing and grouping it, and getting it where it needs to be in order to be packaged and shipped. That’s why it’s so important to regularly audit your sorter in order to catch and resolve any issues before they become operations-halting catastrophes.
Sometimes, an audit will reveal relatively simple or minor issues that can be resolved with a simple repair or part replacement. But other times, the audit may reveal more substantial work and repairs that must be done in order to bring your equipment back up to high performance.
If your sorter isn’t performing like it used to, it might be time to audit your system.
This process is called a sorter rebuild, and can dramatically improve the life and efficiency of your machine.
What is a sorter rebuild?
In essence, a sorter rebuild is a complete revamp of your sortation system, designed to address any existing issues while also preventing other issues from developing. Though each rebuild will be unique in exactly what components must be replaced or repaired, all sorter rebuild will tend to fall in the framework below.
Every rebuild will begin with an audit, during which time your system will be observed in its active, running state. It is during this time that the technician takes note of any issues or abnormalities concerning your equipment. Ideally, the system will be observed at both average and peak capacity (even if this must be simulated) in order for the technician to have a clear understanding of how the system performs when put under different demands.
After the audit is complete, the technician will make a list of any and all spare or replacement parts that may be necessary during the rebuild, and will work to secure them ahead of the rebuild.
Because of the extremely important role that sorters play in most operations, sorter rebuilds must be carefully planned around the times that the sorter needs to be in service. While an emergency rebuild may need to take place right away, ideally the rebuild will be scheduled far enough in advance that it can take place during an off-shift or even potentially during a pre-scheduled shutdown. Otherwise, it is likely that an operation would experience downtime and a loss of revenue.
As mentioned above, the exact work included in a sorter rebuild will depend on the specifics of you operation and the equipment that you use. Different types of sorters (sliding shoe, pop-up wheel, push, split-tray and tilt-tray, cross-belt, etc.) all operate in different ways and consist of different components which will naturally dictate the work to be done.
That being said, some typical repairs that would take place during the rebuild may include:
- Carrier chain replacement
- Replacement of damaged tubes and pushers
- Replacement of chain and pin guides
- Installation of new alignment guides
- Replacement of Novex pad
- Replacing damaged switch components
- Replacement of UHMW wear guides and blocks
- Replacement of worn sprockets
- Repairing carrier chain oiling system
- Alignment of switches including photo eyes and proxes
- Tensioning of carrier chain
Additionally, if it is decided beforehand that the system will be upgraded, those upgrade components will often be incorporated into the rebuild process. Some of the more commonly upgraded items during a sorter rebuild include new carrier flight assembles, which can allow you to convey a broader array of products, protect sorter from objects falling into it, and minimize downtime and new HD switches, which can increase divert accuracy
After the work is completed, the system should be observed again to ensure that all repairs or replacements are working as designed and that no other repairs are needed.
When to Consider a Sorter Rebuild
Generally speaking, the signs that you might want to consider a sorter rebuild are the same as the signs that you might want to conduct an audit:
- Preventative maintenance has been neglected
- You’re experiencing more downtime from your sorter
- You’re experiencing a greater number of errors and decreased order accuracy
- You find that wear components (chains, belts, sprockets, etc.) need to be replaced more frequently
- Your system is older than 10 years old
- Your order profile is substantially different now compared to what it looked like when the sorter was initially installed
Keeping Your System Running
Ultimately, sorter audits and rebuild are both designed to keep your system running efficiently, accurately, and fast. Though it may be tempting to push off such repairs until an actual issue emerges, doing so will only increase your operation’s downtime and cause more dramatic action to be necessary in the future.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2014, and has since been updated for clarity and style.