Why You Should Consider Upgrading Your UniSort Conveyor from Tubes to Slats
If you’ve got a UniSort high-speed sliding shoe sorter in your operation, you’re not alone: Afterall, it’s a popular piece of machinery in the order fulfillment industry. This popularity is due, in part, to the fact that the sorter can handle an impressive range of product sizes and types:
- Half a pound to 120 pounds in weight
- 6 to 48 inches long
- 1 to 36 inches wide
- Packaged in cartons, rolls, bags, bound packaging, and more
The popularity is also due to the fact that the UniSort is a reliable piece of equipment, capable of providing consistent high-speed sortation that helps operations become more efficient and reduce labor costs.
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But depending on how old your system is and which model of UniSort you use, your system may be built with an Achilles heel of sorts: Tubes.
UniSort Tubes: Both a Solution and a Problem
In earlier models of the UniSort sorter, product is conveyed across a series of tubes. Between every pair of tubes there is a slight gap, in which the sliding shoe sits and, when activated, glides in order to divert product as required. The tubes perform two roles: They convey product, and they hold the shoes in place.
When these models first came out, they were a state-of-the-art piece of equipment that filled a very important need in the industry.
But since their introduction, order fulfillment has undergone a series of changes that has changed the average order profile that many operations handle. The growth of ecommerce has given rise to smaller average orders, as customers are more likely to place more frequent, but smaller orders; it has also given rise to lightweight polybag packaging as warehouses and DCs attempt to avoid dimensional weight surcharges during shipping.
The problem is that smaller orders and packaging like polybags typically do not play well with gaps—like those at the heart of how the UniSort operates. The smaller and less rigid the packaging is, the more likely it is to fall between tubes and become jammed in the sorter. The end result is a lot of bent and damaged tubes that need to be replaced.
And while the cost of replacing/refurbishing tubes can add up over time, the real cost to the operation is lost efficiency and reduced throughput. If an operation has tubes popping out multiple times a day or week, that can equate to hours of unplanned downtime for repairs—and many late or unfilled orders.
The Advantages of Slats
If the above scenario sounds like your operation, you’re probably wondering what options you have. One effective option is to upgrade your UniSort conveyor from one that relies on tubes to one that relies on slats.
Slats serve essentially the same purpose as tubes: They act as the surface upon which product is conveyed, and they hold the sliding shoes in place. But they have two big advantages over tubes that has made them more ideal for today’s average order fulfillment operation.
The first advantage is that they have greater surface area for product to rest on, and because the pusher is integrated directly into the slats, the gaps are much smaller compared to in models with tubes. This means that a single package is exposed to fewer gaps during sortation, reducing the likelihood that it will fall into a gap and become stuck.
The second advantage is stability: While tubes are held in place in just two points, slats are held in place in four points. This reduces the likelihood of slats popping out and becoming damaged.
All told, these advantages are the reason that all newer models of UniSort conveyors rely on slats instead of tubes.
Making the Switch
If you’re tired of dealing with the negatives of tubes and want to make the transition to slats, there’s good news and bad news.
The bad news is that, yes, upgrading will require an investment on your end. The good news is that upgrading has the potential to drastically reduce the amount of unplanned downtime you experience during sortation. This boost in efficiency and productivity is likely to easily make up for the initial investment, and then quickly turn into profit.
The other good news? Upgrading from tubes to slats is a relatively simple process, meaning that it can probably be accomplished over a single weekend.
The Bottom Line
If you are unsure whether upgrading your UniSort conveyor from tubes to slats is the best option for your operation, a trusted systems integrator can help you evaluate your options and determine the best path forward—whether that involves staying with the status quo, undergoing an upgrade, or potentially embracing a new solution altogether.
At Conveyco, our skilled technicians are experts at not only evaluating the equipment, but also in performing both routine maintenance and upkeep as well as full upgrades. They can also help you identify other potential solutions to your order fulfillment challenges. Ready to get started? Schedule a free consultation today.
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