UniSort: Common Repairs, Upgrades & Spare Parts
The brand is incredibly popular, and widely used in the order fulfillment industry due to the fact that it can effectively handle a wide range of product weights (half a pound to 120 pounds), sizes (6 to 48 inches in length, 1 to 36 inches in width), and packaging (cartons, rolls, bags bound packaging, etc.). It is also an incredibly reliable piece of equipment for high-speed sortation.
Does your operation rely on an aging UniSort for its sortation needs? Below, we discuss common repairs for the UniSort, spare parts you should always keep on hand, and upgrade paths you can pursue to get even more life out of this great piece of equipment.
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Common UniSort Repairs
If you have a UniSort in your warehouse or distribution center, then you’ve most likely already experienced the most common repairs that this equipment sees: The need to replace popped, bent, or otherwise damaged tubes, and the need to replace stretched or damaged chains.
The UniSort is driven by two chains, which run the length of the conveyor. Over time, these chains will naturally stretch due to the wear and tear that comes with handling product. If one of the chains stretches more than the other, or if the chain jumps a tooth on one side, this can cause a tube to fall out.
And usually not just one tube: There can be thousands of tubes on a UniSort, and with the machine moving at around 400 feet per minute, whole sections of these tubes can fall out. This doesn’t just pose a safety concern for nearby workers—it can also be incredibly costly in terms of downtime. When this happens, the entire operation will be forced to shut down, sometimes for hours, as the tubes are put back into place.
Popped tubes aren’t just the result of stretched and worn chains, though. When product falls in between the tubes, the sorter can become jammed, typically resulting in damage to nearby tubes. For operations which handle primarily large orders or product, this is not commonly an issue, but for operations which handle a range of product/order sizes or which used to handle primarily large packages but have shifted to smaller packages, this can be a major cause for concern.
If you find yourself needing to replace a worn chain, the best time to do this will typically be over the weekend or during otherwise scheduled downtime, in order to prevent unplanned downtime and a loss of revenue.
Spare Parts for UniSort
For operations that rely on one (or multiple) UniSort sorters, we typically recommend that the following spare parts always be kept on hand:
- Tubes: As mentioned above, each time a tube pops or falls out of place, there is risk of damage. It is not unfathomable for an operation to go through hundreds of tubes in a given year. To prevent your operation from being down any longer than absolutely necessary, you should always have enough tubes on hand for routine replacement.
- Drivetrain components: These components are literally what drives the machine. If something in the drivetrain were to fail, then the entire sorter would not be able to operate. Having these critical components on hand at all times is an essential part of reducing unplanned downtime.
- Spare switches: Switches are the mechanisms which allow the shoes to move from side to side, making them a critical part of the sorter. There are several components inside the switches that can fail due to wear and tear, so it’s generally a good idea to have a handful of spares on hand to account for sudden failures.
In addition to these generally recommended spares, you may find that your UniSort goes through other parts more frequently than others. This could be due to a number of factors, including the size and type of product you handle and its packaging. Use this knowledge to ensure that you always have the parts on hand that your operation has historically needed.
Upgrade Options for UniSort Sorters
If you are looking to upgrade your UniSort to get more life out of it, add functionality, or increase its performance and efficiency, the options available to you will ultimately depend on the model that you have and how old the system is. The UniSort V is, for example, at this point a rather old piece of equipment, which likely means that your money would be more wisely spent replacing the machine with something new as opposed to upgrading it. For later models, though, there are a number of paths for upgrade.
One upgrade with a lot of potential to drive increased efficiency is making the upgrade from tubes to slats. Slats perform the same basic role as tubes—they convey product and orders. But because they are held by two pins on each side (as opposed to just one on each side for tubes) slats are much more stable, and less prone to popping out. And because they are flat, they offer more surface area for product to rest on, reducing the likelihood of an item or order fall between the gaps and causing damage to the machine.
In determining whether it makes sense to upgrade your UniSort from tubes to slats, it is important to think about ROI. For an operation that finds itself regularly experiencing unplanned downtime due to popping tubes, making the switch to slats can lead to a dramatic increase in efficiency despite the upfront costs associated with the upgrade.
Consider All of Your Options
For an aging UniSort, there are many potential options available for getting more life out of your equipment. Routine maintenance is, of course, essential. But other options, such as embracing upgrades or choosing to make the switch to a newer technology, can also be viable solutions for your operation’s needs.
Working with a systems integrator skilled in conducting warehouse and materials handling audits can be an excellent way of answering your questions, weighing your options, and determining the path forward that will lead to the highest ROI and value for your business.