6 Significant Sortation Systems for Warehouse Management Automation

Automation engirds the entire world. Thanks to revolutionary artificial intelligence and innovative machine learning algorithms, automation is becoming the new normal. For example, automated sortation is crucial in material handling, order fulfillment, warehousing, and eCommerce industries for efficient parcel handling and cross-docking operations. 

But what is automated sortation? 

It is a  process of identifying items on a conveyor system and diverting them to a particular destination during an operation, such as different types of parcel career doors or packing stations. Modern automated handling systems and sorters vary subsequently depending upon the underlying technology developers used to build them. Automated sortation leverages various technologies to perform specific tasks without human intervention, such as sensors, barcodes, and sortation systems. 

Sortation systems are engineered for automated material handling of products, such as mails, DVDs, heavy general merchandise, etc. hence careful consideration must be given to the dimensions and other physical properties of the products and desired peak operating capacity. 

Below are the types of sortation systems utilized in the warehouse to streamline several operations. So without further ado,  let’s have a look at each one of these. 

  1. Sliding Shoe Sorters 

Sliding shoe sorters deal with high-speed applications where product diversion needs to be gentle and cheerful. These sorters use anodized aluminum slats for products transportation. Divert shoes move diagonally across the conveyor to push the product on the takeaway chute or line at a predetermined location. Shoes ride on the top of slats, and these shoes are plastic blocks. Warehouse workers use sliding shoe sorters to handle cases. However, the manufacturers of these sorters have entirely transformed them to hold things like polybags considering the evolution in the eCommerce industry. Moreover, there also exist certain types of sliding shoe sorters designed to deal with small goods.

  1. Narrow Belt Sorters

Narrow belt sorters consist of narrow strip belts to carry the product and promote warehouse management automation. Narrow belt sorters are the best economical and flexible sortation solution. 

These sorters come in two varieties: 

  • Thirty degrees divert (NBS-30): NBS-30 is fixed angle wheels that arise between the carrying strip belts and shift product off the sorter at the angle of 30 degrees. The throughput of NBS-30 is approximately 30 to 100 cartons per minute.   
  • Ninety degrees divert(NBS-90): On NBS-90, a series of high friction rollers mounted between the carrying strips raise above the carrying belt for product engagement and shift it off the sorter at 90 degrees. The throughput of NBS-90 ranges from 10 to 15 cartons per minute. 
  1. Pop-up Wheel Sorters

The pop-up wheel sorters possess rollers, wheels, and belts. These belts, wheels, and rollers are embedded on a belt conveyor, which pops up to transfer or lift products to another downstream conveyor at 30 degrees or 30 degrees. These sorters are appropriate for handling uniform products, such as cartons or totes, making them an excellent option as a packing sorter. Throughput for pop-up wheel sorters ranges from 40 to 100 cartons per minute. As compared to other high-capacity sortation systems, the pop-up wheel requires a relatively low investment of capital. In addition, the system is modular, robust, reliable, and allows the swift addition and subtraction of sections. 

  1. Tilt Tray and Cross Belt Sorters 

Tilt tray and crossbelt sorters both have unique features and characteristics, but they also have various similarities, due to which people always discuss them together. They typically share the exact drive mechanism and undercarriage, which is pivotal in warehouse management system automation. A tilt tray sorter contains trays mounted to a series of carts. Those carts are connected in a train of trays that carry the product and run into a continuous loop. A crossbelt sorter diverts the product into the chute just like a tilt tray sorter; the critical difference is the mechanism of achieving it. The tilt tray sorter contains a tray, and the cross belt sorter consists of a miniature belt conveyor that runs perpendicular to the floor of the loop.

  1. Pallet Flow and Carton Flow 

Pallet flow and carton flow utilize the first-in, first-out (FIFO) algorithm to rotate products on storage. This high-density storage system is fitted with insignificantly pitched gravity conveyors or flow rails, allowing pallets or cartons to roll down at the other side at a controlled speed. The integrated brake rollers into pallet flow lanes control the velocity of heavy pallets and loads. Pallet flow and carton flow are appropriate for perishable goods, although workers can use them in every industry.

  1. Sweep Sorter/Viper Sorter 

These are high-speed right-angled sortation conveyors. Warehouse managers use viper sorter for the sortation of small and medium-sized products. These sorters utilize a patent design that allows sorting cylindrical products, vinyl envelopes,  thin products, and other problematic products. These sorters are appropriate for the automated material handling of typical products, including electronic components, office supplies, automotive parts, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and more. 

Choose the Best 

Hence, warehouse managers and business owners have a vast range of options for selecting an automated sortation system for their warehouse. Therefore, they should enlist their crucial requirements to choose the appropriate sortation system to fulfill their needs. 

Asking and answering the following questions can help warehouse managers determine which sortation system best addresses their requirements and encourages WMS automation

  • What operation goals or challenges are the reason that you are heading towards a sortation system? 
  • How might your product’s characteristics handle impact sortation selection? 
  • Do you anticipate substantial growth in either the short term or the long term? 
  • How many divert or destinations are required? 
  • What is your required throughput? 

MWI Solutions plans and implements forward-thinking automation material handling solutions. In addition, they provide a comprehensive range of professional services such as capital equipment justification, consulting, financing, and more. The technologies they offer to various industries include conveyor systems, sortation systems, end of line automation, order fulfillment, and goods to person. The partner companies to which MWI resells and installs include Knapp, Kindred, Lightning Pack, SI Systems A-Frames, Modsort(Regal Beloit), ID technologies, Hannibal, Hanel, Intralox, Effimat, OPEX, Gray Orange, TGW, Interroll, Intelligrated Honeywell, and Hytrol. Moreover, technology companies they often integrate with but don’t resell include SICK, Cognex, FANUC, Beckhoff, BestPack, and Rockwell Automation.

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