Guide to Sortation Equipment

Material handling sortation systems are used in the automated sortation process of packages and parcels in distribution and fulfillment centers. There are many types of sortation conveyor system and equipment, each with their best suited application. Sorters systems can be simply one or two diverts on a slow moving line of conveyor or they could be high speed with multiple double sided divert points at close divert centers. Additionally, the physical characteristics of the packages being conveyed and sorted plays a large impact on the type of sortation system equipment to be specified when designing the material handling system. There are many benefits to automating the sort process in a warehouse. The following are 4 significant reasons that legitimize its implementation:

Labor Market: By mechanizing the transportation and sortation process in a distribution center and automating the sort, the reliance on labor is significantly reduced. In markets where there are limitations in the labor pool, this automation can be a significant competitive advantage.

Throughput: Sortation systems can be designed with the material handling system to induct and sort at rates much faster than a group of personnel would do in a manual system. As such, the system can be designed to have capacity that meets and exceeds the demand.

Competitiveness: In markets where surge capacity and order accuracy are critical, an automated material handling sortation system achieves the goal of staying ahead of the competition’s capability.

Accuracy: Sortation systems can sort hundreds of packages and parcels per minute with incredibly high degrees of accurately.

Pusher Sorters

Pusher is fixed along the edge of a conveyor-line, immediately opposite to a divert-point. At the point when an item comes to the divert-point, the pusher springs-out over the conveyor, driving the item off at an angle of 90 degrees.

Pushers do not need as a lot of room among containers and require less maintenance. They furnish included adaptability through similarity with standard-belt and live roller-conveyor. Fast pushers can pack an over the top punch, so they are not prescribed for containers with delicate substance. The decision to use a pusher sorter is largely based on limited budget and not very high volume throughput.

pusher sorter
pivot wheel sorter

Pivot Wheel Divert

Pivot wheel sorters process packages rapidly and effectively through pivot wheel sortation systems. They are normally driven by belt, and utilizing two arrangements of wheels that pivot independently and in succession, at each divert point. When the sorter controller tracks the package to the appropriate diverter, the system actuates the wheels to rotate and redirects the package off the sorter and onto the divert spur conveyor.

This type of sortation system is less expensive than the higher rated sliding shoe sorter, but they also do not accommodate the same.variety of package sizes that the shoe sorter can handle. Additionally, although this sorter can reach rates of 45 cases per minute to even 60 cases per minute, they are still not as fast as the shoe sorter counterpart. Therefore, this sorter is perfect for the right size packages that need to be sorted at a medium rate.

Sliding Shoe Sorter

Sliding shoe sorters use slats as the carrying surface for the packages with “shoes” placed on the left or right side of the slats. The shoes can slide in between the slats and utilize a track and guide system underneath the slats that direct the position of the shoes. When a package arrives at the sort point, a switch in the track underneath the shoes is actuated causing it to slide to the side of the divert. The shoes then come in contact with the package on the slats and pushes it off to the appropriate side. The quantity of shoes that are diverted is correlated to the length of the package being diverted. The longer the package, the more shoes are used to push the package off the sorter.

Sliding shoe sorters are used where there is a wide-ranging assortment of item dimensions, forms and loads. It is also an ideal sortation system when the package is delicate or effectively harmed and needs an even and gentle transfer from the sorter to the take-away path.

sliding shoe sortation system
narrow belt sortation system

Narrow Belt Sorter

The Narrow Belt Sorter utilizes a series of belts inside tracks that run the length of the sorter. At the point of each divert, in between the narrow belts are either rollers that pop up for a 90 degree transfer or a set of divert wheels angled at 30 degrees for a 30 degree transfer. This type of sortation conveyor is intended to move small and medium size products including, packets, small containers, totes, and small packages. The narrow belt sorter can be configured for sorting to either left, right or both sides, which offers a great deal of flexibility when designing the material handling system.

One of the other benefits of the narrow belt sorter is that the divert points can be spaced on very close intervals. Therefore, a high number of sorts can be accomplished over a small footprint inside the distribution center. The sort rate for a narrow belt sorter is very similar to the pivot wheel sorter, but the benefit is the suitability for smaller packages. However, if conveying and sorting packages that might have loose items that spill out every once in a while, this type of sorter would not be the most durable as there are many small moving parts little pieces that keep the system operational.

Cross Belt Sorter

Cross belt sorters are a type of unit sorters that operate in a continuous loop. They utilize a closed loop track system where carriers that have the crossbelt unit mounted on top are arranged in a back to back manner. Basically, it is a train of carriers in a continuous loop. Packages are automatically inducted onto the carrier and the control system tracks every package on each carrier. When a carrier reaches the assigned sort point for the package, it actuates and discharges the package onto the sort slide or receiving container. Because the crossbelt can sort to the left and right side, a large quantity of sort destinations can be accomplished. The crossbelt actuates the motor drive to either move the belt left or right and uses this force to drive the package onto the sort destination.

Crossbelt sorters are common in courier or parcel sort centers where there is a high volume of parcels and packages to process.

cross belt unit sortation system
tilt tray unit sortation system

Tilt Tray Sorter

Tilt Tray sorters are very similar in nature and operation as the crossbelt sorter. It is a unit sorter that follows a looped path in which the tilt tray unit is mounted on each carrier on the track. Once packages are automatically inducted onto a tray on the sortation system, the sorter controller tracks the tray until it reaches the sort destination. At that point, the controller actuates either the left or right tilt to the tray and the package uses the force of gravity to fall onto the take-away conveyor or into a container. Typically, tilt tray sorters are a little less expensive than the cross belt since there is not a motor for each carrier. As such, they are also a little easier to maintain. However, the disadvantage is that this sorter relies primarily on the force of gravity instead of the positive force of a belt. As such, if there are extremely small and lightweight items or conversely items with a high degree of friction, the tilt tray might not be as effective as the cross belt.

Activated Roller Bed Sorter

The activated roller belt conveyor is a technology that is based on the carrying surface containing the diverting mechanism within it. That is, the plastic belt also has small rollers or wheels that are captured withing the belt and are oriented in a different direction than the direction of flow of the conveyor. When the package arrives at the sort destination, a separate belt system underneath the plastic carrying belt is actuated which engages the rollers or wheels that are captured within the plastic belt. These wheels or roller start spinning and force the package to the appropriate side of the conveyor. This type of sortation system is very common with close sorter locations, when sorting very loose bags or if sorting a bulk flow of packages instead of singulated flow.

activated roller belt sortation system