Warehouse Automation Part 4: Automated Sortation Systems

Continuing with our Warehouse Automation series, here is part 4, covering Automated Sortation Systems. If you missed the first 3 parts of the series, catch up with the links below.

Warehouse Automation Part 1: Pick-to-Light Systems
Warehouse Automation Part 2: Automatic Guided Vehicles & Autonomous Mobile Robots
Warehouse Automation Part 3: Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS)

What is a sortation system?

Sortation is the process of identifying items on a conveyor system and diverting products to specific destinations using a variety of categories and system methods. There is a variety of sorting methods that applies to different applications, depending upon the product type you are dealing with and the required sorting rate.

Conveyor Sortation System

Common Sortation Categories:

• Slow Speed

These systems are the slowest and least expensive sorters, they typically work in conjunction with standard belt or roller conveyor lines. These systems typically handle fewer than 30 cartons or totes per minute.

• Medium Speed

Medium speed sortation systems sort at about 30 to 200 items per minute. There are a variety of styles of sorters available for sorting cartons or totes at these speeds. Pop-up sorters are among the most popular. These linear sorters usually move products down the line on belt conveyor. When the product reaches the divert location, the wheels or rollers pop up and lift the product above the conveyor surface, power it off the conveyor on an angle, and re-direct the product.

• High Speed

When process speeds are critical, high-speed sorters can divert about 150 to 450 items or cartons per minute. Products can be inserted into the sorter manually or can be done automatically using various other methods.

Other sortation methods include sweeper, cross-belt, sliding shoe, tilt tray, push tray, strip belt, pop-up wheel, bomb-bay and vertical sortation systems.

Cross Belt Sorter by Tecnowey / CC BY-SA
Push-Tray Sorter
Pop Up Wheel Sorter

The Benefits of Sortation Systems:

  • The compact footprint allows for optimizing warehouse space.
  • Uninterrupted operations as these systems are not limited by the staff shifts and capacity.
  • Reduced labor requirements.
  • Fewer accidents and health issues, and safer work conditions for warehouse staff and drivers.
  • Precise tracking of stock levels, avoiding shortages, overstocking, and obsolescence.
  • Better control of maintenance costs by decreasing events that result in damage to infrastructure or goods.
  • Increased safety and less contamination by reducing the handling of products by humans.
  • Elimination of human error in documentation that may translate into delays while processing goods.
  • Improvement of order accuracy, delivery times, and pick accuracy.
  • Paperless system.

Commonly used components in sortation system designs:

Be sure to visit our website for assistance in selecting components at our dedicated Warehouse Automation page.

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