What are the most important factors to consider when investing in a sortation system?
- What type of products are you sorting? packets, boxes, random shaped products, flat bottomed products
- Method of delivery, loading, unloading and throughput
- Destination accumulation and presentation requirements
- Product identification, barcodes, RFID tags, manual key in
- Ongoing support such as mechanical, electrical and software
- The environment, both from a mechanical handling point of view and ongoing support, can you look after the system yourself
- Do you need a top end sortation system, when a lower technology solution would be cheaper and easier to maintain.
How are certain systems adapted to dealing with particular types of goods?
Nowadays it is virtually impossible for a client to specify a footprint and product type they want to sort, its important to understand the available technologies and understand their limitations so you can make decisions :-
- Do you need to invest in a top end parcel sorter that sorts everything, when a simpler system will sort 98% of the product profile.
- Can you manually sort the exceptions, rather than trying to design a system that can handle everything (and remember everything today is not necessarily everything tomorrow).
- Can the technology we are investing in be tailored to future changes in the business
- Does the sorter have the ability to support the customer with future changes at a sensible cost
- Can the design be modified for the sorter to cope with specific products.
- Can the in-feeds and inducts be tailored to suit specific products
- Can the destinations be product specific.
All of the above questions will help us design the perfect sorter and we will have the ability to listen to the client and deliver the correct solution.
To what extent does the retail channel influence what sortation equipment should be used?
Basically there are two types of products, boxes and poly bags, there are other fridge products that get sorted but essentially thats it, so retailers don’t have that much influence really, everyone is handling poly bags and boxes and companies who don’t have a product that can handle both will ultimately loose out, however, there are of course massive cost hurdles here, cross belt and tile tray sorters will handle both but they are very expensive, if a client is sorting a small percentage of poly bags they might consider a lower cost sorter that handles boxes well.
Customers are looking for fast throughputs, easy loading and good destination control.
To many times we have seen a sorter manned up with loads of people at the destinations packing into boxes, this is simply because the destination is not large enough or designed well enough to buffer product when a person is not available to off load it.
A good example of a very efficient solution is the system we supply to Healthspan, 100 destinations sorting to mail sacks and only 2 people to man the destinations, this was due to the destination design and accumulation for product while sacks were changed.
One of the biggest challenges is the destination design, getting the product from the sorter to the shipping container efficiently as possible.