The Top 3 Specifications for Designing Effective Sortation Systems

Written By: Joe Campbell

Shoe sorterWhether a project is a multi-million dollar distribution center or a small shipping system, one thing that can make or break it is how efficiently the system can sort the product. To avoid issues and ensure a successful sortation system, one of the most important factors is thoroughly discussing our customers’ specifications prior to the design. Below are the project details required before any design can be made.

1. Product Specifications

The first and foremost specification that must be thoroughly described is the product being conveyed. While it might be common sense, a lot of the times some of these details are missed. These product specifications should include the minimum, maximum, and weighted average (or average if the weighted average is not available) of the length, width, height, and weight of the customer’s products. A product data matrix is usually preferred with all the cartons’ specifications and percent of product throughput. These can determine gap requirements, sorter lengths and speeds, overall sortation system speeds, and styles of conveyors used. If a product is overlooked, the system may not meet the customer’s capacities or the customer might experience a lot of jams.

Another critical specification includes the bottom of the product—i.e. what it looks like. Whether the product has a completely flat bottom, a convex or curved, or a picture frame bottom can cause major issues depending on the type of sortation system. For example, if a pivot wheel sorter is used and the majority of boxes have a convex bottom, a large percentage will have trouble diverting or not divert at all. Other issues can occur if the product is fragile or has point loads in the box. These may determine the type of sortation to be used or the types of infeed and discharge conveyors from the sorter.

To combat these surprises, it is highly recommended that samples of the product be sent to the integrator or to the manufacturer for testing prior to an installation.

2. Operation Detail

Narrow belt sorter for sortation systemsEqually as important, the current operation detail should be considered prior to the design of sortation systems. This operational detail could include the current throughput of the system, the working time of the operation, the number of shifts that are used, and number of people working during those shifts. The operational details should also consider any external processes deemed important by the customer. The more the integrator knows about the current operation, the better the system will be designed to fit the customer’s needs. This operational data will also help determine the justification of the new system.

3. Project Goals and Justification

Typically, for a customer to consider starting a new project there needs to be justification to fund the investment. Along with this justification, comes the customer goals. It is Bastian Solutions’ job to meet all of our customers’ goals in relation to their projects. These goals need to be clearly communicated to the integrator prior to design, so that we have a good idea as to what the design needs to accomplish.

Whether those goals include an increase to the plant’s throughput (operational efficiency), a reallocation of resources, or improving their accuracy of the order(s) or process(es), they go a long way in determining the best overall design of the system and the type of sortation used. Understanding goals and objectives up front ensures a seamless transition from the start of the project to the implementation of a justifiable solution.

If you think a sortation system would be a good fit in your facility’s design, please contact us. You can also learn more about sortation systems here.

I have been with Bastian Solutions since June of 2012, and I enjoy helping out my customers not only from the design side but the implementation side as well. I started as a Project Engineer and have since transitioned into the Applications Engineer, which has allowed me to see many aspects of this career.

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