A look at the intricacies of automated sortation technologies  

Research Title: A look at the intricacies of automated sortation technologies

Research Category: Conveyor System

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Researchers: Glenn Barnes
Location: CA, United States

Research Details

GLENN Barnes from Dematic has looked at the benefits of automated sortation and the key selection criteria for a range of system options.
Automation can help deliver productivity, capacity, accuracy and accountability, decreasing costs and resulting in a more efficient flow of goods to consumers.

Manufacturers of fast moving consumer goods use robotic sortation systems to sort, handle and palletise cartonised products as they come off the production line.

The systems can also be used for accounting, logging the production line status and distribution of goods. This data can be transmitted to the unloading points for increased efficiency, especially if the receiver also uses an automated system.

Generally, sorters can be divided into the two categories of linear and recirculating.
Linear sorters are cost-effective where there are 10 to 50 sortation points or destinations.
These systems include a merge subsystem to collect and combine cartons from multiple sources, an induction subsystem, the sorter itself and often a recirculation subsystem to handle any items that could not be diverted to their assigned lane.

Various diversion mechatronics are available in the linear systems, depending on the throughput needed. These can include right angle transfers, pivot arm diverters, and sliding shoe sorters.
Recirculating sorters are comprised of a continuous loop of linked carriers, which travel around a circuit. They can handle throughputs exceeding 20,000 items per hour and can accurately sort a wide range of products to hundreds of delivery points.

These sorters can be flexible in layout and expansion options. They can negotiate turns, incline and decline, and use the same carriers multiple times per circuit. The design means failures at various junctures of the system will not posed too much disruption to the operation.
Recirculating sorters can be additionally categorised into the tilt tray and cross-belt types. The tilt tray sorter has carriers consisting of a shaped tray with a tilting mechanism that tips the tray to offload the parcel. The carriers of a Cross-Belt sorter have an individually motorised belt conveyor, which is dynamically controlled to offload parcels, and can handle a wider variety of sizes and shapes.
When choosing the solution, the nature of the handled material is important. This can include the dimensions, weights, shapes, fragility, packaging, and surfaces. This affects the sorter type and the design of the chutes and lanes.
Another important factor to consider is the throughput needed, including daily volumes, hourly peaks, seasonality, operational times and forecasted growth.

Besides product and throughput, the number and nature of sort destinations should also be looked at, as well as considerations for space efficiency and layout flexibility.

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