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Sortation Systems Hit the Mark for a Variety of Throughput Requirements

Sortation Systems Hit the Mark for a Variety of Throughput Requirements

   Tim Kraus

Sortation Systems Hit the Mark for a Variety of Throughput Requirements

When a sortation system isn’t working anymore or a company reaches an automation impasse, the results are unmistakable: 

  • Orders move too slowly. 
  • Demand isn’t met. 
  • Errors accumulate. 
  • An approaching peak time causes dread. 
  • Labor costs skyrocket or the right employees are scarce. 

But a sortation and conveyance system that is perfect for one application might prove disastrous for another. So, whenever a DC is buried in piled-up boxes, spending too much on labor, or just needs help during seasonal burdens, what’s the best way to implement automation? In many cases, it comes down to selecting the right sortation automation — and these systems can vary greatly. Here are some important considerations:

  • What’s your daily throughput in terms of units per hour?
  • What’s your expected return on investment (ROI) pain point?
  • Where are you situated compared to your competition?
  • What’s your growth strategy? 
  • Do you need automation 24/7, or just during peak events?
  • Can you justify an automation solution to offset labor challenges?

Pick your throughput

For starters, it helps to think that sortation systems are divided into three classes. Options exist at Honeywell Intelligrated for low, medium and high throughput scenarios. One answer (and one size) doesn’t fit all, but the evaluation metrics are mostly the same: How much throughput do you have, and how fast is it moving?

At the low-speed end of the spectrum, you’ll find these solutions: mobile picking carts, manual processing, pick-to-light and voice-directed picking, as well as motor-driven rollers (MDRs). These solutions deliver required throughput for DCs dealing with sporadic higher volumes, such as during peak seasons. 

There are a variety of viable mid-speed options available for companies that can justify sortation automation in their DCs to offset labor challenges throughout the year. These include MDRs, bomb-bay and push-tray sorters, which are often combined with higher-speed sortation conveyors to give these DCs a reliable means to handle sustained throughput requirements. 

High-speed sortation automation solutions are designed to support high throughput volumes — from 24,000–27,000 units per hour, or more than 250,000 orders per day. These include loop sorters and high-speed line sorters, also called shoe sorters.

Understanding your short- and long-term throughput requirements is also the best way to justify ROI. We typically recommend the following rules of thumb when calculating ROI:

  • Less than five years to recapture an automation investment
  • Two to three years for low- and mid-speed solutions
  • Up to five years for high-speed throughput automation

The sortation automation landscape may appear like an unnavigable maze to many DC operators, but that’s where our sales leadership at Honeywell Intelligrated comes in. Our experts can help you navigate the range of sortation and conveyance systems with the expertise to recommend solutions that work in conjunction with currently installed automation systems.

What sets Honeywell Intelligrated apart is our breadth of solutions — from low-speed, entry-level options to advanced sortation automation for high-speed throughput. And because there are no “one-size-fits-all” solutions, we can help you design the ideal sortation system for your business requirements.

Read our white paper for more information about how our sortation automation offerings address modern throughput needs.