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Cliff Holste

Supply Chain Digest
Material Handling Editor

Logistics News - Sorting It Out

Cliff Holste is Supply Chain Digest's Material Handling Editor. With more than 30 years experience in designing and implementing material handling and order picking systems in distribution, Holste has worked with dozens of large and smaller companies to improve distribution performance.

March 8, 2017

Sorting It Out : Increase Sorting System Capacity By 20%


Capitalizing on Advances in Sorting Technology to Achieve Higher Throughput Rates

 

Introduced in the early 1980’s, the sliding shoe sorter gained wide spread acceptance in manufacturing and distribution systems due to its ability to positively sort a large range of case sizes and configuration, including small and light weight cases. Offered by most of the major material handling system providers, the sliding shoe sorter has become the preferred sorting method for a broad range of both manufacturing and distribution applications.


Holste Says...

By keeping the shipping sorter software and controls up to date, shippers will ensure that they are getting the optimum performance out of their current investment while further extending its useful service life.

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Initially, sliding shoe sorters were limited by design constraints to a maximum speed of about 350 FPM and a minimum gap (space between cases) of about 12 inches. Based on these limitations the shoe sorter had a maximum sorting rate in the 100 to 120 CPM range, which was a significant improvement over the typical pusher, deflector, and popup wheel diverter type sorters.


With advances in sorting system design and controls technology, equipment manufacturers have moved well beyond the original sliding shoe sorter design constraints. As a result, current sliding shoe sorters are capable of running at twice the speed with 50% less gap between cases. With gap optimizing software controlling high capacity multi-line merges, system throughput rates in excess of 300 CPM are possible.

The good news for shippers who are operating older sliding shoe sorting systems (constrained by the 350 FPM maximum speed) is that they can also benefit from gap optimizing software. Based on manufacturers’ reports, a relatively simple PC-based upgrade can maximize case population on the sorter, increasing throughput up to 20% without increasing the speed of the sorter. 

This additional capacity may be just enough to absorb peak demand on a daily or seasonal basis while extending the life of the sorter for a few more years. And, while you’re at it, you may want to check out the sorting management and performance controls that are now available. Visual displays that can provide insight into how your sorting system is performing allowing you to better manage picking waves and peak volume periods throughout the picking and shipping cycle. New diagnostic controls can provide maintenance and status reports that can reduce system downtime.

Final Thoughts 

By keeping the shipping sorter software and controls up to date, shippers will ensure that they are getting the optimum performance out of their current investment while further extending its useful service life. The best opportunity to learn more about technologies that can increase shipping capacity can be found at ProMat 2017, April 3-6 in Chicago, IL – see www.promatshow.com

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