From warehouses to distribution centers to shipping and receiving departments, packages must be sorted correctly. It’s a time-consuming process that’s prone to errors, particularly of the human-made variety. Those can cost organizations time, money, and even the ability to compete within their industry. Thankfully, automated solutions are leveling the playing field and making it easier for businesses to enjoy error-free sorting. This post will discuss what decision-makers should know about automated sortation.
What Is Automated Sortation?
Sortation is the name given to a wide range of sorting activities used within multiple business types. E-commerce businesses must sort packages as they arrive at the warehouse, but also for delivery to customers. Big box stores must sort inventory deliveries for stocking on the sales floor and for storage in the stock room. Distribution centers must sort, stock, and organize deliveries so that they can be sent back out again. That’s a great deal of sortation going on, and most of these processes are both manual and error-prone.
Automated sortation is the opposite. This process relies on a combination of hardware and software to sort, organize, and track packages and parcels throughout a facility, and beyond. It eliminates human error, while also streamlining operations to save businesses time and money, and even boosting customer satisfaction.
Automated sortation also comes in many different “flavors”. There’s automated inventory sorting, automated shipping and receiving sortation, automated picking and packing, and variations and combinations of all of the above. In short, whatever a business needs in terms of sortation, there is a way to automate the process(es).
Why Consider Automated Sortation?
Why should organizations consider automated sortation? What benefits does this technology bring that make it such a gamechanger? The truth is that national and multi-national organizations have been adding automation to their sorting operations for years now. Amazon is probably the best example of this with the company’s pick and pack robots, but there are many others out there. However, the technology has been out of reach for smaller businesses, at least until now.
One of the primary reasons to consider investing in automated sortation systems is that the technology is finally affordable enough for smaller businesses. That means these firms can finally begin to compete with larger, more established organizations and claim their share of the pie.
Another reason to consider adding automated sortation is to maximize uptime. Every second counts when it comes to sortation. A holdup or breakdown that lasts minutes can be very expensive. An issue that gums up the works for hours? That could be catastrophic. And yet corporations experience these types of problems regularly and chalk it up to the cost of doing business today. It does not have to be that way.
With automated sortation, businesses can maximize uptime. Because they are not relying on people to handle sortation, there are no human-caused breakdowns in the sorting process. That means no packages put in the wrong place, no lost time while an employee tries to figure out a label or where a package is supposed to go, and no slowdowns when workers have to take breaks.
Speaking of workers, automation also allows businesses to address one of the key challenges they face: the employee shortage. Automation replaces human bodies with technology, which means that employers can stop worrying about not being able to fill their roster. With the right system, each company can boost productivity and efficiency to the same level or higher as it would enjoy with a full staff of human employees.
That lack of human employees also means that businesses can enjoy cost reductions. With fewer employees to pay, the business can invest more of its profits into growth-related areas. Companies are also able to save by reducing the amount spent on benefits, insurance, payroll taxes, and other employee-related costs.
Beyond uptime and cost savings, businesses are also able to achieve mission-critical goals, including the following:
- Improved Returns Processing: Returns have traditionally been very challenging to handle. The reverse logistics process is anything but simple. However, automated sortation makes dealing with returns a snap, which further boosts cash flow and working capital.
- Improved Product Flow: Customers want their purchases as quickly as possible. While shipping is one holdup, slow product flow within retailers and e-commerce organizations also drives delays. Those can erode customer satisfaction and trust, but automated sortation can dramatically increase product flow and drive higher customer satisfaction ratings.
- Improved Scalability: It’s challenging to scale a human workforce. The layoff/hiring cycle incurred by business growth is costly and time-consuming. However, automated sortation systems are incredibly scalable, allowing organizations to scale their systems up or down as the pace of business demands and as growth occurs.
- Improved Applicability: Finally, decision-makers will discover that automated sortation has an incredibly wide range of applications. E-commerce fulfillment, warehousing and logistics, and reverse logistics operations all benefit from this technology. Plus, this is an investment that pays huge returns over time thanks to its scalability and adaptability.
The benefits of automated sortation are clear and the days of manual processes are numbered.
A Word of Caution
While automated sortation offers some significant advantages to organizations large and small, it should be noted that not all automation providers are cut from the same cloth. It is imperative that decision-makers choose a partner that fits their needs and budget but also delivers cutting-edge automation systems that will stand the test of time.
However, there’s more to it than just ensuring that a technology partner is on the cusp of development. There is no one-size-fits-all solution in the world of automated sortation, and yet many companies try to push the same system on customers, regardless of differences in the client company’s size, industry, and other factors.
The right partner will offer not just an advanced system, but the opportunity to customize the automation system to fit a business’s unique requirements and projected growth in the future. With the right automation partner, it’s possible to achieve scalable, sustainable success while driving business growth and improving customer satisfaction.