Now that online shopping has boomed to become a bigger market than ever, warehousing and delivery systems have never been more important. Whether for warehouse sorting or postal sorting, efficient sorting practices are heavily relied upon.
In simple terms, sortation involves identifying and sorting items (usually boxed items) so that they are placed where they need to be – whether in the warehouse for storage or in a queue for shipment.
Automated sortation utilizes various technologies to save time, money, and personnel. This system relies on items carried along conveyor belts, barcode scanners, and sensors to track items and ensure they arrive where they need to be.
The alternative is manual sortation, which relies on people and machinery like forklifts to manually move items which are a far slower, less accurate process.
The importance of automated sortation for growing businesses cannot be overestimated. With manual sortation, the risk of error is relatively high and results in delays, missing products, and losses. With automated processes, items can be identified, tracked, and categorized for a specific destination. There are different automated sortation options based on speed:
- Slow Speed: this is the most affordable option, but products are sorted slowly. This system works best for companies where time is not a priority.
- Medium Speed: this option can sort roughly 30 to 200 items per minute.
- High Speed: this option is the best for high volume, time-sensitive products, sorting 150 to 450 items per minute.
The important thing to consider with any speed levels is that they will be faster than manual sortation. There are also options for items that can be fed into sorters either manually or automatically.
Shipping, Receiving, and Returns Sortation
One of the biggest benefits with sorting processes is being able to more efficiently track and monitor inventory in the warehouse. This includes receiving products from other warehouses, shipping to customers, and receiving returns from customers.
Returns processing can be a bit of a mess without the right optimization strategy. This is a shame because inventory can become a double loss. With the right automated system in place, sorting can ensure returned items are processed quickly and moved on to the next destination, ensuring the return is completed in a timely manner.
Sorting can also help with items coming into the warehouse from production sites. Like returns, once there is a system in place with barcodes and scanners, items entering the warehouse will be logged so that internal and external inventory can be updated. The items will also be automatically sorted into the appropriate locations.
For outgoing orders, automated sortation will scan barcodes and route packages to the appropriate shipping dock. This helps optimize shipping so that all items bound for the same location can be consolidated. In general, this consolidation can take extreme amounts of time if attempted manually.
Packaging and Shipping
Retrieving customer purchases from inside the warehouse and then packing those items is the most labor-intensive stage of order fulfillment. Automated sortation systems can be leveraged to take these roles off the shoulders of workers.
For large businesses with more volume picking every individual order can be exhaustive. With an automated system, workers will be notified once the machine has done its part and the shipment is ready to go. Shipments can be sorted into zones to allow for quicker delivery and to maximize shipment space and costs.
There are multiple benefits of automated systems. Many of these benefits speak for themselves. They have many benefits that can suit any company, from e-commerce to food to postal. With automated sortation, businesses can:
- Optimize the organization and decrease warehouse footprint
- Continue operations during employee rest times
- Reduce the number of workers needed and make the working conditions safer
- Exact tracking and locating of products
- Fewer errors and a higher degree of accuracy
- Faster delivery and returns processing
- Provide better inventory reliability
- Potential to be customized and scaled to different business sizes
Ultimately, the choice to automate is an investment. However, the savings when it comes to these systems are indisputable. Medium and large businesses with warehousing and shipping activities can benefit, as well as small companies looking to grow or with a heavy reliance on sorting.
Best Fits for Sorting Processes
Automated sorting makes life much easier for warehouses and shipping, but they are not ideal for every business. Certain businesses are most inclined to fit the bit for sortation systems.
- E-commerce businesses of any kind are ideal for automated systems. Under the scrutiny of customers, e-commerce businesses will find it challenging to keep up ratings while working with manual order fulfillment systems.
- Moreover, the logistics of shipping over a region, a country, or globally complicate order fulfillment, and inadequate sortation systems expose the process to errors of all kinds.
- Warehousing Companies
- Companies with large warehouses need automated systems to save time and increase profits. Automated systems cut the time required to locate, move, ship, or return items drastically. When money is saved. time is too.
- The propensity to lose items in warehouses is huge, not to mention all of the other hazards that come with human error and paper filing.
- Returns Logistics
- Whether processing returns from customers or returning faulty or lapsed items to other warehouses or production centers, keeping track of incoming and outgoing items requires good organization. Again, automated systems are a boon for any business with a warehousing component so that packages are not flying around haphazardly.
Businesses in the shipping, receiving, or warehousing industries are starting to understand more than ever the benefits of automation. Automated sortation is not new, but it can be a breath of life for businesses looking to grow or save employees from the stress of warehousing.