Sorting and sequencing
Let’s consider some of the key factors for choosing a pocket sorter. The first thing is that its strengths are undeniable if high levels of sortation and sequencing are required, particularly in an e-commerce or omni-channel environment.
There’s a trend towards omni-channel systems, and as such, the pocket sorter is flexible because it operates independently of order size. What’s exciting for me is that some warehousing companies are only just discovering the advantages of sequencing.
Take fashion retail for example, which can incorporate multiple families and sizes. Sequencing allows a store to dictate the precise order in which products arrive, offering advantages in terms of stock replenishment.
A single coordinated flow
The pocket sorter can bring any items together in a single coordinated flow and is ideal if a high picking efficiency is desired. Whether it’s consolidation, or multiple ‘floating’ batches for waveless picking, the system’s buffer zone adapts to individual needs.
Sequencing begins once all items are together in the buffer area. Here, returns handling can also be accommodated. In e-commerce, 50-80% of returned items are typically resold the same day. Here, the benefits of easy direct put-away and automated recirculation of returned items in pockets are clear.
Similarly, a pocket sorter can incorporate cross-docking and collate items to meet short lead times. As the system doesn’t match an item to an order right away, priority orders can be easily facilitated, further decreasing lead times.
As products can be buffered and transported seamlessly, there is flexibility across a warehouse’s inbound and outbound processes. This covers picking, packing and storage, but is also helpful in incorporating the value-added services common to e-commerce, for example, adding labels at specific packing stations, depending on where the orders are sent.
One main point when considering a pocket sorter is product size. In fashion, this is not so much of a topic as over 95% of items can be handled in a pocket. In general merchandise however, the spectrum of items is much broader – ranging from a USB stick to a refrigerator. The split is usually answered by the question: “What can I fit into a tote?”
Most warehousing companies have a size threshold, and our pocket sorter, AIRTRAX , can accommodate the majority of items. The system can even help to make the consolidation process of bulky items more efficient at the packing table.
Warehousing companies want maximum flexibility, not restrictions. Perhaps the pocket sorter’s future-proofing qualities are a distinct advantage here? The sequencing area is modular, and the number of sequencing modules can be easily expanded (even up to 80,000 items per hour), making the AIRTRAX pocket sorter highly scalable.
Its length is also limitless due to the friction drive, which facilitates long transport distances and minimal noise levels when compared to chain-driven systems.
If real estate is an issue, it’s worth noting that the pocket sorter can be used overhead. This results in efficient use of the volumetric space in a warehouse. By operating overhead, the pocket sorter allows for additional infrastructure and processes below.
Making the right decision
With warehouse automation, there’s typically a choice between a goods-to-person (GtP) or person-to-goods (PtG) system. If a full GtP solution is not the right fit for your operation owing to the higher investment level, the pocket sorter is ideal. This is because it makes the PtG process more efficient while eliminating the costly and error-prone manual item sortation process.
In addition, the pocket sorter is ideal for third-party logistics companies, unsure whether they can secure labour to fulfil a long-term contract. This is because there is a strong ROI and the system can easily adapt to accommodate different items in the future, per contract.
The AIRTRAX pocket sorter solves numerous headaches associated with picking efficiency, labour dependency and returns handling. In short, it’s a perfect next step for companies looking to increase efficiency and flexibility. It’s this combination of factors that makes the pocket sorter hard to ignore in today’s ever-changing markets.