Sorting System for Warehouse Automation: Types and Applications


  • Benefits of Automated Sorting System
  • Case Sorters
  • Unit Sorters
  • Case & Unit Sorters
  • Choosing the Right Sorting System

Sorting Systems

There are two ways to sort items in a warehouse. Sorting could refer to systematically organizing items in a warehouse. For example, categorizing items based on similar characteristics could be sorting. Sorting also refers to identifying items on a conveyor system. Then, sorters divert them to the proper packing station. In this article, we will discuss automated sorting systems, their types and applications.

Benefits of Automated Sorting System

Automating the sorting system of a warehouse reduces overall labour costs. This is common in most automated processes. Additionally, it also improves order accuracy. As a result, there is also faster order processing. Because it is automated, there are also fewer accidents. As such, there are fewer broken or damaged products. To sum it up, a sorting system improves overall order fulfilment. Other benefits include:

  • Less double-handling of orders
  • Efficient picking strategy
  • Optimized use of floor space

Types of Sorters for Sorting System 

In general, there are two types of sorting systems. The two types differ based on the types of items they sort. Namely, they are case sorters and unit sorters.

Case Sorters

Case sorters sort and transport whole cases and totes of orders. They help reduce the amount of manual handling to process finished orders. As a result, this also reduces total order cycle time.

Pop-Up Wheel Sorter

Pop-Up Wheel Sorters consist of wheels, rollers or belts. These rollers pop up to lift and transfer items. Due to the 30-90 degree angles they have, they transfer to downstream conveyors. They are best used for handling uniform products. As such, they are an excellent option as a packing sorter. Throughput range falls somewhere between 40-100 cartons per minute. Aside from being affordable, the system is customizable. That is, it is easy to add or remove sections based on the needs of the warehouse. However, the system is only able to handle small and lightweight cartons.

Pusher Sorter

Pusher sorters consist of a series of pushers mounted on a conveyor belt. The pusher extends at a right angle to the conveyor. Then, it diverts the case or tote onto a secondary conveyor or chute. These sorters are usually for packing and shipping. Further, their throughput falls somewhere between 10-30 cartons per minute. Like Pop-Up Wheel sorters, pusher sorters are also affordable. Unevenly weighted products are no problem for this sorting system. Yet, they are not as gentle or fast as other sorting systems. 

Unit Sorters

Unit sorters work by sorting individual items through the facility. They make operations more efficient throughout order fulfilment. 

Tilt-Tray Sorter

Tilt-tray sorters have a series of carts linked together. These carts form a train of trays that carry products on a continuous loop. Then, the trays tilt to transfer products into appropriate chutes. There is an option to place items manually or automatically onto the trays. Generally, throughput capabilities of tilt-trays are 100-200 items per minute. 

Crossbelt Sorter

A license plate reader has relatively lower costs compared to security personnel. Also, it offers a lot of benefits like automated toll payment, vehicle location and crime prevention. According to the National Technology Development Agency, every dollar invested in new technology also saves businesses $5 in the long run. 

Push Tray Sorter

Push trays contain trays mounted to carts. These trays carry the product and run on a continuous loop conveyor. Then, a push bar diverts the product in the direction it needs to go. Throughput falls somewhere from 30 to 60 items per minute. Additionally, push trays are considered more cost-effective compared to other unit sorters. 

Case & Unit Sorters

Some sorters are more flexible in terms of application. The following can be used as a case sorter or unit sorter depending on the needs of the operation. 

Sliding Shoe Sorter

A sliding shoe sorter has a long straight conveyor. The conveyor carries plastic blocks called “shoes”. Underneath the blocks are switches. There are switches at every divert location. Once the product reaches the point where it needs to divert, the switch activates. As such, the shoe pushes the product off the sorter. Then, it heads to the correct divert lane. These sorters are also used in packing and shipping applications. 

Narrow Belt Sorter

A narrow belt sorter relies on narrow strip belts to carry the products. It either diverts at 90-degree or 30-degree angles. High friction rollers engage the product and divert it off the sorter at an angle. This sorter allows products to go directly to shipping containers with no manual intervention. Throughput usually falls from 10-100 cartons, depending on the angle. The narrow belt sorter is incredibly flexible. Further, it is quiet and consumes minimal energy. Small cartons at high speeds are not conducive to this sorting system. 

Choosing the Right Sorting System

Because of the various sorting systems available, you might have a hard time choosing which sorter is right for you. In that case, you can ask yourself the following questions: 

  1. What goals or throughput requirements do you need to meet? 
  2. What specific application (receiving, picking, packing, shipping, etc.) will you use the system for?
  3. What are the characteristics of the packages or items you handle? 
  4. How many destinations or diverters are required? 
  5. What is the available floor space in your warehouse?

These are just some examples of questions to ask yourself. If you’re still unsure of what sorting system to get after, don’t worry. To help you decide on the right sorting system for your business, contact Qbasis today! 

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