A way to sort large volumes of mail, packages, and other materials is through automatic sortation systems. These machines are programmed to scan, identify, and correct mistakes automatically. Automated sortation systems are an automated version of the traditional mailroom. They use automated vehicles to transport packages by using sorting equipment. The following are some different types of automation used in modern sortation centers:
Cross-belt sorters use in-motion or cross-belts to move mail in a straight line. Items are automatically identified by size, barcode dimension, weight/gravity, or characteristic/ presence of metal. Unidentified items are diverted to bins for later manual processing. Various divert gates direct items across the belt to different bins as the belt moves. Mail is either diverted into a bin for later manual processing or continues down the line for automated processing. This sortation systems process does not require envelopes or flats to be opened and resealed.
Vertical carousels operate similarly, but they have vertical trays instead of cross belts. These trays are programmed to move in a loop so that the tray assigned to each mail piece is always adjacent to it during processing. The data determines the tray’s position in the loop read from its barcode.
Horizontal carousels have long, narrow bins that rotate to different points along an arc, like the buckets on a Ferris wheel. Typical HCUs have 36 bins, but 18 or 12 bins systems are available for lower volume applications. Each bin is assigned to one of 12 zones according to the data read from its barcode label. A complete rotation takes several seconds, so each zone operates on a different mailpiece every few seconds.
Sorting is an essential part of supply chains, allowing companies to consolidate shipments into fewer deliveries. Even though manual sorting can be detrimental in terms of time and costs, many businesses still rely on it to handle product variety.