Pouch sorters have become increasingly popular
Overhead bag, pocket or pouch sorters have become increasingly popular due to the requirements of e-commerce. In fashion logistics, car manufacturing and newspaper production, ceiling-guided conveyor technology has long been in demand due to its many advantages. But the trend towards online ordering - even of everyday consumer goods - is creating more and more areas of application for the pocket sorter in companies. Especially in the omni-channel environment (1) they offer the necessary flexibility and the system can be used for a wide variety of items and regardless of order size. Orders can be split and sequenced, allowing all items from smaller and larger orders to be processed in a co-ordinated flow and picked highly efficiently. Furthermore, the pocket sorter is also particularly suitable for the high level of returns typically experienced in e-commerce.
In online retail, 50 to 80% of returns are resold on the same day, meaning it is often not worthwhile to put the goods back into storage again. After the condition of the goods has been checked and approved for re-sale, the required pouch capacity identified, each item is packed into a bag and provided with a barcode or RFID chip. This makes the goods perfectly identifiable via the warehouse management system (WMS). The returns simply circulate in the pocket sorter until they are sold again and picked. If another required article for an order is not in stock in the dynamic buffer of the pocket sorter, it is simply picked from the warehouse and then loaded into bags. Returns and new goods are sorted via the sorting modules so that they arrive at the respective order-picking and packing station as a complete order. The solution also makes it possible to handle online or offline sales, since goods, regardless of whether they were ordered online or offline, are simply placed in the presort or hung in bags in the sorter. The orders are sorted and sequenced by the system and the employee unloads the items in the desired order at the work and packing stations.
An excellent example of a pouch sorter system can be constructed as follows (2):
Pre-sorting for many articles with Kapp sorters and sorting lines
Dynamic buffer store (able to be fed via several sorters)
Packing stations with modules for packing the goods
Empty pocket storage: at peak times, the dynamic buffer can also be used as empty pocket storage.
A great advantage of pocket sorters is the gentle transport of particularly valuable hanging and vertical goods. This means that the goods are not damaged, which increases the company's customer satisfaction. In addition, the system saves an enormous amount of space, as the vertical pocket arrangement allows the items to be stored much more densely. The efficient solution also saves operational floor space needed for other processes, as the system is often installed directly under the ceiling.
Especially in e-commerce, systems must be able to keep up with the rapid growth of order volumes and one of the great advantages of pocket sorter solutions is their scalability and their suitability to be expanded modularly. The special scalability results from the dynamic buffer, which can be enlarged modularly and connected to several sorters. Of course, it is also generally possible to increase the number of pockets both in the empty pocket warehouse and in the dynamic buffer, thus increasing the number of articles handled. The solution can thus manage the sorting and sequencing of up to several tens of thousands of articles per hour. Large solutions achieve a packing capacity of up to 700 000 items per day (3). This performance cannot be achieved with ground-based conveyor technology. In pre-sorting, only the number of sorting lines needs to be increased. In addition, more packing stations can be integrated. In operation, the system consumes little energy because the moving mass is quite small due to the lightweight conveyor technology. However, the efficiency of the processes saves most of the energy in use. This includes the intelligent innovative demand shutdowns of parts of the system that are not currently being used and the use of gradients in the system guidance.
The modular design, separate elements and low number of components ensure high availability of the solution. The components can be replaced easily and quickly. The life cycle of a sorter is carefully thought through. By using small drives and high efficiency, pocket sorters consume little power. The fast loading of the sorter, minimal maintenance requirements and high availability guarantee consistently high customer satisfaction.
A hanging-bag sorter is generally suitable for goods that only stay in the warehouse for a short time - such as in e-commerce (returns, fast-moving items). Here, the use of hanging-bag sorters and conventional conveyor and storage technology is particularly worthwhile.