The Highly Effective Alternative to Traditional Put Walls

By Gary Forger

Last week’s blog focused on picking inventory with Perfect Pick automation. This week we’re here to tell you about its fraternal twin, designed for order and item sortation. You could call the two together the Ying and Yang of e-commerce order fulfillment.  

From the outside, the two might not look all that related, but internally, there are plenty of similarities - including their iBOT autonomous vehicles. Functionally, one picks while the other sorts. And that creates a powerful balance of two of e-commerce’s toughest operations. It also eliminates bottlenecks and streamlines order fulfillment of eaches day in and day out.  

Physically, think of the system as three parallel lanes. The two outside lanes are stationary sort locations, just like a put wall. The center lane is the runway for the system’s iBOT autonomous vehicles, which deliver items to designated sort locations. A Sure Sort system could be as much as 45 feet in length and just under 8 feet tall. At the front of the system is an induction station. There, a worker places barcoded items on a short conveyor.

“By reducing the number of touches, transfers and conveyance required to run existing sorters, Sure Sort provides a cost-effective way to sort items more accurately and efficiently,” explains Troy VanWormer, Director of Warehouse Automation at OPEX.

The system’s software receives the scan, and, in conjunction with most any warehouse management system, communicates the desired sort location to the iBOT which travels directly to the assigned location. The iBOT’s conveyor deck simply deposits the item into the tote and returns for its next assignment. Using light indicators, the system identifies for workers when an order is ready to be removed from the Sure Sort for final pack out. With a single person at the induction station, as many as 2,400 items can be sorted hourly. Only two people are needed to pack out the completed orders.

Sure Sort handles items weighing up to five pounds and as large as 15 inches wide, 12 inches long and 4 inches high. In addition to individual rectangular items, the system handles plastic bagged items as well as cylindrical and odd-shaped ones. Furthermore, Sure Sort’s footprint is a fraction of what’s required for other sortation systems, freeing up significant space for other warehousing operations. Sure Sort is also highly scalable and customizable. Various system lengths are possible. Sort locations can be configured for totes of different heights and depths.

That versatility is central to making Sure Sort a highly effective alternative to traditional put walls, explains VanWormer. “Our general rule of thumb is that one fully configured Sure Sort can replace 5 - 6 put walls,” he adds.

Sure Sort can also be used for kitting and consolidating work-in-process. There’s also the matter of sortation for last mile delivery. For instance, parcels can be sorted to the ZIP code level to secure postal discounts for bundling parcel mailings.

“When all is said and done, even a company with $10 million a year in revenue can expect a highly respectable return on investment with Sure Sort,” says Van Wormer.

Next time around, we’re going to take a look at where e-commerce in general stands today. You might be surprised to find out just how huge an impact e-commerce is having given its relative size in retail. The next question, of course, is what does this mean to your operations?

Gary Forger is the former editor of Modern Materials Handling magazine and the Material Handling & Logistics U.S. Roadmap to 2030. 
Are you interested in the most cost-effective way to sort items more accurately and efficiently? We should talk.

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