Sortation Systems: Three Problems, Three Solutions

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Dec 16, 2013

Automated sorting and classifying systems have increased the productivity of many food plants and at the same time have helped reduce the number of repetitive motion injuries of workers. When problems with these systems occur, they are often in the following three areas:

  1. Sorting errors due to timing issues
  2. Lost production due to network failures
  3. Learning curves at start-up

sorting systems

1. Timing Issues:  A sorting/classifier system needs to capture the weight of the item to be sorted and determine which bin, tote, box, or chute that item should be sent to. Sortation systems that depend on a pre-set amount of time to activate the proper divert are vulnerable to sorting errors due to timing issues. Sudden fluctuations in electrical power  available to the system can cause considerable problems with sortation system timing. 

sorting systems

Solution:  Our approach is distance-based divert activation rather than time-based activation.  By directly interfacing to conveyor movement and positively determining the amount of distance the item to be sorted travels, we eliminate sorting errors caused by electrical irregularities.

2. Network Failures:  If your sortation system is remotely controlled via your computer network, you put your production at the risk of your network.  When your network goes down, so does the sortation system.

Solution:  We offer two types of controllers on our systems.  Both of them can store a data base and both of them can continue to run in the event of a network failure.  While the network is down, these controllers continue to store production records.  When the network is restored, those saved records are available.  The main differences between our two types of controllers are primarily in the type of data base, the user interface, and the amount of information that can be stored.

3. Learning Curves at Start-up:  As a company that has designed, manufactured, and supervised the installation of many sorting and classifier systems, there is an important personal aspect to automation that we have discovered.  Your workers may need some time with our technicians during installation and at start-up.  Many workers resist change, and this can apply to new equipment and processes as well.

Solution:  To get the most out of your sortation system, be sure to schedule adequate time for our technicians to train the employees who will operate and maintain it.

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