The conveyor industry is seeing an increased interest in 24-volt or motor-driven roller technologies according to Johnson, who says 24-volt systems are now Hytrol’s No. 1 product. Unlike traditional conveyor, these new modular systems don’t rely on centralized, hardwired controls to direct the system components. Instead, the intelligence driving each conveyor segment is distributed throughout the facility. Paired with intelligent software, these technologies allow smart routing, energy efficiency, and the ability to easily rearrange modules or sections of conveyors and sorters with minimal disruption.
When people think of sortation systems, many envision a massive 600-foot linear shipping sorter with dozens of inducts and destinations. Just as with conveyors, says Khodl, the tendency now is to work with point-solution sortation systems. “Maybe you want a divert point for a replenishment process or inside of a pick module,” Khodl says. “You now have the ability to drop a modular sorter component into a standard conveyor in an hour or two. In the past you couldn’t do that without open-heart surgery.”
manager for Interroll.
With the intelligence and flexibility to react to changing volumes, conveyor and sortation solutions must also adapt to changing product characteristics. Piece handling lacks the predictability of cases, and can be difficult or impossible to manage with conventional conveyor systems.
Whether to serve e-commerce or not, service levels and responsiveness are critical, and are rooted in the efficiency and nimbleness of production and fulfillment operations. Smart conveyor and sortation systems contribute to balanced product flow through a facility, but their impact doesn’t stop at the dock door. In fact, the dock is a good place to gauge the effectiveness of upstream processes, because minutes and seconds count when working to meet shipping deadlines.
When Germany-based Adidas Group purchased British-based rival Reebok in January of 2006, the company decided to examine its combined U.S. distribution network. When consolidating DCs, the company installed a range of customized sortation systems to handle 18,000 units per hour.