• Pop-up roller diverters rise up to move an item off a conveyor.

  • Sortation systems transfer items off main conveyor lines to spur tracks, moving large volumes of material rapidly through a facility.

To separate and route items—such as parcels, boxes, cartons or parts—within a facility, a sortation system merges, identifies, inducts and conveys products to specific destinations. Working in conjunction with fixed conveyors, automatic identification systems and controls, sortation systems transfer items off main conveyor lines to spur tracks. Sortation moves large volumes of material rapidly through a facility, allowing companies to ship or receive higher volumes with smaller storage space and lower labor costs. Typical sortation applications include routing of cases, totes or palletized loads to and from static or automated storage systems, or from a picking area to packaging for shipping.

There are many types of sortation components. These include:

  • Deflector: A stationary or moveable angled arm that deflects product flow access across a belt or roller conveyor to the desired location. Included are impact deflectors that utilize a swing out arm that avoids contact with the conveying surface, but impacts the side of the load to produce a lateral change in direction.
  • Diverter: A mechanical device that sits above a conveying surface and uses electric, hydraulic or pneumatic power to push, pull, or move a case, carton or piece off the main conveyor line. The movement targets the side of the load. Types include:

    • Impact diverters - A mechanically actuated push plate that impacts the side of a load to move it to the right or left of the conveying surface.
    • Line shaft diverter - Roller diverters used in a line shaft driven roller conveyor to redirect materials.
    • Push driver - A computer-controlled arm pushes items from a conveyor line at a right angle.
    • Pneumatic pusher – Air-powered, this device utilizes a ram and cylinder to push materials off the main conveyor line.
    • Pneumatic puller - Air-powered, this device travels beyond the object to be redirected and retracts, pulling it in the desired direction.
  • In-line diverters – Also called moving surface diverters or pop-up diverters, these mechanical devices are integrated into the main conveying surface and rise above that surface on command. This action changes the direction of a load’s movement via direct contact with the underside of the load. Types include:

    • Pop-up chain sorter – For perpendicular changes to conveying direction in load transfer of heavy, slow-moving pallet loads.
    • Pop-up rollers or Roller diverter - Rollers rise up between the chain or roller conveyors to move the item off the conveyor.
    • Pop-up skewed wheel sorter – Ideal for high-speed sorting of up to 120 cases per minute, wheels pop up between the rollers of a powered roller conveyor, or between belt conveyor segments, to direct items onto a powered take-away line.
    • Rake puller - A device in which tines pop up between conveyor rollers and pull the item across the conveyor to the desired location.
    • Powered wheel diverter – Powered skatewheels rise up from the conveyor bed to send objects in the desired direction.
  • Shoe sorter conveyor – Also called a surfing sorter, these conveyors have a surface of continuously linked slats with a shoe on one side that moves along with the slats. Independently operated, each shoe can slide across the slat as needed, coming in contact with the side of the load to move it off the main conveyor line. They are ideal for high-speed sorting of up to 150 cases per minute.
  • Tilt-tray sorter – For the highest speed sorting of up to 250 cases per minute, tilt tray sorters are a continuously moving train of independent trays that move in a straight line and recirculate in either a horizontal or vertical (over and under) closed loop. Controls cause the tray to tilt and discharge the load.
  • Cross belt sorter conveyor – Featuring short belt, motorized conveyor sections whose orientation is perpendicular to the main route of the main conveyor travel, the load on each section is propelled off the main line by activation of the short section’s motor.

Sortation is used in a variety of areas to move materials throughout a facility:

  • Order picking: Moving ordered products from storage to picking areas, and completed orders to trailer-loading area for distribution
  • Sorting: Organizing products to deliver them their final destination
  • Staging: Routing and holding items for further processing or packaging
  • Transportation: Moving pallets, cases and totes throughout a facility
  • Warehousing: Moving products from receiving to storage

Sortation systems provide a variety of benefits:

  • Ergonomics – Because they do the work of load movement, sortation systems eliminate the chance of operator injury from pushing or pulling a load.
  • Process flow – Sortation systems can be used as a part of an assembly or manufacturing process.
  • Safety – Because they move loads along a fixed path, sortation systems eliminate the chance of collisions associated with forklift or manual product movement.
  • Speed – Sortation system speed can be set to accommodate slow and peak demand periods.
  • Transportation – Sortation systems facilitate the internal movement of totes, cases or pallet loads throughout a facility with minimal or no labor required.

Sortation systems provide internal material movement for facilities in nearly every industry, including:

  • Aerospace
  • Appliance
  • Automotive
  • Beverage
  • Chemicals
  • Construction
  • Consumer goods
  • E-Commerce
  • Food
  • Hardware
  • Hospital
  • Manufacturing
  • Materials processing
  • Paper
  • Parcel handling
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Plastics
  • Retail
  • Warehousing and distribution

Read more about how sortation systems are used in different industries and applications. Additional Sortation case studies can be found here. Additional case studies can be found here.