Conveyor technology: Are you thinking differently?

With new distribution requirements and more investment in automation underway, Modern set out to find how readers are now approaching the use of conveyors and sortation systems.
By Bob Trebilcock, Executive Editor
April 01, 2013 - MMH Editorial

And, just as they are using a variety of conveying technologies, they are handling a diverse set of unit load types and sizes. The percentage of respondents handling individual items, poly-bagged items and plastic totes may be a reflection of the growing volume of direct-to-consumer orders:

  • 55% are handling cases/boxes
  • 42% are handling individual items
  • 30% are handling plastic totes
  • 27% are handling pallets
  • 17% are handling poly-bagged items
  • 14% are handling mixed SKU pallets
  • 10% are handling beverage cartons

What’s more, 82% of respondents say their conveyor equipment is moving various load configurations. The changing nature of distribution and order fulfillment is reflected in the types of orders being shipped. Only 19% of respondents are shipping full pallets and only 2% are shipping full cartons. Meanwhile, nearly 24% are shipping mixed pallets, 16% are shipping mixed cartons, and 22% are shipping item level orders directly to customers.

Most facilities are operating conventional order fulfillment solutions:

  • 57% pick, pack and ship orders as they are received in the facility
  • 30% handle items more than once during the order fulfillment process, such as picking to a tote that is conveyed to a packing area
  • 23% are picking directly to a shipping container
  • 18% let orders accumulate before they ship


About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Executive Editor

Bob Trebilcock, executive editor, has covered materials handling, technology and supply chain topics for Modern Materials Handling since 1984. More recently, Trebilcock became editorial director of Supply Chain Management Review. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.


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