10 Tips on How to Implement Powerful Automation for Wholesale Distribution

wholesale automation solutions blog header image
10 powerful automation solutions for wholesale distribution blog header image

Operating a wholesale distribution process is a complex series of moving parts. Each organization has a mix of inventory and typically involves itself in the process of purchasing, storing, and selling products to end buyers like retailers or other wholesalers. With the number of items wholesalers handle daily, it’s no surprise that many invest in automated solutions to enhance operations.

“Product availability and quality is a key element, together with a delivery service that is accurate and efficient is a driving force for businesses.”

Sedat Kaan Hendekli
Head of Operations at JJ Foodservice
Source: BetterWholesaling.com

The burning question is, what automation works best for the wholesale industry? We’ve compiled a list of 10 automation applications that we’ve experienced integrating in the past for some of our wholesale clients.

1. Robust inventory management system


The ability to have complete visibility of a wholesale operation at all times is paramount to effective distribution. A warehouse management system (or WMS) stores vital information such as scan dates, storage location, supply quantities, and a multitude of SKU data for ordering. Depending on the manufacturer, automation systems can integrate with a WMS and provide even more functionality and reporting data.

Besides being a source of important product information, a WMS can apply that information within your warehouse operations. For example, if the wrong item is picked and placed on an outbound conveyor, the scan tower will read the label and the WMS will recognize it is in the wrong batch, stopping that section of the conveyor and sounding an alarm for a worker to remove the incorrect item.

2. Robotic palletizing for redistribution


For wholesalers who use pallets, either robotic palletizing solutions automatically build and break a pallet. A wide variety of robots and end of arm tooling can accommodate most carton sizes and complex layer build configurations for pallets.

The speed and stability of robotic palletizing greatly outpace that of manual pallet building and even lift trucks. For further automation, completed pallets can be conveyed from a robotic cell to an inline stretch wrap operation, replacing tedious manual wrapping.

3. Rapid order fulfillment


Delivery expectations have greatly increased in recent years, primarily due to the prevalence of same or one-day shipping offerings online. Those expectations have extended to wholesaler clients, whose operations must match a competitive wholesale e-commerce landscape. Much like adjacent markets (third-party logistics, for example), automating order fulfillment is key to satisfying customers, while also offering an edge over the competition who don’t have quick shipping incentives.

A tried-and-true conveyor system is best suited for order fulfillment. Depending on the size of the warehouse it’s installed in, and the product being transported, a conveyor system can include a variety of automation:

  • Pack Tables
  • Carton Forming
  • Carton Sealing
  • Label Printing and Application
  • Destination Sortation
  • Loading Assistance

4. Automation-aided picking


For most wholesale operations, an inventory boasting thousands of different products and items is normal. Order picking is usually where inefficiencies are identified, as manual labor is greatly outpaced by a variety of automation solutions.

  • ASRS
    • An ASRS (Automatic Storage and Retrieval System) uses a crane attached to a horizontal and vertical track, scaling the racking structure, and using extendable forks to handle pallets. The operator terminal provides information on what product is stored where, and the ASRS operates when a retrieve or store command is inputted.
  • AMR/AGV
    • Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV) and Autonomous Mobile Vehicles (AMR) both provide a multitude of functions, typically moving items from one area of the facility to another, absent of human interaction. The difference between the two is in the way it senses the environment. AGV’s move by using a sensor that follows a set path (typically a form of sticker or tape on the ground). AMRs move by sensing objects around them, and learning an optimal path. In this sense, both have applications that one or the other is better suited to.
  • Shuttle Systems
    • For the best of both worlds, a shuttle system utilizes pick robots within a racking structure. When an order is being fulfilled, the robot navigates to the compartment where the item is held, retrieves it, and brings it to the worker’s pack station or an item dispenser receptacle.

5. Flexible packaging


It goes without saying that a massive catalog of products varying in weight and size would need packaging solutions just as versatile.

Automation systems, such as conveyors, are manufactured in different dimensions and applications and can be engineered in a warehouse layout to accommodate cartons of varying sizes and fragility.

We go in-depth on carton packing solutions in our 3PL Automated Box Packing Solutions for Powerful and Profitable Order Fulfillment post.

6. Reliable sortation


Sortation systems separate products for induction into individual lanes typically associated with an outbound destination. Various types of sortation and conveyor systems are often connected to comprise a fully functioning material handling solution.

Wholesalers supply a diverse range of customers from all over, so quick, and accurate diverts are required to keep items moving and heading to the right destination. Selecting the correct type of sortation system is where the most thought should be put, as it all matters on the dimensions of the product being moved.

7. Effective pallet handling


Pallets can be cumbersome to transport throughout a warehouse, so offering simple solutions to warehouse workers to decrease human touchpoints with pallets can prove effective.

  • Pallet conveyor
  • Pallet flow rails
  • Pallet lifters
  • Pallet positioners
  • Gravity racking
  • Tugger and dolly attachments for AGVs

8. Maximize warehouse space


Wholesale warehouse space is extremely precious. Ensuring there’s room for storage, order fulfillment, loading, maintenance, employees, and office- all while following building codes, is no easy feat. If space is at a premium, but additional systems will need to be implemented in the future, a few capacity-saving solutions can provide some leeway.

  • Inclined and spiral conveyors
    • Suspended conveyor sections above the warehouse floor.
  • Mezzanine structures
    • Walkways and platforms suspended above the warehouse floor.
  • Narrow-aisle racking
    • Special forklifts can be used to access pallets in these lanes
  • ASRS
    • Automated cranes travel within narrow-aisle racking structures to retrieve pallets
  • Shuttle system
    • Items are held in compartments within a complete racking structure, eliminating aisles completely.

9. Accurate reverse logistics


Returns are a constant area of disconnect in operations when it comes to order fulfillment. There needs to be a planned intake process to return the items to storage and re-fulfill the order with the correct products.

When returns enter back into a warehouse, they’re put in a separate staging area. Depending on the condition of the item, or whatever the nature of the return is, it may be returned to inventory, sent to another distributor who sells discount items or discarded.

Once a return item has been rescanned in the system, the customer’s order will either be marked as fulfilled (so they can receive their money back) or another order will be placed (in the event they were sent the wrong item, but they still need the correct item sent to them).

10. Forecast planning and optimization


Warehouse automation continues to improve as newer technologies are created and adapted. Artificial intelligence (AI), drones, machine vision, voice-to-robotic-pick, and warehouse data-driven learned actions are just a few examples of what’s on the horizon.

The wholesale industry is only going to grow, and understanding the current constraints of your warehouse, and the projected sales volume per quarter should be your guiding logic as to what automation can be implemented, and when.


Century Systems has had experience engineering systems for the wholesale industry (here’s a case study on a past client of ours), and we understand the importance of reliable and stable output rates. All of our projects are designed to be as efficient, turnkey, and results-driven as possible.

AGV and AMR vs. Conveyor Systems: Drive Efficiency With The Best Solution for your Warehouse.

agv and amr vs conveyor comparison blog post header image
agv and amr vs conveyor system comparison blog post header image

Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGV) and Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR) have existed for years now, offering robotic material handling operations for a multitude of warehouse operations. The industry is well aware of its pros and cons, and supply chain executives are content with placing them within their arsenal of automated warehouse solutions.

The much harder decision when automating is understanding which solution will provide the most benefit, as opposed to if it will at all. In the case of AGVs and AMRs, conveyor systems are tried and true forms of automation that continue to provide exceptional output and return-on-investment. While both solutions differ in engineering and functionality, both exist for the same goal- reliable, stable, and quick movement of items. How do AGVs/AMRs stack up against traditional conveyor systems? Where does one solution shine, while another does better in a different application?

Century has experience integrating both and understands where and how these systems outperform one over the other. We wanted to share some of our insights so you can evaluate what works best for your warehouse.

AGV and AMR


AGVs and AMRs are often grouped together, mostly because the operations they perform overlap with each other. The single main difference between the two is its form of sensing and moving throughout the environment. AGVs move by using a sensor that follows a set path (typically a form of sticker or tape on the ground-hence the word “guided” in its name). AMRs move by sensing objects around them, and learning an optimal path (hence the word “autonomous” in its name).

This characteristic defines what operations are typically assigned to an AGV or an AMR. Essentially, AGVs work best at moving cartons and pallets across the facility with little to no variation in its traveling path. AMRs shine in picking operations, where it would not have a set path.

AGV


Effective in moving, tugging, and towing cartons or pallets from a single location to another.

  • Carts
  • Tuggers
  • Lift-Truck
  • Pallet Jack
  • Unit Load

AMR


Assistance in multi-variable operations that require diversion in movement paths.

  • Picking
  • Sortation
  • Inventory Control
  • Sanitization

AGVs and AMRs have seen expanded use over the course of the past year, and most new warehouses are built with the notion that automation will be implemented at some point. According to Research and Markets, United States, Germany, U.K., China and Japan are going to lead the market with an annual demand of more than 200,000 mobile robots (AGV & AMR) by 2026.

To put the cost-effectiveness of an AGV and AMR into perspective, Annual costs for a forklift operator can run up to $50,000. If a forklift has to be operated around the clock, then at least 3-4 drivers are needed. Adding the invest costs of $10,000 for a forklift truck to the personnel costs, the annual costs for one forklift come to over $200,000 (ResearchAndMarkets.com). Depending on the output of the warehouse, operating AGVs and AMRs can save thousands over traditional manually operated lift trucks.

Automated robotic solutions continue to improve as newer technologies are created and adapted. Artificial intelligence (AI), machine vision, voice-to-robotic-pick, and warehouse data-driven learned actions continue to provide added functionality and benefit to AGVs and AMRs (primarily the latter). This makes AGVs and AMRs a forward-facing implementation, as abilities are added to their repertoire of functionality through the advancement of warehouse technologies and software capabilities.

Conveyor


Conveyor systems are the typical solution of any automated operation, offering a continuously moving assembly line to quickly complete the processing and distribution of a package. Conveyors use belts or rollers to move cartons or pallets, powered by motors. Each warehouse that employs conveyors has a specially engineered layout, consisting of a variety of conveyor sections, depending on function.

Conveyor Section Types

  • Infeeding
  • Straight
  • Curved
  • Incline
  • Decline
  • Divert
  • Merge
  • Switch
  • Outfeeding

Conveyors produce the best results when implemented in fast-moving post-production operations such as order fulfillment, product distribution, sortation, and crossdocking. Conveyors are highly customizable, with the number of systems that can be added to the conveyor line spanning from carton forming to in-trailer loading, and everything in-between. Conveyors have proved the test of time as being the main system of reliable and quick movement in a warehouse. There’s a reason they’re still in use for over 100 years. The output rate is unmatched and its simplicity in design help it to easily integrate with other cutting-edge automation solutions.

The Most Important Factor: Your Warehouse

If you were to ask us what system we would use, we would ask “what’s your warehouse like?”. This is the number one question you should ask yourself as you’re exploring solutions. The effectiveness and benefit of these solutions are only relevant if integrated correctly in your distribution center, warehouse or facility.

To simply it even further- think on your answer to this question. Can your operations continue effectively if you install a “bolted-down” conveyor system. If the answer is a definite “NO”, then you’ll most likely benefit more from the use of AGVs and AMRs. A fully engineered conveyor system is not mobile, and if your warehouse has limited space, or needs open lanes for lift trucks to travel in, a conveyor system may not be ideal. That’s not to say it’s impossible to engineer, but an AGV or AMR would be a more realistic solution.

With that in mind, here’s our comparison between AGVs/AMRs and conveyor systems.

The Comparison

AGVs AMRs Vs Conveyor

Key Takeaway

Both systems will complete the task of transporting product across a warehouse, it’s that your operations and facility space will determine which one will work better.

AGVs/AMRs are ideal for warehouses that have:

  • Limited space and cannot install a conveyor system.
  • Extensive pick operations
  • Forklifts transporting the majority of items
  • A healthy output rate (5,000 to 20,000 cartons shipped per day)

Conveyor systems are ideal for warehouses that have:

  • Flexible space arrangements
  • A variety of package types
  • Extensive sortation operations
  • A high-output rate (20,000+ cartons shipped per day)

Both AGVs/AMRs and conveyors can benefit in more ways than one, and in many cases, are both implemented in a facility to maximize distribution operations.


Century System’s engineers are skilled in optimizing a warehouse layout for automation, for both conveyors and AGVs/AMRs. It’s critical to make the best use of the space available, and if you’re in the market for automation, a dedicated effort for engineering a design should be considered. Reach out and tell us your operational goals and current warehouse setup, and we’ll engineer a solution specifically for your needs.

Ahead of the Trend: The Rise of eCommerce in the Wine and Spirits Industry

rise of ecommerce in wine and spirits industry blog header image
rise of ecommerce in the wine and spirits industry blog header image

Online sales directly to the consumer in the wine and spirits industry used to be a tiny niche, compared to typical distribution methods, but the newest trend, fueled by COVID, is anything but.

In 2020, bars and restaurants shut their doors, leading consumers to make the decision to shop online. U.S. E-commerce sales of alcohol increased more than 80% in value during the pandemic (IWSR). A year later, the sales have plateaued, but are still 15% to 20% higher than pre-pandemic levels. Consumers turned to online shopping because of an external factor, and a surprising number have stuck around after that factor has been eased.

Online liquor stores have seen increases in sales, spurring investor interest. Last February, Uber purchased Drizly for $1.1 billion (Barrons). Consumer interest is certain to increase in eCommerce purchasing as users adopt the buying behavior, and experience the benefits over traditional liquor store visits. Along with Drizly, a few other online liquor stores run in the races, including:

Uptown Spirits

ReserveBar

Thrive Market

Wine.com

Bright Cellars

Nestor Liquor

Minibar

Flaviar

Wine.com

How does this affect the wine and spirits industry? Supply chains will have to accommodate for order fulfillment, that is having the necessary material handling solutions in place to ensure an order gets packed, labeled, and sorted to its end destination. This is quite different from what is typically processed in a wine and liquor distribution operation.

Cartons (usually packed within 6 bottles) are sent to be palletized or loaded in a truck, which makes deliveries to liquor stores, bars, and restaurants. With an online order, each package is customized and can contain a variety of items (kitting).

Wine and liquor warehouses will have to store individual items, accurately pick and pack them, apply a shipping label, and send them to the customer’s doorstep safely and within a few days’ time.

Integrating order fulfillment is a carefully planned and engineered project, but the long-term growth and profits will dwarf the initial investment once implemented fully.

Order fulfillment is one of Century’s specialties. We’ve had experience in the past engineering systems specifically for eCommerce operations, and we’d like to pass along our recommendations on the solutions that are used.

1. Storage and Pick Modules

Managing a fully stocked wine and spirits warehouse can get complicated when a large variety of products are offered. This creates a need for both short-term and long-term pallet storage. Automation in the form of an ASRS (automatic storage and retrieval system) can rapidly retrieve pallets that need to be distributed or store long-term inventory in the most optimal spot within a racking system.

An ASRS uses a crane attached to a horizontal and vertical track, scaling the racking structure, and using extendable forks to handle pallets. The operator terminal provides information on what product is stored where, and the ASRS operates when a retrieve or store command is inputted.

2. Conveyor System

A tried-and-true conveyor system will be the most accurate, simple, and efficient solution for a wine and spirits warehouse. Conveyors are dynamic in the sense that there are hundreds of additional solutions that can be integrated in the layout. Being highly customizable, each conveyor system is engineered according to the layout of the wine and spirits operation.

In the wine and spirits industry, the key to stable operations is ensuring cartons avoid damage. A zero-pressure accumulation conveyor (like this conveyor, manufactured by Hytrol) does not allow cartons to touch, by properly maintaining space between each and stopping the rollers when the accumulation zone is full. This is especially important when fulfilling specific customer orders that may include unevenly sized items.

3. Pack Tables

In order fulfillment, stations are positioned at infeeding operations so that orders can be packaged and sent to a label application. A worker or autonomous robot picks the products and brings it to a pack table. The worker checks to ensure that the order is correct in places in any invoicing documents, and places the items in the package with void-fill.

Pack tables are simple to integrate, and sit aside a main conveyor, so that workers can simply push orders from their tables onto the conveying surface.

4. Print and Apply Stations

Affixing identifiable tags on packages is crucial to ensuring their deliverability. Scanners and sensors across the line depend on a readable tag for it to make it to its destination. Print and apply systems do exactly that. However, there are multiple systems depending on the identification process use and where the box must be marked. Applications can roll-on, wipe over, corner wrap, air blow, and stamp labels.

The direction the box must be scanned also plays a role in a solution selection, but it will outpace manual operations regardless.

5. Sortation

Sortation systems separate products for induction into individual lanes typically associated with an outbound destination. Various types of sortation and conveyor systems are often connected to comprise a fully functioning material handling solution.

The type of sortation integrates highly depends on what product is being moved. For a fragile wine and spirits operation, care must be taken in selecting a stable method of diverting the packages. Sliding Shoe and Narrow Belt sorters are best suited for safely, yet quickly, sending items to where they need to be.

narrow belt sortation
Narrow belt utilizes thin belts so that rising directional skate wheels activate when a package is to be diverted down a destination lane.

sliding shoe conveyor sortation
Sliding shoe uses segmented plastic slats that gently divert cartons to an outfeeding conveyor.

6. Warehouse Management System

The ability to have complete visibility of your warehouse inventory at all times is paramount to operating effectively. A warehouse management system (or WMS) stores vital information such as alcohol percentage, storage location, best-by dates for rotation, and a multitude of SKU data for ordering. A WMS can even offer a best shipping rate selector and presents data with correct state alcohol regulations applied.

Besides being a source of important product information, a WMS can apply that information within your warehouse operations. For example, if the wrong item is picked and placed on an outbound conveyor, the scan tower will read the label and the WMS will recognize it is in the wrong batch, stopping that section of conveyor and sounding an alarm for a worker to remove the incorrect item.

7. Reverse Logistics

Returns are a constant area of disconnect in operations when it comes to order fulfillment. There needs to be a planned intake process to return the items to storage and re-fulfill the order with the correct products.

When returns enter back into a warehouse, they’re put in a separate staging area. Depending on the condition of the item, or whatever the nature of the return is, it may be returned to inventory, sent to another distributor who sells discount items or discarded.

Once a return item has been rescanned in the system, the customer’s order will either be marked as fulfilled (so they can receive their money back) or another order will be placed (in the event they were sent the wrong item, but they still need the correct item sent to them).


Century Systems has extensive experience in integrating warehouse automation systems in the wine and spirits material handling industry. View the video below on a system we engineered and integrated with Fedway Associates.

7 Cost-saving and Effective Warehouse Solutions for Wine and Spirits Distribution

wine and spirits warehouse solutions for distribution blog post

Distributing wine and spirits is a delicate and demanding operation. Warehouses are expected to process, store, and fulfill a massive catalog of products to a wide portfolio of clients, all with their own special requests. An operations employee in a distribution warehouse has their work cut out for them, as the constant supply and demand fluctuates depending on a multitude of factors like seasonality, geography, product timing, and more.

Investing in an automated wine and spirits warehouse solution can absolutely support operations in more ways than one, moving product safely, quickly, and where it needs to be. Evaluating current warehouse operations is certainly a smart move, especially considering the status of the wine and spirits industry now, and in the near future.

figure 11 new 484x306 2

“We believe there is a permanent consumer shift to more online purchases of wine, which will expand with the coming of age of millennial consumers.”

SVB: State of the Wine Industry Report 2021

To help in your evaluation, here are 7 cost-saving and effective warehouse solutions that’ll support your wine and spirits distribution operations.

1. Labeling and shipping costs

Correct labeling of alcoholic beverages is not only important for delivery operations but needed for state alcohol regulations and the associated shipping costs. Recurring mislabeling can incur hefty fees and make distribution a headache. Automated print and apply systems can streamline these processes and lower error rates and are relatively easy to add to a warehouse operation. Labeling machines produce the correct shipping information and apply the label by stamping it as the carton passes by, without the need to pick up or stop the product.

2. Warehouse Management System (WMS)

The ability to have complete visibility of your warehouse inventory at all times is paramount to operating effectively. A warehouse management system (or WMS) stores vital information such as alcohol percentage, storage location, best-by dates for rotation, and a multitude of SKU data for ordering. A WMS can even offer a best shipping rate selector and presents data with correct state alcohol regulations applied.

Besides being a source of important product information, a WMS can apply that information within your warehouse operations. For example, if the wrong item is picked and placed on an outbound conveyor, the scan tower will read the label and the WMS will recognize it is in the wrong batch, stopping that section of conveyor and sounding an alarm for a worker to remove the incorrect item.

3. Direct to consumer wine and spirits shipping

The prevalence of direct-to-consumer (D2C) wine and spirits services continue to grow, with wine clubs, subscription boxes, alcoholic beverage delivery, and other flexible solutions becoming more common with consumers. If you are looking to expand your consumer base, investing in a D2C approach early can prove proliferous in the near future. Order fulfillment automation solutions are versatile enough to fit within any step of your operation, ranging from automatic item picking to shipping label application. The importance of effective packing operations to avoid breakage should also be considered. Careful selection of package erecting, sealing, and void-filling machines are all a part of integrating a wine or liquor order fulfillment warehouse process.

4. Gapping and breakage reduction

An unfortunate truth of the wine and spirits distribution industry is that product breakage can and will happen. All you can do in your warehouse is minimize it. An effective method of doing so is using a zero-pressure accumulation conveyor. These gravity conveyors do no allow products to touch each other, using an array of sensors to properly gap infeeding operations, and stopping when the accumulation zone is full.

To increase product safety, a herringbone (canted rollers) design can be used to avoid product from making contact with side railing and guards. For even more stability, a cascade release function can be implemented, which staggers conveyor zones as product begins to move. This provides a small gap between each product when operations start and stop.

5. Storage solutions for reserves and limited run beverages

Managing a fully stocked wine and spirit storage can get complicated when limited run products and desirables vintages are concerned. This creates a need for both short-term and long-term pallet storage. Automation in the form of an ASRS (automatic storage and retrieval system) can rapidly retrieve pallets that need to be distributed or store long-term inventory in the most optimal spot within a racking system. An ASRS uses a crane attached to horizontal and vertical track, scaling the racking structure, and using extendable forks to handle pallets. The operator terminal provides information on what product is stored where, and the ASRS operates when a retrieve or store command is inputted.

6. Cross-docking for quick sortation and delivery of non-stored items

Cross-docking is a warehouse operation that processes items, sorts them to the correct location, and sends them right back out for transportation. Packages are introduced and sent to their destination route quickly and efficiently without storing or spending more than 24 hours in a cross-docking operation.

For high-volume wine and spirit warehouses, this method provides extremely effective in getting product to stores or delivering to customers.

7. Flexibility in handling a variety of packaging types

Wine and spirit companies are innovating in specialty packaging types to attract customers in a constantly competitive product environment. Coupled with the growing sales of cannabis, companies are investing a significant amount in resources to ensure their product stands out.

Wine and spirits warehouse distribution operations must be dynamic enough to maintain current clients and attract new ones who have packaging designs that call for special handling. Automation systems, such as conveyors, are manufactured in different dimensions and applications and can be engineered in a warehouse layout to accommodate cartons of varying sizes and fragility.


Century Systems has extensive experience in integrating warehouse automation systems in the wine and spirits material handling industry. View the video below on a system we engineered and integrated with Fedway Associates.

7 Conveyance Solutions for Robust Handling of Various Product Types

ARB Solutions 2

Conveyor systems are versatile machines, working in tandem with a variety of material handling solutions, ensuring increase output and productivity. Besides the additions of machines in conjunction with a conveyance solution, there exists extended automation for the conveyor system itself.

Belting plays a critical role in how the product moves throughout the system, but typically, most operations use either a roller conveyor or a flat belt. What many do not realize is that belting can be upgraded to automatically position cartons in a way that simplifies various induction steps in the line.

ARB (Activated Roller Belt) technology revolutionizes the way a conveyor system functions by offering automatic aligning and positioning, precise gapping, high-speed sortation and diversion, uniform operator station package distribution, and more.

ARB equipment performs a variety of different functions on the product by utilizing free-spinning rollers that are embedded in plastic belt modules. The rollers can bi-directionally manipulate products in a variety of different angles and trajectories. The rollers can be bi-directional or omnidirectional depending on the usage of that specific belt space. The rollers reorientate themselves rapidly depending on the destination of the package.

ARB equipment can provide substantial throughput benefits while providing a quick return on investment by eliminating time-consuming manual labor and being flexible enough of a solution to apply to a variety of operations.

  • Sortation
  • Depalletizing
  • Singulators
  • Merges
  • Switching
  • Zone Picking
  • Infeeding and Outfeeding

1. Sortation Systems

DARB S4500 Sorting Belt

90-degree sortation

Bi-directional right-angle sortation that activates the belt rollers when the carton reaches its divert destination. This form of sortation is high speed, with rates up to 250 packages a minute, in a compact footprint. If your facility distributes a variety of packages, this sortation method can accommodate polybags, crates, top-heavy items, and more, along with typical flat-bottomed cartons.

ARB Sorter S7000

Bulk sortation

In facilities where a continuous flow of a mix of bulk packages is present, ARB equipment can be employed to sort an even volume of packages for downstream processing (operator stations, for example). Due to the bulk nature of the continuous induction, sortation rates can achieve up to 360 packages per minute, automatically avoiding jams.

2. Depalletizing Systems

ARB Pallet Layer Descrambling S400

Depalletizing can be a laborious operation if done manually. With ARB equipment in use, omnidirectional track rollers can descramble up to 6 pallet layers per minute and place them in a uniform line, ideal for scanning or picking. By alternating packages left and right on the ARB conveyor, and using the side railing as a guide, packages line up neatly for downstream applications.

3. Singulators

ARB Singulating Belt

Singulating, in this context, means to place the items in a single, congruent line. Depending on induction rates, this could be a continuous line, or broken up into segments (for example, one segment having four packages). ARB equipment moves the undistributed packages from left to right to acquire a straight line, using the railing of the support to gently align the items. This eliminates the need for manual clearing of side-by-sides, recirculation due to miss-sorts, and enables workers to place items on without concern for positioning.

4. Merges

Polybag ARB Merging

Polybag merging

In a polybag-focused operation, reliable merging from multiple infeeds is paramount to downstream processes. ARB conveyor solutions merges infeed conveyors with a high-speed directional belt, while maintaining gapping, and alignment, for later scanning and sortation operations. All of this is completed in a relatively small footprint, as an ARB conveyor is designed to quickly merge the lanes.

5. Switching

Polybag Switching and Aligning

Polybag destination switching

If lanes are not merging, but instead, crossing polybags over each other to their reach their destination lane, an ARB conveyor solution can achieve this efficiently. Much like the merging ARB conveyor, omnidirectional rollers quickly switch polybags into their respective destination outfeeds, while maintaining proper gapping and alignment.

6. Zone Picking

Zone picking

Pick and pass order fulfillment zones can also benefit from ARB equipment inclusion. Manual picking stations can be added to a central conveyor merge, utilizing an omnidirectional sorter to easily pick packages from the main line to be processed, and then re-introduced back to that same conveyor. Order fulfillment can be completed at rates greater than 25 packages per minute, and only needs one 24-volt motor to drive the rollers.

7. Infeeding and Outfeeding

Infeeding and Outfeeding ARB

Used in conjunction with an automatic storage and retrieval system (AS/RS), this ARB conveyor combines both infeeding and outfeeding operations. Packages can both be sent to storage, while simultaneously accepting packages coming from storage. This is achieved by utilizing omnidirectional sorters in conjunction with right angle diverters, with alternating flow directions that activate depending on the carton’s destination. Sortation can achieve excess of 30 packages per minute, while infeed/outfeed rates to an AS/RS can reach 1,800 cases or totes per hour.

Intralox equipment has been successfully implemented by retail, grocery, manufacturing, and direct-to-consumer e-commerce distribution centers. The technology brings value in many applications ranging from high-speed 90-degree sorting to AS/RS infeeding and outfeeding. From increased throughput to flexible package handling and efficiency, Intralox’s conveyance technologies pick up where traditional technologies end.


Century is a longtime partner and integrator of Intralox, utilizing its innovative ARB equipment technologies throughout a wide range of clients. Together, a truly efficient system can be designed, engineered, and installed to increase output, accuracy, and ROI.