Small items are similar to flats and flyers in the parcel industry. Smalls are also handled as parcels but are often not big enough for the normal sorter (see more under the explanation of ‘non-conveyable items ’). As such, more and more parcel hubs are managing the situation with two sorters – one for parcels and one for smalls, known as a ‘smalls sorter’.
The term ‘small parcels’ is often seen in private CEP organisations.
If you want to find out more about smalls or other odd-shaped parcels read how to deal with them here or get updated on the advantages of parcel intelligence technology and how it will benefit the sortation processes.
Out of size, out of weight or out-of-gauge items are non-conveyable items because they fall outside the specified size, weight or gauge (shape).
Although modern systems designs seek to maximise efficiency by handling a higher percentage of conveyable parcels through the automated sorting system, there will always be out-of-gauge, out-of-size and out-of-weight items that have to be automatically discharged for manual handling at an early stage of the inbound process. Or, as some operators require, they must be manually pre-sorted at the place of origin and then handled immediately and separately when arriving at the hub.
Look here as we go through why it’s important to define the parcel mix at your distribution centre.
Odd-shaped items and polybags
The term ‘odd-shaped items’ refers to non-conveyable items and out-of-size, out-of-weight and out-of-gauge items.
Odd-shaped items can be round, uneven and oblong in shape. Think of round objects such as footballs and tubes. These move uncontrollably at any given time and don’t move as anticipated. Or parcels with more than one natural surface, that the system is likely to confuse as two parcels. Also consider long, unevenly-shaped parcels, such as exhaust pipes. These odd-shaped items all have the potential to create jams and blockages on the conveyors.
Long items, too, can cause difficulties and cannot be processed on a standard machine. And if the items are too small, they are at risk of getting lost or stuck somewhere in the sortation system.
To read more about odd-shaped parcels and how to deal with them, click here.
The CEP industry usually distinguishes between parcels by whether or not they can be automatically sorted – they become ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ items.
A ‘good item’ flows through sortation, from door to door, with just two manual touches – the first, when the item is placed onto the sortation system and the second, when it’s loaded into the delivery truck. What happens in between is handled automatically. In these instances, parcels contain clear information about where they’re coming from, where they’re going, and how they’re getting there.
But when automated flows are interrupted, it’s usually because the sortation system can’t find this information, causing the parcel to be unsolvable.
Operators tend to think of no reads as one category of parcels, but in reality, a parcel may be flagged as a ‘no read’ for several reasons:
- The parcel has no label or barcode at all. This is a kind of no read, although this is not seen very often.
- The barcode is damaged or otherwise unreadable due to a number of reasons: the contrast is too low; there are ratio problems; or the bar code width or height does not comply with specifications (which are available through the American National Standard Institute (ANSI)). Barcodes that are covered with foil can also sometimes be hard to read due to reflections. A damaged or unreadable barcode is also an instance of a no read.
- The barcode is readable, but the structure of the data contained in the barcode is not compliant. This causes the parcel to be unsolvable.
- The barcode is readable but doesn’t contain sufficient data that enables further processing. This also makes the parcel ‘unsolvable’.
To learn more about no reads and how to handle them, read here.