Case: Reducing excessive recirculation

The problem

A logistics company found that one of its sites was not achieving the throughput that the system was supposed to provide. However, no one was sure why.  A rate of 25,000 items per hour had been expected, but in operation the actual figure was only 18,000 per hour.

Data analysis revealed that the sortation system itself was fine, but that some surrounding manual processes were not optimised to support the automated parts of the system.

The main problem revealed by the data analysis was that there was a high level of recirculation and system overload, caused by too many attempts to distribute parcels via the bypass lane between two sorting systems. A further problem was manual handling in the hospital area, where items are handled that for some reason can’t be handled in the automated system. This was creating bottlenecks and putting unnecessary pressure on the system.


The Solution

Inbound area operators were trained in prioritizing induction for the bypass line to optimise routing. Staffing levels in the hospital area were increased during peaks to speed up the manual processing and eliminate bottlenecks.  In addition, installing a dedicated recirculation chute for the sorter, without a hospital area, avoided sending items through the bypass line.

The Result

Optimised processes in the hospital area did away with blocked chutes, and parcels could be discharged at the first attempt. This meant there was no recirculation that would take up capacity.