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Sorting Centers: Know the Operation of the Logistical Hub

sahil bajaj

Sahil Bajaj

Senior Specialist - Marketing @ Shiprocket

March 4, 2024

9 min read

When you place an order, it goes through several steps before it gets to you. One such process is sorting the shipments at a hub or a center. It is an essential phase in the supply chain and crucial to warehouse management. Items must be sorted and placed in the right places as they arrive, and packages chosen for delivery must be arranged and put in appropriate containers for dispatch to their final locations. These all activities take place in a logistical facility called the sorting center. 

Let’s understand sorting centers in detail, their role in logistics operations, and the processes inside the facility.

Sorting Centers: Know the Operation of the Logistical Hub

Sorting Centers: A Description

A sorting center is a crucial logistical hub where incoming packages are organised before distribution. It serves as a center for receiving and sending out merchandise, including packages, envelopes, and bigger containers like cargo. Packages are arranged according to their intended destinations after they arrive.

The level of automation in these centers might vary. Some have completely automated industrial operations, and some still use manual methods.

Sorting may be necessary when products arrive insufficiently arranged. In these situations, before moving further with the packaging and labelling procedure required for shipping, employees arrange the products in the appropriate order. This guarantees accuracy and transparency. A methodical strategy is followed to sort orders promptly and effectively.

Sorting centers can also engage in cross-docking activities, a streamlined process designed to expedite the transfer of goods from inbound to outbound trucks. Conventional sorting process entail systematic arrangement and storage. Cross-docking rejects these phases and loads things directly into waiting trucks once they have been unloaded and sorted according to their destination.

First Mile Delivery: Transporting the Parcels to First Mile Sorting Centers

Delivering shipments to first-mile sorting facilities involves several steps. This is to ensure that the materials are efficiently sorted and delivered to the correct place. This is a brief overview of the entire procedure:

  1. Sorting the items: When packages arrive at the sorting facility, they are organised based on size or delivery address. After this initial sorting process, they are more prepared to undergo next-step handling and distribution.
  2. Labelling the items: Additional labelling is done at the sorting center to make sure that every package has all the necessary information on it. This stage is essential for accurate delivery and tracking.
  3. Sorted and shipped: The items are moved from the sorting center to their final location after being processed and marked. Depending on the particular route and mailing address, the packages may next be sent to another sorting facility or their final destination.
  4. Transportation: The duration of the first-mile shipment step can vary depending on truck availability, distance, and further supply chain activities. 

Businesses can efficiently streamline their shipping procedures by sorting items at the first-mile sorting facility.

The Activities Inside a Sorting Center

The sorting center makes it easier to deliver products to consumers on time, which boosts client satisfaction and success. Several crucial procedures are carried out within a sorting center to facilitate accurate order processing:

  1. Receiving: When goods arrive at the sorting facility, they are thoroughly inspected to make sure they match with order information. The staff also looks for any damage that happened during transit. For inventory tracking purposes, the goods are scanned upon arrival.
  2. Storage: Throughout their stay at the center, employees are in charge of keeping inventory records to ensure the security of the products they store. To avoid spoiling, extra care is taken with temperature-sensitive goods, and all possible efforts are made to ensure that shipments are conveniently located around the facility.
  3. Picking, packing, and labelling: The employees pick the items, pack them safely, and attach the correct labels so they may be shipped or delivered.

Advantages of Automating a Sorting Center

Here are a few advantages of Automating the sorting process:

Optimised Speed and Efficiency

Parcel sorting procedures are streamlined by automation technologies, which minimise delays and manual processing. Owing to this efficiency, processing times are shortened, ensuring packages proceed through the sorting center quickly and are delivered to their destinations on time.

Improved Accuracy

Automated solutions improve total delivery accuracy by reducing errors, including misreads or misplacements, and guaranteeing that every package is correctly sorted and sent to the right location.

Labour Savings

Compared to manual sorting techniques, automated sorting systems require less human interaction. Since fewer labour-intensive activities need to be completed, the sorting facility may reduce its worker size and save considerable money on labour costs.

Space Efficiency

Automated sorting systems aim for the effective use of the sorting center’s available space. Automated systems can process many packages within constrained spaces using sophisticated algorithms and little gear, maximising room utilisation.

Scalability During Peak Times

During peak periods, such as holidays or promotional events, sorting centers can effectively accommodate higher parcel quantities when automated sorting systems are employed. By achieving scalability, the sorting center can continue running efficiently even during heavy demand periods, avoiding delays and service disruptions.

Improved monitoring and observation

Real-time monitoring made possible by automation enables recipients and service providers to keep an eye on the whereabouts and status of packages while they are being delivered. Transparency and communication are improved by this increased visibility.

Duration of a Package’s Stay in a Sorting Center

After your package arrives at a sorting center, it can stay there for a few hours or several days. This timeframe depends on various factors, including your chosen shipping method, the workload of the center, and the number of available workers. Opting for faster shipping usually means the need for quicker sorting, but a busy center or fewer workers might lead to delays in processing your package. These conditions determine how long your cargo will stay at the sorting facility.  More active centers and slower shipping methods might result in longer wait times for your package.

Dispatching the Package and The Process that Follows 

Your cargo is tagged with a unique number, barcode, or QR code after it leaves the sorting facility. These identification codes facilitate tracking of the package’s location for both the consignor and the delivery service provider.

Once the package is on its way, it can be at different stages of the journey. Sorting centers might be where a package is destined or somewhere in the middle of the trip.

In the next step, your package goes onto a delivery truck. They follow a planned route to drop off packages. Carriers call this step “out for delivery,” meaning your package is on its way to you.

How to Get a Package Trapped in the Sorting Center Released?

Shipments can sometimes encounter delays at sorting centers, so it’s important to keep track of the shipment process. If your goods are held up at a sorting center, keep patience first. Errors can occur throughout the sorting process in several ways, including shipment being misplaced or overlooked. These issues are typically resolved over time on their own. But, if your product is delayed significantly or you want urgent delivery, you can contact the shipping center. They will be able to update the situation and offer information on probable delays. If the package is misplaced, the center will handle the problem and release it.  Sometimes tracking systems can show false information, giving the impression that your delivery is stuck when it is not. If the delay persists longer than usual, contact customer service so they can investigate further and update your package’s status without any further delay.

Seamless Shipping Solutions with Shiprocket

Shiprocket offers a comprehensive shipping solution that can simplify the entire logistics process for your business. Relying on our services, you can expand your eCommerce business globally. Shiprocket is an all-in-one platform that can help you save money, simplify your shipping processes, and engage with customers all over the world. 

We offer a multi-courier network, that enables you to ship to over 220 destinations worldwide and over 24,000 pin codes in India. This will facilitate the process of growing your customer base, taking orders from even the most remote places, and expanding into international markets. You can also take advantage of hyperlocal delivery services to make speedy deliveries. 

Conclusion

In a logistics process, facilities for sorting materials are a crucial part. Sorting centers are essential for streamlining logistics processes and guaranteeing precise and on-time delivery. These facilities are established to methodically organise items or packages according to several criteria, such as weight, size, or delivery location for effective delivery. Sorting operations use various technologies that are customised according to the type of items and the volume of orders. Automated sorting facilities greatly increase operating efficiency by minimising errors and optimising the overall flow of goods via detailed arrangement.

What does it mean to receive an item at a sorting center?

It indicates that the item or package you ordered has arrived at a sorting facility near to the destination.

How does a sorting facility differ from a warehouse or distribution center?

A sorting facility categorises goods based on various attributes for efficient delivery, while a warehouse or distribution center focuses on storing and managing inventory. Sorting facilities specialise in sorting processes, while warehouses manage storage, order fulfillment, and inventory.

What are tips to improve the sorting process?

Some tips to improve the efficiency of the sorting process are:

1. Choose the right picking strategy based on warehouse size and order volume
2. Store popular items closer to the packing area to minimise walking distances
3. Upgrade your WMS (Warehouse Management System) for real-time data tracking and bottleneck identification.
4. Customise conveyor systems to fit the warehouse space and improve efficiency.
5. Implement automated tools like sensors and robots to streamline sorting

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