A first for sorting 'empty hangers'

SDI Group, the global integrator of automated material handling systems, has achieved what it describes as a 'world first' in developing an automated 'Hanger Sorter' system for recycling empty coat hangers used extensively by the fashion sector. The development, which deploys state-of-the-art camera technology to identify a hanger from over 80 different profiles in under 300 milliseconds - whilst on the fly - has, claims the company, the potential to revolutionise the highly labour-intensive operation of sorting empty hangers returned from high street retail outlets.

Developed for one of Europe's largest fashion chains, the technology will be used to tackle the huge issue of sorting some 65 million empty hangers a year. With many varying styles of hangers, for adults, children, knit ware, jackets etc., recognising and sorting each particular type is a demanding process. Designed with a capacity to sort 5000 units an hour, the SDI Group 'Hanger Sorter' will be more than twice as fast as a manual sorting process - bringing significant operational benefits, along with cost and space savings.

The high-speed Hanger Sorter is based on SDI hanging- garment sorter technology used throughout the fashion industry, worldwide.

After manual induction of empty hangers the system speeds the hangers over a gentle ramp, used to present the hanger to the camera at the optimum angle. Within a split second the sophisticated software of the camera identifies the hanger and informs the SDI control system. The hangers are simply diverted from the overhead sorter at the appropriate chute, where they accumulate on rails ready for collection and placement in totes.

Gordon Smith, CEO of SDI Group says: "This is a world first for combining intelligent high-speed cameras with fast-sortation technology to identify and sort empty hangers - a British automated solution that has a global application. For the fashion retail sector this technology is the 'green option' for re-using and recycling empty hangers and represents a huge productivity gain over presently used manual methods."

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