Hermes’ new 85,000 square foot national distribution hub in Nuneaton, Warwickshire is now open. It handles a large proportion of the company’s UK deliveries, and uses Vitronic’s parcel identification and volume-measuring technology to process up to 9,600 items per hour.
Hermes is the UK’s largest courier delivery network offering a range of services to leading high street, catalogue and online retailers. The company delivers more than 100 million parcels each year, and has over 7,500 ‘lifestyle’ couriers that provide a flexible, high-quality doorstep delivery, combined with a friendly and local approach.
The Nuneaton hub distributes parcels to Hermes’ nationwide depot network, which in turn serves local couriers. This process must run efficiently for the company to operate a timely delivery service.
Parcels arrive at the Nuneaton hub in transit vehicles, which operators unload using telescopic boom conveyors. These transfer items onto one of two infeed conveyors, each of which runs through a scanning tunnel. From here, parcels flow onto two sorters, which direct them to the appropriate loading bays for dispatch.
The scanning tunnels use Vitronic technology to capture detailed parcel-related data. In each, a VIPAC D1 volume-measuring unit builds a three-dimensional image of each parcel using lasers, and calculates its dimensions. Hermes will use this data to optimise transit space in vehicles, and verify package data provided by customers, and automate invoicing.
High speed sorting
After parcels exit VIPAC D1, they run through VIPAC, Vitronic’s camera-based recognition system. Each of Hermes Nuneaton’s two VIPAC units uses six high-resolution, Vitronic VICAM-ssi2 line-scan cameras to capture images of five sides of parcels at high speed.
Sophisticated software analyses the captured images and isolates parcel labels. It reads barcodes on the labels using sophisticated algorithms and passes this data to the sorters, allowing them to send items to the correct loading bay for dispatch.
Two of the cameras on each VIPAC unit capture images of the top sides of parcels from different angles. This allows the software to read labels on uneven surfaces; a feature essential to the Nuneaton hub’s operation, as 60% of its parcel traffic comprises loose or bagged items, such as clothes.
VIPAC achieves read rates close to 100%, virtually eliminating the need to input packages manually. At Hermes Nuneaton, the infeed conveyors run through the VIPAC camera tunnels at speeds of two metres per second, enabling the hub to automatically process and dispatch up to 150,000 parcels every day.
Peter Jones, Project & Engineering Manager at Hermes’ Nuneaton hub, is delighted; “VIPAC is a fast, efficient, reliable system that reads even badly damaged or marked codes, and codes behind reflective packaging. It allows us to sort and dispatch parcels faultlessly at high speed, which ultimately means a better service for our customers. Vitronic installed both scanning tunnels in just two weeks, allowing us to get our new hub up and running on time.”
Efficient hub management
The Nuneaton hub is also equipped with Vitronic’s My VIPAC-web software. This allows operators to configure the system to read different types of barcode, run statistics on the facility’s overall performance and throughput, and archive read results.
Operators can also use My VIPAC-web to monitor the scanning tunnels, check system status, search for and retrieve individual parcel images and acquired data, and run diagnostics to identify potential problems.
Peter continued; “My VIPAC-web is an easy to use, user-friendly way for us to monitor our VIPAC camera systems and change their operating criteria to capture different barcodes. It means we can trace specific parcels and establish exactly where they are in our sorting system.”