Four goods lifts and a conveyor system for handling in-coming stock were installed by European Conveyor Systems under two contracts totalling more than £550,000 at a national distribution centre operated by DHL’s Exel Supply Chain for Mothercare.

The 30,000m2 NDC near Daventry, Northamptonshire, includes some 14,000 pallet racking locations and a three-level mezzanine structure for carton storage with a 6000m2 footprint. It operates 24 hours a day five days a week in order to supply all Mothercare’s stores throughout the UK.

The goods lifts installed in the first contract were specified to carry up to four full pallets weighing a maximum of 2000kg in total between the ground floor and the mezzanine levels. The lifts, which measure 2600mm wide x 2460mm deep x 2200mm high, have wooden wear strips, light curtains and PIR sensors to detect movement inside the lift in order to increase safety of operation. No pit or other civil engineering work was required, so installation was quick and involved minimal disruption.

The conveyor system was designed to carry cardboard cartons and plastic tote boxes in various sizes and weights up to 25kg from the loading bays to the storage racking. Maximum throughput is 500 cartons or totes an hour. The entire system is under PLC-based control.

The boxes are unloaded from delivery vehicles using telescopic belt conveyors and are routed to ground floor or mezzanine level as selected by operators with the use of belt luffer units. The system incorporates sections of Gebhardt patented zero-pressure accumulation conveyor, which allows boxes to accumulate without touching. Swivel wheel divert units route boxes to the correct accumulation lanes, while gravity wheel extendable conveyors are used within the storage areas to provide routing to specific racking locations.

Extruded aluminium side sections are an important feature of the ECS conveyor systems. As well as being maintenance-free, they are particularly rigid and strong in both horizontal and vertical planes, so the number of supports can be reduced. The design of the profile allows photo-electric and other signalling devices to be fitted anywhere along the length of a conveyor, which speeds up installation and commissioning and provides a high degree of flexibility if the system has to be modified.

The aluminium profile is protected by a tough plastic cover that keeps out dirt and dust and also provides a smooth snag-free outer surface that is particularly suited to order-picking and assembly areas where personnel are working near the conveyors.

Roller bearings run particularly quietly and are maintenance-free. Rollers can be removed or replaced quickly and simply – even while the conveyor is running. Noise from the conveyor system has also been reduced by using low-power motors.

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