A leading consumer delivery company officially opened its new purpose built, 15,000 square metre, parcel distribution hub in the north-west of England back in 2014. Designed to support the continuation of growth of the company the new hub has a capacity of around 550,000 parcels a day – almost three times that of the previous site.

The facility’s purpose was to help with the developing requirement for next day deliveries playing a key role in plans for international expansion and to provide a platform for further innovation, as the company looks to introduce a host of new products to the market.

LAC Conveyor Systems Ltd is now entering its 4th year, working closely with the customer in the development and implementation of innovative, flexible technologies to suit the ever-evolving challenge of handling parcels from a wide range of shapes and sizes whilst achieving faster processing times.

The latest challenge was to introduce a sortation solution specifically designed to accommodate small sized parcels or “Chinese Traffic” as it is known in the industry. Prior to the new solution the sortation of “Chinese Traffic” was a combined sortation process with larger parcels. This combined, automated parcel sortation approach meant that smaller parcels were harder to control and ultimately ended up being manually sorted.

This system required a lot of human intervention to gain full control, proving not the most efficient approach as the accuracy of the sort could not be guaranteed. Separating smalls from larger parcels meant higher throughputs could be achieved utilising a more streamlined, controlled solution with a 100% accuracy of sort.

LAC Conveyor Systems innovative “Automation Toolbox” meant a combination of technologies could be combined to satisfy the required solution and could be delivered and implemented within a small footprint and with minimal disruption to current operations.

The solution utilised LAC designed induct and feed conveyors, handling bulk parcels on infeed for initial parcel separation which were then separated further utilising a flighted belt conveyor, leading on to a horizontal conveyor with 5 moveable ploughs and 1 fixed. This was then broken down further, to 6 chutes, presenting parcels to an operator platform. Operator interaction at this stage of the process provided a means of orientating parcels and presenting them onto a split tray sorter with barcode labels accessible for automated scanning and verification.

The Equinox split tray sorter is a tray-based bomb-bay sorter developed specifically to handle flat goods such as packets, books, garments, parcels, and accessories. Making it the ideal choice for LAC to integrate as part of a turnkey solution. The system offers the capacity to sort 10,000 trays per hour exceeding the requirements but offering scope for future growth. It has a characteristic oval-shaped conveyor on which the trays circulate. This “open oval” design allows operators and further automation to align with ease.

An overhead scanning system ensures parcel identification and location can be achieved at high speed. LAC’s modular software design structure enables the system to integrate seamlessly with the host IT system, completing the final piece of the puzzle.

This unique automation approach has ensured a fast and flexible response to future e-commerce demands and has enabled an increased ability to handle parcels of such a shape and size in a controlled manner. LAC’s diverse inhouse skill set has offered a solution that is cost effective providing faster processing of incoming “small” parcels.

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