One of the main goals of our activity as a company is to provide all possible support, when it comes to warehouse automation. We do our best to change our customers’ imaginations and ideas for a working system. The following article describes the automation of a typical warehouse, where product transportation and sorting takes place. This material will also include the presentation of two types of automated sorters that we are usually installing in our customers’ warehouses.
The Solutions for Warehouse Automation
The Problem and The Solution
The clients reaching out to us are searching for the way they can automate their warehouse system. They notice that the manual processing of all warehouse operations causes many problems, which are mostly associated with longer order fulfillment times and increased risk of losing a package or mixing up orders. The warehouses, in which the automation is implemented, are characterized by faster action, speeding up the delivery process, and by efficiency and accuracy of each completed order. Having these features thanks to automation, such a warehouse dominates the non-automated one and wins in this very competitive market. Automated warehouse also means satisfied customers, as the deliveries are always right and on time.
To keep up with customer demands and shorten waiting times for delivery, the investor decides to automate the transport and sorting of products in their warehouse. We help our clients to build the conception of the system and make the decision that would fit their needs the most, by presenting a visual idea of the suggested project, and by talking with our client about possible improvements to their project.
Fig. 1. Merging point
The installation usually includes several warehouse halls and a sorting area. Products in boxes, for example, are transported automatically from all halls to the sorting area, where they are assigned to specific destinations on the sorter. The control system reads the barcode attached to the box and, based on the available data, sends the box to the appropriate destination. The control system is integrated with the higher-level WMS/WCS system, so the PLC controller knows where to send the package after scanning its code. The flow of products is controlled with full tracking.
Fig. 2. Tracking
As a result, automated transport and control system significantly increases system throughput and reduces the number of errors. Additionally, the comfort of warehouse employees handling the products is improved. Products are moved and sorted automatically, rather than manually as before. The deliveries can be more precise with less manual effort.
How do we implement the project?
After defining the requirements for the system, we prepare the FDS (Functional Design Specification) document, which describes the assumptions for the whole system in detail. The document contains:
- a description of the elements that the system will consist of, both mechanical and control system components,
- a description of the products that will be transported, dimensions, weight etc.
- the required system throughput,
- drawings and schematics of the transport lines,
- system operation scenarios and responses to exceptional situations,
- tasks for the system operators,
- a description of the safety systems and their operation,
- a project implementation schedule.
Once the document is ready, we can move on to the hardware and software implementation.
Fig. 3. Induction point
We create a 3D installation emulation and virtually check the correctness of our written software. It also gives our client the possibility to check on the suggested project and analyze it long before real-life installation and commissioning. Then, we organize a FAT meeting for our client and conduct a virtual start-up. The PLC controller and SCADA system connected to the virtual object realize the programmed algorithms. Thanks to this, we minimize possible errors before going for a physical installation.
Fig. 4. Decision point
Following the FAT meeting, we move on to work on the installation site. First, we start with mechanical assembly and then electrical work, including the installation of control cabinets. Then, we proceed to the system start-up. We carry out tests and acceptance of the installation, as well as provide training for the system operators.
Automated Sorters: Our Two Most Frequently Used Types
Below we would like to present you the two versions of an automated sorter, whose main task is to transport packages to their appropriate destinations where product completion for shipment to specific locations takes place. The system is capable of identifying a package by scanning the barcode placed on it, and after communicating with the WMS system, it can send the product to the appropriate location based on the information received from the higher-level system.
Sorter is fed by inbound lines. The amount of these lines is dependent on needed throughput of the system. Lines are operated by employees who work at feeding workstations. All inbound lines are merged to one main line, which transports the products to the sorter.
1. STANDARD version
Fig. 5. Standard sorter
This sorter, presented in the illustration, is designed to handle the flow of products with a capacity of up to 2000 per hour. The capacity can be increased by adding additional sorting lines. It handles cartons, crates, and trays and is built with conveyors and roller drops. It is adapted to products with dimensions from 200x150x50mm to 800x800x800mm that weigh from 0.5kg to 30kg.
Standard system scans a label with a barcode placed at a defined location on the product. After exchanging information with the higher-level WMS system, it directs the product to the appropriate destination. The number of feeding lines, loading stations, and destinations is tailored to each customer’s specific requirements.
2. ADVANCED version
Fig. 6. Advanced sorter
The advanced version of the sorter is designed to handle product flow at a capacity of up to 5000 per hour. It can handle cartons, crates, trays, poly mailers and envelopes. It is adapted to products with dimensions from from 100x150x10mm to 800x800x800mm that weigh from 0.01kg to 30kg. Seeing its parameters, you can easily notice the difference between advanced and standard sorters, based on the increased flow capacity and handled product measurements.
Advanced system, using a scanning tunnel, reads the label with a barcode placed anywhere on the product. After exchanging information with the higher-level WMS system, it directs the product to the appropriate destination. The number of feeding lines, loading stations, and destinations is tailored to individual customer requirements. Additionally, the sorter has a feature of automatic parcel dimensioning, and it is also able to capture the image of each parcel. Thanks to its compact installation size, it can save a lot of the storage space at the warehouse.
Both of the introduced sorters can be tailored to our client’s requirements, and we can also provide consulting when it comes to creating a whole system design and choosing the type of the sorter. We are always open for discussion and modifying the idea of the system.
In the field of intralogistics, we have already completed dozens of projects, gaining extensive knowledge and vast experience in such systems. Despite the difficult supply chain situation, we are glad to say that we have completed all previous projects on time.
If you would like to learn more about the standard and advanced versions of the sorter, we invite you to contact us. We would be pleased to familiarize ourselves with your needs and select the appropriate solution.
See also: Company general overview