Fluctuating levels of utilization are the norm in dynamic industries such as e-commerce, and processes need to be tailored in the right way to cope with these more effectively. Mail & Express Review speaks to experts at BÖWE SYSTEC, a customer-focused, one-stop-shop for letter and parcel logistics and learns about the importance of enhanced, targeted automation in sorting centers.
International e-commerce poses enormous challenges for courier and parcel services; distribution centers are groaning under rising volumes of parcels, tighter delivery timescales and the ever-expanding variety of products. On top of this, there are seasonal peaks in demand. Efficient and flexible solutions to improve processes are already a must in the sorting center and so, too, is a single source partner who understands how to tailor and implement such solutions.
BÖWE SYSTEC, based in Augsburg, Germany has been developing and producing automation technology for over 70 years. More recently it has invested heavily in research and development in areas such as sorting, and it is currently launching the new OptiSorter Split-Tray, and in warehouse management systems or the RFID technologies of the future. “As a one-stop-shop, we are positioning ourselves as our customers’ single point of contact for their entire letter and parcel logistics requirements”, explains Joachim Koschier, Managing Director of BÖWE SYSTEC. “They should be able to source everything they need to optimize their distribution or post sorting center and their internal processes from us. From the feeding technology to the sorting system and finally solutions for automated goods out.”
Planning is key
The expertise that BÖWE SYSTEC has built up across a range of industries helps it to analyze customer processes precisely. It is a case of introducing automation at the right points and of thinking in terms of flexible hard- and software solutions right from the design of a parcel or distribution center. “This is often a bit of a balancing act”, explains Albert Hendriks, the Head of the Parcel Sorting Business Unit at BÖWE SYSTEC. “Internal processes need to be configured with enough flexibility to be able to respond at short notice to unforeseen consumer demand. Incorporating additional work stations on the sorter that can be manned by extra staff in case of need can help take the strain,” according to Hendriks. “Automation does not necessarily mean cutting staff as much as possible, but rather its clever deployment in other places that then contribute to further efficiency increases.”
BÖWE SYSTEC sorting solutions help achieve this through their simplicity, flexibility and their ability to be upgraded at any time. “We recommend sorting solutions to our customers that are modular in their design and that at the same time offer an exceptional price-performance ratio,“ Hendriks says. Modular concepts ensure that the machines are always tailored to the current requirements of the operation, and the automation process itself can be undertaken gradually.
Exploiting the advantages of the OptiSorter
The OptiSorter is at the heart of many such flexible, comprehensive solutions. Whether it be in its carousel, vertical, horizontal or dogleg variants or as a multi-level solution, the modular design of this BÖWE SYSTEC parcel sorter means that it can be tailored to suit any situation and upgraded at any time. This is true for both the OptiSorter Horizontal and for its compact variant, the OptiSorter Vertical. BÖWE SYSTEC parcel sorting systems offer fully automatic sorting. Their Push-Tray sorting technology, which both the OptiSorter Horizontal and the OptiSorter Vertical employ, can handle even heavy, round or unusually shaped items rapidly and reliably. Where other types of sorters have already hit their limits, the OptiSorter is capable of sorting an enormous bandwidth of items that extends well beyond all the common types and sizes. The OptiSorter can handle anything from small postcards, through polybags right up to heavy parcels weighing as much as 31.5 kg. It doesn’t even have a problem with round or oddly shaped parcels from abroad, which often don’t comply with parcel standards.
The OptiSorter Horizontal places the emphasis on flexibility. With its Push-Tray technology, the OptiSorter Horizontal is BÖWE SYSTEC’s substantially lower cost answer to the use of current Cross-Belt or Tilt-Tray sorters. For those looking for maximum performance in the minimum of space the best choice is the OptiSorter Vertical. It has been developed as the space-saving solution for those who can’t afford to forgo top of the range performance despite limited space. Belying its compact design, the vertical OptiSorter offers all the capabilities of a versatile, high-performance sorting system and offers a cost-effective alternative to a linear sorter. Both OptiSorters are also able to integrate a whole series of functions such as OCR or barcode scanning, weighing, volume measurement or labelling in order to optimize internal processes still further. Its low energy consumption and simple operation and maintenance make the OptiSorter a safe investment for the future.
A brand new addition to the BÖWE SYSTEC range, the OptiSorter Split-Tray, has been specifically designed for the sorting of light goods weighing up to 5 kg. It is ideal for the automated, high-speed sorting of flat goods and unboxed items. Also referred to as a ’bomb-bay’ sorter, it really comes into its own in areas such as e-commerce, omni-channel, retail fulfilment, post, laundry or pharmaceuticals. Its specially shaped trays mean that besides the usual standards it is also able to sort products such as clothing, books, pharmaceuticals, polybags, multimedia articles or jewelry. Irregularly shaped or round items can also be handled without any problem and secured from falls whilst being transported. Both sides of the tray open simultaneously and the item is dropped flat directly into the distribution containers, boxes, or mailbags. Higher sorting volumes can be achieved by using the Double Split-Tray variant of the Split-Tray sorter, which has two compartments per tray.
Untrained staff often need to be used in order to cope with periods of peak demand. If such a strategy is adopted, then BÖWE SYSTEC recommends the use of systems and software that are as intuitive and user-friendly to operate as possible. This goes without saying for BÖWE SYSTEC systems and these really come into their own when new staff need to be rapidly brought up to speed on the machines. The consistent design of the software in all BÖWE SYSTEC systems and their intuitive operation serve as the foundation for substantial productivity increases. Sorting paths are prepared within minutes, processes can be monitored across systems and sites.
Integration and transparency
BÖWE SYSTEC’s fully integrated software concepts ensure a high degree of production transparency. The use of RFID technology, sensors and barcodes makes it possible to track every product throughout the process. Consumers also want to be informed when the goods they have ordered will arrive and expect a quick and reliable delivery at the desired time. Systems therefore need to be optimized to achieve rapid processing times. Innovative Auto-ID systems from BÖWE SYSTEC deliver increased transparency. These include Warehouse Management Systems (WMS), Warehouse Control Systems (WCS) and serialization solutions. RFID means that there is nothing standing in the way to the comprehensive tracking of goods in real time.
Automation for all
Large post and parcel centers are far from being the only operations where automation is important. BÖWE SYSTEC’s consultants develop precise models based on an analysis of the current situation and a company’s goals, offer alternatives and shows companies whatever their size what “smart automation” means when existing and new technology work together in perfect harmony.