Globally, demand for logistics services is on the rise, as customers make increasing use of e-commerce and online platforms to make purchases, for goods that can be delivered directly to their doorstep. To remain competitive, logistics companies must optimise their processes to achieve increased throughput and efficiency. Automation and sensor specialist, SICK Automation, offers the industry a number of intelligent solutions that improve throughput, accuracy and efficiency.
Dimension weighing scanning with extreme accuracy and speed
SICK Automation offers Dimension Weighing Scanning (DWS) systems, proven to improve the accuracy of parcel weighing and scanning. These systems reduce the need for manual processing of parcels, and deliver reliable and accurate read rates for optimised performance. They’re capable of running at extremely high speeds. Application and solution dependant, such systems can run up to approximately 12 000 items per hour.
In a recent project for a local logistics and freight specialist, SICK installed a DWS system, using hybrid technology from its portfolio of products. This includes a unique gapping conveyor belt (controlled by SICK software), which separates freight items as they enter the system so that there’s no error in scanning and weighing them. A system of cameras was positioned at the top and at the sides of the conveyor. All cameras are equipped with high-speed, 360° omni-directional, image-based code readers, capable of carrying out optical character recognition (OCR), to detect print data. The customer’s personnel no longer need to manipulate the boxes on the conveyor to make the barcode presentable – the conveyor and cameras do this automatically.
The system is capable of diverting parcels without labels and has optical character recognition capabilities to detect print data. In addition, the system scans and captures security seals, which means that the customer can now provide clients with added freight security and integrity.
“With this DWS solution, the need for manual intervention is minimised and so is human error. Our customer has achieved improved accuracy, increased throughput and 100% tracing of parcels entering or exiting its facilities,” explains Prishan Chain, National Sales Manager, SICK Automation.
Accurate volume and dimension measurement – including transparent or irregularly-shaped items
In another project, SICK combined its volume measurement systems (VML) to a DWS system, enabling their customer not only determine the position and measurements of items, but also to scan and measure parcels of irregular shape and colour (including transparent objects or film-wrapped items). It enables accurate determination of the smallest parcels, irrespective of surface properties. The system now scans up to 12 000 parcels an hour, efficiently and accurately, boosting throughput for the customer.
Industry 4.0 solutions
SICK’s cloud-based technology further optimise the logistics solutions it offers its customers, delivering analytical capabilities, automated data collection and secure data storage. The data yields value-creating insights for the customer.
Last year, SICK developed an intelligent Industry 4.0 package analytics system for a customer. It included the supply of a specialised industrial computer – the hardware agnostic APU-200 IPC (inter-processor computer); an IP camera, which collects data; and a customised software package with an accompanying App.
A bespoke analytics software runs on the APU-200 and automatically collects data in real time from the VML and SICK’s IP cameras. This is stored in the cloud. The software presents the data on a user-friendly dashboard, allowing for comprehensive analysis of operations. Among other things, it analyses throughput at the customer’s various shipping depots, movement of materials, and parcel volumes. The software’s diagnostic tools enable preventative maintenance for maximum uptime.
“This was the first Industry 4.0 system we completed in South Africa for the shipping and logistics industry, where we’ve incorporated cloud technology into this type of industry solution. We’re not just generating data for a customer, or providing a physical product. We’ve provided a turnkey solution – easily integrated software backed by an OEM with a global footprint and a service team of specialists who are able to maintain the system. We are giving the customer the tools to use data more intelligently, to optimise their business processes. This leads to greater profitability,” says Chain.
“The benefits to SICK customers are more than cost-competitiveness and comprehensive aftersales service,” Chain adds. “We do not only provide a solution, but rather partner with our customers to ensure they receive the best service for their requirements. This includes a partnership for the duration of the product’s longevity and beyond.”
SICK Automation produces sensors and sensor solutions for industrial applications. SICK also offers system integration and service expertise for the factory automation, logistics automation and process automation industries. All of the system equipment carries SICK’s standard 24-month warranty.