In November 2018, Europe’s leading fashion and lifestyle online retailer Zalando installed an AIRTRAX Pocket sorter at its new logistics centre in Brunna, near Stockholm. Thanks to its sequencing technology, the pocket sorter can effortlessly manage ever-changing assignment profiles, and is now helping Zalando to halve delivery times.
The AIRTRAX Pocket sorter is specially designed to meet the demands of booming omni-channel trade. Thanks to its scalability, it can handle and transport hanging goods as well as those that are laid flat, and it is extremely flexible in handling rapidly changing product portfolios.
Having already supplied systems to Zalando’s Erfurt and Mönchengladbach sites in Germany, Vanderlande was awarded the contract in early 2018. Brunna’s AIRTRAX Pocket installation needed to be operational before the winter season and handle a throughput of around 8,000 items per hour.
The compact AIRTRAX Pocket sorter occupies just 2,100 m², which allows Zalando to carry out future extensions at any time. Groups of orders picked from the warehouse are sorted in sequence and conveyed as single orders to the packing stations. Items are scanned at the pocket loading stations and placed in one of the available pockets, where they can also be stored temporarily.
The pockets then go through pre-sorting sections, where they are consolidated into batches and sorted according to the order sequence by the three-stage sequencer. Finally, completed customer orders arrive at the 36 packing stations and are made ready for dispatch.
The associated material flow processor coordinates the flow of goods or the sorting of the pockets to convey the items to the packing stations on a single order basis, according to the specifications of Zalando’s main computer. The subordinate SPS controls take over the process-oriented control of the drive systems, switch points, and other switching and control elements. An integrated process visualisation provides constant status messages regarding the processes as well as the operational status of the facility.
The system contains 6,500 pockets. The pockets not in circulation are held in a storage area, arranged as parallel queueing conveyors, so they can immediately be made available again when required.
A large number of different items can be sorted quickly and with the greatest accuracy into many small orders and made ready for dispatch. At the same time, it is possible to store items efficiently and ensure they are immediately accessible. Furthermore, returned goods can be immediately processed and made available to other customers.
“We have been able to drastically reduce the time spent from picking the items in the warehouse to delivering the orders,” explains Bruno Ramos Caballer, Project Manager at Zalando. “The goals of rapid, faultless order management and delivery to the customer have therefore been achieved.”
In addition, the replacement part package was beneficial for Zalando. Due to the modular structure of the technology, the maintenance-free element (the plastic chain on which the pockets are hung and easily replaceable elements) means that the spare parts package is significantly reduced.
Zalando has now created the conditions needed to expand further in a flourishing market. Its new logistics centre enables the company to halve delivery times in the Nordic countries.
“We were convinced by the advice of the Vanderlande team and their reliability, as well as the completed pocket solution, and we will engage in further projects with the company,” said Zalando’s Head of Logistics Development Carl-Friedrich zu Knyphausen. “An extension of the system at this new site is already being considered.”
Despite its enthusiasm for technology, the interaction between human and machine is important for Zalando and around 500 jobs have been created at its new logistics centre.
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