As parcel companies extend their operations, the requirement for cross-belt sorters also increases. Typically, these are becoming much larger in scale, and comprise more outfeeds, sorting locations and higher capacities.
To maximise space utilisation, cross-belt sorters are commonly stacked on top of each other. These sorters are also extending, and the need to maintain and operate this equipment safely is growing in parallel.
Owing to the nature of the goods being transferred, fallen or damaged packages often need to be collected from the netting surrounding the cross-belt sorters. As a result, reaching crucial positions up high – both quickly and safely – is imperative.
I often use the metaphor of a car when talking about modern parcel centres. Thirty years ago, you’d open the bonnet and see ample space around the engine. Today, there’s hardly any space left! That’s also the reality for parcel companies. With this in mind, we have developed the SERVICECART@EASE.
At Vanderlande, we quickly realised that parcel companies were going to need more advanced service and maintenance solutions. Any design also had to be straightforward and quick to deploy. As a result, our SERVICECART@EASE only takes five minutes to set up.
Our solution takes the form of a metal casing mounted directly on to the cross-belt sorter. A service engineer lies within this casing and the unit travels to the required point on the sorter system. In this way, it can reach any destination safely and efficiently to perform such tasks as retrieving fallen parcels, as well as maintenance.
In addition, the design is ergonomic. Modern sorters can reach about a kilometre in length, which means it sometimes takes around half an hour to make a full circuit. That’s why we incorporated a few special features to make life more comfortable for the service engineer.
Anyone operating the unit is securely attached, which removes the risk of a fall or related injury. In addition, the frame is the same size as the largest box that could potentially travel through the system. This means that it does not claim any additional footprint outside the limits of the sorter.
We’re expecting the SERVICECART@EASE to make a positive impact on the market. It is already being piloted by two leading parcel operators. However, I’m confident that it will provide additional benefits as its development continues.
As cross-belt sorters become longer, I believe our current solution will benefit from innovative features, such as vision cameras. This will help service teams to analyse the more remote parts of the system.
It might also be possible to take vibration measurements. In this way, it will become an increasingly proactive tool that contributes to a better understanding of the system’s overall performance and condition.