PPL CZ chooses Vanderlande’s CROSSORTER solution for international hub

Parcel carrier PPL CZ opened its new transhipment centre in Hradec Králové in autumn 2022. The 46,000 m2 facility is strategically located near the D11 motorway, and will ensure the company has sufficient capacity and good transport links to service growing domestic and international markets. PPL CZ chose to automate the centre with a Vanderlande sorting system, which has the capacity to handle up to 500,000 parcels every day.

PPL is part of the DHL eCommerce division and specialises in parcel transportation in the Czech Republic and the rest of Europe. It is a leading provider of forwarding services for business in the domestic market, and also offers services for the public through its Parcel for You service. The PPL name was retained when the company was sold to DHL in 2006, because it is such a strong brand in last-mile delivery services.

It has a network of 29 logistic hubs in its network, including two transhipment centres in Prague and Hradec Králové. It also runs an extensive network of pick-up and drop-off points, which are known as PPL Parcelshops and PPL Parcelboxes. The company employs almost 1,000 workers and 2,000 drivers.

A high-speed solution

Vanderlande installed a high-speed sorting solution based around two CROSSORTER 1500s, which together can process 20,000 parcels per hour. The CROSSORTER is known for its excellent reliability. It is constructed using robust and durable components, which along with built-in diagnostics, deliver more than 99.9% availability. It is also easy to maintain and most parts can be changed within five minutes.

Moreover, the CROSSORTER is a sustainable solution, because it is made using environmentally friendly materials, 99% of which are easy to dismantle and recycle. In addition, it is 80% more energy efficient than conventional crossbelt sorters.

When it came to choosing Vanderlande from its competitors, a number of things stood out for PPL. “The company’s experts really listened to our needs, and from a technology and layout perspective developed a great solution in a relatively short period of time,” explains Dalibor Doubek, Process and Program Manager, PPL CZ.

Vanderlande offered the best design on a limited footprint, delivering an innovative solution that included stacking one CROSSORTER on top of another to save space. “The layout and design gave us the opportunity for future growth – without the need to incur extra costs caused by moving locations,” adds Dalibor.

Building a solid relationship

The installation process went smoothly, and even though this was Vanderlande’s first job for PPL in the Czech Republic, a solid relationship soon developed between the two companies.

“It was a great collaboration, because in such a big project, it’s really important to have transparency and trust, particularly when schedules need to be fixed,” explains David Voznička, Operations Director, PPL CZ. “Everything was clearly explained, and Vanderlande provided professional and clear project management, combined with efficient problem solving.”

“We appreciated that during regular calls and meetings, when there was an issue, we were able to act quickly with the experts concerned, make a decision and continue with the installation,” adds Dalibor.

Stress tests were completed before the go live with some of the Vanderlande team staying on site for four weeks rather than the scheduled two. “It was a huge benefit having the commissioning team here, and they were very flexible in their approach,” says Dalibor. “I would call it ‘hypercare’, and the real lesson is that with a strong partner, problems can be fixed very quickly.”

A reputation for reliability

The CROSSORTER’s reputation for reliability and easy maintenance was the main attraction for PPL. “Having two sorters – one above the other – means that if there is a technical issue we can still run at 50%, whereas other automation providers were proposing longer and more complicated sorters,” says Dalibor.

“At the same time, we knew servicing and daily maintenance would be straightforward compared to other proposals. This is because the layout is so clean and simple, allowing our technicians safe and easy access to the equipment.”

“Since day one, it has been a really reliable solution without any mistakes – and if there are any problems they are quickly fixed,” adds David.

Another advantage of the solution is that it is very quiet when in operation, which makes for a pleasant working environment for PPL operators. “The ‘silent’ technology is always a wow factor for our visitors,” explains David. “And I would add that the whole solution is safe compared to older systems.”

PPL’s operators certainly seem to like the new system. “Our employees never complain about anything – it’s always positive feedback,” according to Dalibor.

Exceptional life-cycle services

“I would really like to highlight the quality of the service support team after installation,” says Dalibor. “We have an annual contract with a hotline available 24/7, along with remote connection through VPN, and a guaranteed on-site technician if required.”

Twice a year, maintenance inspections are carried out on all key components, and once a quarter Vanderlande provides a remote health check. “The hardware plays an important role, but the data and dashboards provide essential information about the utilisation and efficiency of the system,” explains Dalibor. “We can use this internally for process optimisation and to assess labour force capacities.”

PPL also keeps critical parts of the sorter in stock, which ensures that the system will not be down for long periods.

For David, the Vanderlande solution delivers two key benefits to PPL’s wider business: capacity and cost efficiency. “Compared to our other main centre in Prague, we are much more efficient here,” he says. “We can deal with a wider range of product mix with the CROSSORTER and we are more productive at this site.”

In fact, the new technology has helped PPL to provide a second afternoon delivery service from the Hradec Králové centre.

Future expansion prospects

The PPL team is looking forward to further collaboration with Vanderlande, which would involve adding new technology to expand operations. “We’ve already had some discussions on possibly integrating another type of sorter – to focus on smaller parcels, mainly coming from Asia,” says Dalibor. “It’s just a matter of time before we extend the system, and this was a clear condition of the tender.”

For now, PPL is delighted with the performance of its CROSSORTER solution, and the final word goes to Dalibor who says: “Vanderlande is high quality and in PPL we say they are like a logistic Mercedes Benz.”

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Every parcel company and market are different. This is reflected by the various layouts of depots and sortation centres. Our experts are available to offer help and advice in every respect.