Robotics, AGVs and automation will more and more feature in sorting centres as a means to decrease reliance on manual labour, reduce picking errors and improve efficiency. However, a precondition for AGVs and robotics is a seamless compatibility with a new generation of parcel load carriers and containers that are designed for the job.
As an example, robotic picking of parcels is advancing fast with several companies aiming to push pick speed beyond 600 parcel per hour, as well as developing more effective grippers. Limited space does not usually allow robotics to load parcel directly into trailers but robotic loading of suitable load carriers is developing fast. In the future load carriers need to facilitate access by robotic arm for the filling/emptying and enable the robot to prepare (or close) the container for delivery to shipping zones.
Using AGVs for moving load carriers within sorting centres will further reduce dependency on skilled labour and increase operational flexibility in comparison to fixed conveyer belts. At the receiving sorting centre, load carriers enable fast unloading of trailers (up to 80% faster unloading when compared to loose loading) and reduce the need for extendable conveyers. Compatibility with automatic tippers assures also effective emptying and singulation of parcels.
While robotics and automation in general are the drivers for parcel operations development, the selection of appropriate load carriers should not be taken lightly, as they will form an integral part of the process. Increasing utilization rates combined with robotic handling and automation place many more demands on load carriers in terms of functionality, quality, tolerances and durability taking design to a totally new level.
A good example of this is the new Parcel Cage family developed by K.Hartwall in cooperation with Posti Group. We have launched this year two parcel cages that utilize standard footprints -1200*1000mm and 1200*800mm - and can be used for e.g. line hauls between sorting centres and for inbound flows from large business customers. In addition to compatibility with robotic handling and 100% automatic tipping their design supports efficient one-man manual handling. Ability to double stack the unit on other MHE enables to reach higher truck fills.
“E-commerce requires faster and more cost effective supply chain solutions. As the leading logistics operator in in Finland we need to respond to the challenge and enable our customers to grow. Effective load carriers are an essential part of the supply chain and they need to be compatible with transportation equipment as well as our automation, including sortation and warehouse. When we can operate the whole supply chain with compatible solutions we can speed up the complete operations. And by investing in load carriers, often a self-evident part of the logistics, we can ensure a more competitive service to our customers”, says Peter Staven head of parcel operations at Posti Group.
Whatever load carriers a parcel operator is considering, they should work in manual operations but also facilitate the future implementation of robotics and automation, as that seems to be the inevitable way of the future.