Courier maintains high efficiency with camera-based parcel sorting

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The UK distribution hub of courier company, Hermes, is using parcel identification and volume-measuring technology from Vitronic to process parcel deliveries efficiently. The in-feed conveyors run through Vitronic’s Vipac camera tunnels at speeds of two metres per second, enabling the hub to automatically process and dispatch up to 150,000 parcels every day.

Hermes is the UK's largest courier delivery network offering a range of services to leading high street, catalogue and online retailers. It delivers more than 100 million parcels each year.

Parcels are loaded into scanning tunnels that use Vitronic technology to capture detailed parcel-related data. In each, a Vipac D1 volume-measuring unit builds a 3D image of each parcel using lasers, and calculates its dimensions. Hermes will use this data to optimise transit space in vehicles, and verify package data provided by customers, and automate invoicing.

Parcels then pass through Vipac, Vitronic's camera-based recognition system. Each of the hub's two Vipac units uses six high-resolution, Vitronic Vicam-ssi2 line scan cameras to capture images of five sides of parcels at high speed.

Software analyses the captured images and isolates parcel labels. It reads barcodes on the labels using sophisticated algorithms and passes this data to the sorters for distribution to the correct loading bays for dispatch.

Two of the cameras on each Vipac unit capture images of the top sides of parcels from different angles. This allows the software to read labels on uneven surfaces; a feature essential to the Nuneaton hub's operation, as 60 per cent of its parcel traffic comprises loose or bagged items, such as clothes.

Vipac achieves read rates close to 100 per cent, virtually eliminating the need to input packages manually. Peter Jones, project and engineering manager at Hermes' Nuneaton hub, commented: 'Vipac is a fast, efficient, reliable system that reads even badly damaged or marked codes, and codes behind reflective packaging. It allows us to sort and dispatch parcels faultlessly at high speed, which ultimately means a better service for our customers. Vitronic installed both scanning tunnels in just two weeks, allowing us to get our new hub up and running on time.'

The Nuneaton hub is also equipped with Vitronic's My Vipac-web software. This allows operators to configure the system to read different types of barcode, run statistics on the facility's overall performance and throughput, and archive read results.

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