DHL improves read rates for parcel sorting with machine vision

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DHL has replaced laser scanners with camera-based parcel recognition technology from Vitronic at its distribution hubs in Madrid, Barcelona and Vitoria. The camera-based system provides higher read rates than laser scanners and allows higher throughput. Vitronic's Spanish partner, Lyl Ingeneria, handled the project.

Five Vipac RD camera systems from Vitronic were used, which contained auto-focus line scan cameras to capture high-resolution images of parcels travelling through on powered conveyors. Sophisticated software isolates and interprets the barcodes within these images, before commanding sorters to send items to specific destinations. Vipac RD achieves read rates approaching 100 per cent. It identifies badly marked or damaged codes, and even codes behind reflective packaging.

Lyl Ingeneria installed Vipac RD at DHL's three Spanish distribution centres. Each uses three Vitronic Vicam-ssi2 cameras that photograph five sides of a parcel, and reads barcodes in any orientation on these faces. The conveyors run at speeds of up to two metres per second, which means each hub can automatically process approximately 4,700 packages per hour. Technical manager, Juan Iraola, commented: 'In comparison with scanners, we now have a very high read rate. This lowers our costs immensely and substantially improves our internal processes.'

Vipac RD is also certified to measure volume. It builds a three-dimensional image of a parcel before measuring its height width and length, and calculating its volume. DHL can use this data to prepare statistics on internal processes, automate invoicing, optimise space in transit vehicles, and verify customer-provided package information.

In addition to image archiving and analysis tools, the systems feature web-based monitoring software that provides a variety of information, such as throughput rates and the operating status of each camera unit. This means DHL can monitor the hubs' activities in real time and make changes to improve working efficiency.

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