Image sensors optimise transport space for parcel carrier

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Interlink Express, a UK parcel carriers, has installed image sensors at its Smethwick distribution centre to optimise valuable transport space in vehicles.

The Smethwick site processes 27,000 parcels per hour and operates a fleet of more than 1,200 vehicles. The Vipac D2 volume-measuring units from Vitronic allow Interlink Express to plan delivery routes efficiently, keeping costs and CO2 emissions to a minimum.

At Interlink Express' 28-acre Smethwick site, operators unload parcels using telescopic boom conveyors. Items flow to one of five sorters, which divert them down specific destination chutes ready for delivery in the morning.

A Vipac D2 system operates above each of Interlink Express Smethwick's five sorters, which run at 2.2m/s. Every unit has two sensor heads, which emit fan-shaped laser beams. Parcels travelling underneath reflect these beams back to the sensors. The time taken for the laser to return to the sensor and the beam displacement are measured to build 3D images of parcels travelling through the system. It uses these images to determine a parcel's height, width and length, before calculating its volume and the smallest enclosing box. The acquired data enables Interlink Express to optimise transit space in vehicles.

Mark Wilkes, director of technical services at Interlink Express, commented: 'Vipac D2 measures the volume of cuboid and non-cuboid objects. This is essential because we deliver a wide range of goods. The system is fast, accurate and reliable. It cuts manual handling requirements and helps our hub perform efficiently. This means we can maintain the speedy delivery and first class customer service for which Interlink Express is renowned.'

An additional advantage of the system is that, if necessary, Interlink Express can invoice people and verify customer-provided package information automatically, which has the potential for huge cost savings.

Vipac D2 recognises flaws such as dents and holes, and packages that deviate from predetermined criteria. This allows users to divert defect parcels off the line automatically and send for recovery if applicable. Companies can feed volume data into statistical databases to streamline internal goods flow and monitor logistics processes. The sensors can operate as a standalone system or alongside Vipac, Vitronic's automated parcel recognition system.