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New MCP conveyor system for perfect material handling

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The Italian e-commerce company ePRICE is feeling the effects of the steady growth in online trade. In response to the rising demand, a new warehouse was to be built which would also be ideally equipped to meet future challenges of material handling. Ideal conditions for Interroll’s modular conveyor platform MCP which offers customers plenty of scope for flexibility. 

ePRICE is a leading Italian e-commerce retailer. The company offers a comprehensive product portfolio, particularly for the online sale of household technologies and appliances. To ensure a reliable and punctual delivery at the buyers, the system integrator Incas S.p.A. integrated a complete logistics system for the new distribution center. Directly on the doorstep of Milan in Trucazzano (Italy). And with Interroll as its technology partner and the mission of installing a platform that is efficient, automated and modularly scalable.  

Strong growth in the e-commerce market  

The decisive factor for the new warehouse was the strong growth figures that the Italian e-commerce market recently recorded: Compared to 2017, sales increased by 16%* – with an increase in the total value of online purchases to 23.6 billion euros*.

And since it is particularly important in the highly competitive online trade to map one’s own product catalog through perfect logistics processes, an automated warehouse enables efficient management for the provision of shipping packages. The fast and smooth delivery ultimately leads to higher customer satisfaction and good ratings, which is a strong factor for lasting market success for online retailers.  

MCP Conveyor System manages volume increase easily  

The new logistics system therefore needed a solution that could smoothly handle the expected increase in volume due to rising consumer demand. And since Interroll has the necessary products, technologies and experience, the system integrator Incas S.p.A. was pleased to have found a reliable partner to achieve its goals.

The ePRICE warehouse now uses Interroll’s Modular Conveyor Platform (MCP). It transports the pallets with the individual parcels not only in the warehouse, but also from the warehouse to the picking area, where they are combined in the initial phase for the individual orders. Weighing, strapping, reading the barcodes as well as printing and applying the labels are also carried out here. Interroll has also installed RM6008 elevators to provide access to several levels of the MCP. A highly efficient and long solution: the total length of the MCP conveyor system is almost one kilometer (920 meters). With a total of 10,150 conveyor rollers, 560 RollerDrive units and just as many photocells, it also has a large number of units.  

Modular advantage for a future-proof solution  

The great advantage of the new conveyor system installed at ePRICE is its high modularity: With the MCP conveyor platform, the e-commerce retailer benefits from a robust and versatile solution that combines various key components into a complete system that reliably masters all expected challenges. With the ability to easily and quickly add plug-and-play functionality to other pre-assembled components, ePRICE can meet further growth in an agile and dynamic way. All in all, it is a flexible, scalable and efficient material handling solution that makes ePRICE fit not only for today’s challenges, but also for tomorrow’s logistics challenges.

 

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Linear Motion Devices

Industry 4.0 and the working world of tomorrow

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Should we be concerned about the impact of automation, robotics and artificial intelligence on our working environment in the future? Will machines replace many of our jobs over the coming years? Fear is not the best response to this new era of digitalization. The digital revolution already well underway calls for a levelheaded analysis and a good dose of courage as businesses and their employees face the many new challenges that lie ahead.

The figures sound alarming. A study by the University of Oxford predicts that 47 percent of jobs in the United States could be automated over the next two decades, including traditional white-collar jobs such as accountants and loan officers. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), 71 percent of working hours worldwide are currently performed by human beings and 29 percent by machines. Machines could take the lead as early as 2025, with only 48 percent of the work carried out by people, and 52 percent by machines.

Can modern technology create new work?

The idea that technology destroys jobs is an old one. In the early 1930s, the renowned economist John Maynard Keynes already warned of the unemployment that technological progress would create. He believed a 15- hour working week was in the cards. As we now know, he was wrong. So far, new technologies have created more jobs than they have rendered obsolete. Take the US for example: In February 2017, about 146 million people had a job – 205 percent more than in 1970 when computers were practically unknown. Over the same period, the US population grew by only around 60 percent.

A recent WEF study on the future of work predicts that new technologies will create more than 58 million additional jobs over the next five years. How do experts from business and academia see the future of work? moving asked several for their views.

How do experts assess the working world of the future? Interroll requested an answer:

“In times of permanent change, further education and lifelong learning will be essential to people’s employability, enabling them to adjust to the digital revolution. High in demand in the future will be cross-sectional skills such as teamwork, analysis, creativity and leadership, as well as technical expertise in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Although automation is regarded as a threat to the working world, we should all also see this development as an opportunity to improve our emotional intelligence and one that will play an important role in occupations that involve communication, decision making, negotiation and support.”

Jessie Pallud, Professor of Information Systems EM Strasbourg Business School, France

“As a globally operating transport and logistics company, we facilitate access to goods and progress. We use digitalization and automation and invest in new technologies. We are interested in how technology can improve and support processes and the work of our employees, for example, with robot companions or augmented reality. Careers will continue to change in the future, but for us it’s clear that people will be at the center of everything. We have around 520,000 employees in 220 countries worldwide – diversity makes a big contribution to the success of our company.”

Thomas Ogilvie, Head of Human Resources and Corporate Incubations Deutsche Post DHL Group, Germany

“New technologies will create more jobs overall but, at the same time, make simple, recurring tasks redundant. Everyone increasingly will need to boost their personal skills and determine what career fulfillment means to them. To capitalize on this trend, business leaders need to recognize the individual talents of their employees instead of just expecting them to carry out instructions. It may never be achievable but there is a vision of a future without a ‘bad boss’ and reluctant workers. There are already numerous companies today that allow their employees to take ownership and work independently.”

Bart Friederichs, Managing Director TBWB, Netherlands

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Linear Motion Devices

Advance SmartLine conveyor increases efficiency at ZyroFisher

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ZyroFisher is one of the largest privately owned companies in the UK and Ireland for the distribution of bicycle accessories, spare parts and clothing. It distributes more than 50 leading brands worldwide, while at the same time supplying specialist dealers with its own Altura brand. The company is growing – more than 800 parcels go out every day. High demands on material flow had to be met with an innovative handling system: Advance SmartLine conveyors in combination with energy-efficient 24 V technology and the MultiControl from Interroll.

In the 9,000 m2 plant in Darlington, a lot of work was still required for shipping and packaging. Therefore, the required solution should transport the goods more efficiently from the packing area to dispatch. With the overriding goal of improving order processing, streamlining processes and increasing warehouse productivity.

Transport by roller conveyor to the shipping trailer

As a first step, ZyroFisher Advance commissioned Automated Systems Ltd. to evaluate the existing handling methods. The technicians’ modernization offer was a tailor-made SmartLine zone roller conveyor for transporting cartons of different sizes directly to the shipping trailer.

The next step was the installation of the zero-pressure accumulation conveyor system operated with energy-efficient 24 V technology. Perfectly matched with a quiet running RollerDrive EC310 Drum Motor and MultiControl control. As this is a four-zone controller, it was connected to up to four RollerDrive EC310 and four zone sensors and integrated directly at fieldbus level. It communicates in real time via PROFINET, EtherNet/IP and EtherCAT, which can be implemented with a simple setting on each MultiControl.

Simple and fast commissioning on site

Sensor or RollerDrive properties were configured via PLC software, a web interface or the Interroll teach-in process. With quick and easy on-site commissioning – on the one hand because automatic addressing was possible and on the other hand because the solution provides information on the sequence of all connected MultiControl or conveyor zones in the conveyor. Since no manual addressing or configuration is required, the components can now be easily replaced using plug & play technology.

Independent modules in the conveyor system

Each conveyor module of the Advance automation solution can be operated independently. They remain ready for product transport – only when containers have to be transported do they start moving. If necessary, the product can accumulate along the entire length of the conveyor system. In addition, the conveyor system is equipped with single-width lifting passages for pedestrians and escape routes and double-width for pallets. To ensure simple and safe lifting, gas springs are installed in all passages. An extendable roller conveyor is integrated for loading the trailer.

Most energy-efficient and economical method

Advance Automated Systems’ modernization project fits in perfectly with ZyroFisher’s operations using Interroll’s industry-leading 24V technology and controls. This results in an efficient flow of goods and increased throughput. The Advance SmartLine modular and flexible zero-pressure accumulation conveyor is the most energy-efficient and economical method for conveying cartons directly onto the shipping trailer. An innovative solution that, in combination with the Interroll components used, makes a major contribution to the success of ZyroFisher.

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Linear Motion Devices

Collaborative effort amongst industry specialists creates best conveyor designs

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Conveyors are usually fundamental to the efficiency of manufacturing, warehousing and logistics operations and often they are built to a bespoke design. Adrian Wells of WDS Component Parts Ltd, a leading manufacturer and supplier of engineering parts and machine accessories, looks at the most efficient ways to design and build conveyors that exactly meet specific user requirements.

Sometimes the perfect solution for a project is a standard product; this will have known dimensions and guaranteed performance levels and be easily available. Other times a bespoke solution is required, for which size and performance criteria must be established before a suitable design can be developed.

Many conveyor projects require a bespoke or partially-bespoke solution. In this case the first task for the end user is to identify performance requirements and to convert these into a technical specification relating to power, speed, load and other key parameters. That’s the easy part. The second task is to realise the design parameters by sourcing suitable components.

Realising the design often requires the integration of three different specialisms: a drives specialist to select the motor, gears and power transmission elements, plus possibly a variable speed drive and/or an electronic controller; a conveyor specialist who will help identify the best type of conveyor – belt, chain, screw, gravity, etc and the materials from which they are made; and finally a mechanical engineer who will help with the detailed work of defining the frame of the conveyor and selecting and sourcing all the many different components associated with it.

Five years ago, WDS recognised the increasing importance of conveyors as automated production became mainstream and efficiency was increased in materials handling operations. It therefore established an operation to supply the passive mechanical parts used in conveyor build projects, and to back this up with experienced technical advice. While WDS has its own manufacturing capabilities it recognised the expertise involved in making specialist conveyor parts and decided the best route was to form relationships with dedicated manufacturing partners. This partner resource can be drawn upon by specifiers through WDS to tailor a solution beyond the range of components displayed on their website.

At that time the product range WDS offered included support bases, mounting brackets, connecting joints, rods and tubing for constructing conveyor frames, plus guide rails, conveyor ball transfer units and rollers, skate wheel, omniwheels and other specialist components used in conveyors. These were complemented by WDS’s wide range of general engineering parts such as anti-vibration mounts and casters; joints and connectors; nuts, bolts, screws and pins; knobs, levers and handles. This wide product portfolio coupled with its deep expertise in engineering and design allowed WDS to address all popular requirements for building conveyor frames or bases.

Five years on WDS recognises that nearly all conveyor systems contain at least some bespoke elements of design, so as of 2018 it has expanded its range of conveyor related equipment even further so that it can offer end users and OEMs a much more adaptable range of building elements and accessories for gravity materials handling equipment, with partner expertise available to develop driven systems to meet customer needs.

A typical conveyor design has to fit into the available space, carry loads within an identifiable range and run at a speed dictated by other elements of the process. Further, there may be environmental considerations such as a chemical atmosphere, the possibility of extra heavy loads, the presence of damaging materials, exposure to outdoor weather conditions, safety of personnel, etc.

Through the recent range enlargement WDS is able to meet the needs of both general industrial conveyors and those applications that are more demanding due to harsh working conditions. The new accessory products are ideal for applications such as food conveyors, roller conveyors and belt conveyor systems and include a host of new products that enable conveyor builders to easily construct bespoke conveyor lines that exactly meet the needs of the user.

Material options include aluminium, polypropylene and stainless steel all manufactured to the most rigorous quality controls. The conveyor accessories complement the broader range of WDS machine parts, including levelling feet, ball transfer units, index levers, digital position indicators, gas struts and shock absorbers.

Like all WDS components, the full range of conveyor components can be viewed on the company’s website, www.wdsltd.co.uk, where there are also 2D drawings and 3D CAD models for download and easy access to on-line ordering for rapid delivery.

WDS Component Parts Ltd. is one of Europe’s leading manufacturers and suppliers of engineering component parts. It runs its manufacturing, stock holding and supply operations as one integrated organisation, allowing it to optimise all parts of its business and thus maximise service levels to customers.

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