Third-party logistics company James and James Fulfilment (James and James) has partnered with materials handling solutions provider BS Handling Systems (BS Handling) to introduce an automated sortation system at its UK fulfilment centre in Brackmills, Northampton.
According to the logistics firm, the automated sortation system and conveyors have led to significant increases in the throughput performance and the accuracy of workflows at this facility.
Stuart Ruchman, head of operations, James and James, said: “With over 350 clients serviced from the fulfilment centre, the storage and distribution operation has to handle a very diverse range of products, from phone cases to wine and cosmetics to yoga mats.
“The company moved into this new facility in 2020. With over 600,000ft2 of operational space it provides us with a solid platform to drive the business forward.
“Initially the sortation of orders was handled manually, but as we attracted more clients, volumes increased and we recognised the need to automate the sortation process.”
The company leveraged its logistics expertise to lead the design process and worked with BS Handling to create a solution that it has claimed will allow for future expansion as throughput volumes increase.
The automated system includes three conveyor lanes in the packing area, which feed completed packages onto the sortation system. Items are then automatically indexed, allowing for space between each item being processed on the sorter.
Before final sortation, each package then passes through a tracking station. Here, all order packages are automatically measured, weighed, photographed and scanned to determine the sorter chute down which each package needs to be sent.
A key focus of the project was implementing a system that would minimise downtime for James and James’ manual daily packing operation.
Due to the limited space available for the project, careful planning was needed. Overall lead time for the installation was eight weeks, with the system now able to sort up to 2,500 items an hour.
The logistics firm has said this is a four times increase in throughput compared to previous manual processes.
Phil Taylor, key account manager, BS Handling Systems, added: “For the automatic sorter we specified a CU Sort modular belt system from Conveyor Units. We also incorporated the Sick tracking unit which tracks, measures, weighs and photographs each item as it passes through the system.
“Given the space restrictions and the need for easy pedestrian access around the sorter, we had to raise the infeed conveyor and the sorter higher off the ground than would normally be the case.
“This meant adjusting the angles of the chutes in the vertical plane and constructing a heavy duty steel support frame for the Sick tracking/weighing station. If there was any vibration in the support structure, it would cause inaccurate weight readings which would result in false error readings.
“We also designed and constructed a raised walkway to run parallel to the sorter. This enables easy access to the packing benches either side of each of the three input conveyor lines, as well as access to the sorter.”
According to the materials handling integrator, the sorter meets all of James and James’ key needs, including increased throughput requirements, efficient use of space, cost savings and the ability to process a variety of package types.
Other key benefits include money saved through reduced labour costs and improved order visibility throughout the process, according to the logistics firm.
The latest developments in robotics and automated technologies for materials handling will be on show at the Robotics and Automation Exhibition, which will be held on 19-20 March 2024 at the NEC Birmingham. Register now to attend the UK’s biggest exhibition dedicated to robotics and automation, which is co-located with Britain’s biggest warehousing show, IntraLogisteX, where BS Handling Systems will be exhibiting at Stand 540.