In a world in which more parcels are handled than ever before, the labor market is tight, and the customer is well informed and demanding, there is no longer any room for error. You must get it right first time. This is problematic for traditional postal and parcel processors, but even more so for online retailers and e-commerce distribution centers that must respond to the sharp increases in sales, partly caused by the Covid-19 crisis. This situation calls for smart automation that makes processing faster, more efficient, and error-free.
Prime Vision’s solutions are all born from the core business of this Delft-based technology company: computer vision. The company has been seeing, reading and processing information from address labels and barcodes on postal items and parcels for almost 30 years and it uses its knowledge to help customers evolve, innovate and grow.
The latest Prime Vision solutions for giving the sorting process a major boost are the Flow Projector and Robotic Sorting.
The Flow Projector ensures that parcels or goods arrive at the correct destination, such as a roll container, delivery van, or a picking or packing station. Employees do not have to read (address) labels, because the Flow Projector projects the destination number on the item and keeps it visible until it is picked up.
With the use of this system, the education level and language skills of the employee are no longer relevant, which reduces the number of human sorting errors to almost zero. Hardly any training time is required, and employees of an e-commerce fulfillment center do not require an extensive knowledge of the layout of the warehouse. This means that new and temporary employees can immediately be 100% effective.
From the employee’s perspective, one of the advantages of the Flow Projector is that it is very easy to use and makes tasks easier and faster to execute. For example, you can pick up multiple items with the same destination at the same time.
A recent test with 500 packages showed that sorting with the Prime Vision projector was 30-40% more efficient. Compared with the existing process, (many) more packets were processed in (much) less time.
These solutions are not designed to replace people, but they do enable employees to carry out their work in a different way. Where smart automation is used, people can execute higher-quality jobs, go home less tired at the end of their shift and the risk of industrial accidents is smaller. There are also situations where automation can contribute to the health of employees by reducing the need to be near each other, an aspect of collaboration that has been spotlighted by Covid-19.
Fast and scalable
Robotic Sorting is a concept developed by Prime Vision in which self-driving robots bring parcels, letters or products to the right destination in a warehouse or sorting center. The company’s vision techniques are also the basis of this solution: when the barcode has been scanned, the system informs the robot where the package should be taken and delivered. Using machine learning and AI, the autonomous robots make it possible to increase tenfold the number of goods sorted per hour.
There are several similarities between the Flow Projector and Robotic Sorting. Both are quickly deployable: they can be installed and put to work in a few days. In addition, these systems are easy to scale up and down, and day-to-day business can continue during the installation. Unlike investing in and building a traditional sorting system, the Flow Projector and Robotic Sorting can be added to existing systems quickly, easily and cost-effectively. It is ideal for absorbing peaks in production – such as Black Friday, Sinterklaas and Christmas.
Together with the customer
Another similarity between these two automation systems is that they can be quickly integrated into the operational and IT environment. This also fits in the longstanding tradition of Prime Vision’s solutions. Its experts go on-site and walk through the premises with the client so they can see the problems and obstacles that the client is encountering. At the same time, they also see the possibilities for adjusting the ‘behavior’ of the projector and the robots in such a way that the best solution is ultimately delivered to each individual client. Because of this adaptability, Prime Vision sees extensive opportunities to deploy its solutions in the world of e-commerce. The self-driving robots can play an important role in getting goods from A to B in distribution or fulfillment centers, where the size of the system can be scaled to the size of the distribution center and the extent of the demand.
As with mail and parcel sorting centers, the Prime Vision Flow Projector and robots increase throughput, but in distribution centers they also reduce picking costs and contribute to both optimizing product inventory and employee well-being.