Axiom GB has designed, manufactured and installed a packet mail sortation system into Aylesbury based B2C Europe. The new sorter has automated B2C Europe’s parcel and pack sortation, enabling the company to sort up to 8,000 packets an hour. This has given the company the futureproof ability to handle three times its current volume without making any significant changes to staff numbers or facilities.
B2C Europe offers smart solutions for the international delivery of parcels and mail. In the UK the company operates from two sites, an operation in Slough which deals with wholesale customers and the Aylesbury site which does business with retail customers.
Picking a credible partner
Stuart Rivett is the managing director of the Aylesbury operation, he comments, “Previously we had a manual system, sorting our parcels and packets in U shaped ‘bullrings’. As we expanded and our volume increased we needed more and more of these bullrings, each with the same sortation segments. In the end we had 12 of them, taking up most of our available floor space.
“As Christmas was approaching, usually our busiest time, we didn’t have enough space to take on any more business; there were no economies of scale in our sortation model to grow. We were faced with a choice – to extend our working hours into night shifts or weekends (an expensive option), to take on more floor space or to automate our sortation.
“I had been looking at different automation systems but had never found anything I really wanted. Elements of systems would work, but the whole solution wouldn’t be suitable for our purposes. I then saw an Axiom case study for a company called Healthspan and knew that the sorter that was described was more or less exactly what I was looking for, with some minor modifications.
“Once we had seen the sorter in action we began our negotiations with Axiom. One of our main problems was that we needed to be able to process thousands of different shapes and sizes of package – from 100 grams up to 5 kilograms. A sorter that could handle all of our traffic would have been too expensive – ideally I was looking for one that would handle 80 per cent of my volume, any more would be a bonus.
“The Axiom team asked us to supply around 200 different variations of parcels so that they could test them. The result was that they supplied a sorter which they guaranteed could handle around 95% of our volume and that’s what it does.
“I was also really sold on the idea that we can run the sorter at three different speeds, 3,000, 5,000 or 8,000 items per hour, depending on the package requirement. It will actually achieve those volumes too – unlike many other systems I had viewed.
“We also needed to have 100 destination chutes, a double deck loading conveyor and the ability to sort into both mail sacks and Yorks. We did obtain prices from other suppliers and Axiom was competitive – they weren’t the cheapest or the most expensive. However what singled them out was that they had listened to our requirements and were offering an excellent product which was exactly fit for purpose, so we didn’t hesitate to give them the contract.”
Automation equals increased productivity
All of the items arrive at B2C Europe prepacked and operatives process each package, apply a barcode and place it onto one of the available spaces on the lower belt of the loading conveyor. If all the available spaces are full, rather than wait for any empty one, the parcel is loaded onto the upper deck which takes it to an overspill chute. An operative empties this chute, filling up the empty spaces on the loading conveyor.
The packages then travel up an incline into the sorter, passing under a scanning gantry which directs them into the correct mail chute. There are 100 destinations with a dump chute at the end of the sorter for exceptions.
Each destination features a unique buffer and flap system designed by Axiom. This cleverly enables the packages to continue to be loaded into a large chute at the top whilst a full sack is being replaced without losing productivity or throughput.
The mail chutes have also been equipped with a fully interchangeable system which accommodates either Royal Mail bags or Yorks. This has increased efficiency, enabling B2C operatives to run sorts for bigger items into the Yorks which have a large volume.
Axiom has installed a camera so that they can view the sorter remotely. They can also access the system that runs the software and the hardware, making any changes or modifications that are required from their headquarters in Tamworth.
An experienced team you can trust
“The Axiom sorter operates so well and is so reliable that we take it for granted that it will work,” concludes Rivett. “It enables us to handle three times the volume we are currently doing from the same footprint of building, giving us that futureproof ability.
“I would absolutely recommend the Axiom team – they are engineers who talk my language. They are entirely dedicated to designing and manufacturing a product which they ensure will satisfy your needs.”