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Camera based parcel recognition technology at DHL distribution hubs

Vitronic has supplied camera-based parcel recognition technology to DHL’s distribution hubs in Madrid, Barcelona and Vitoria. It speeds up parcel sorting, ensures customers receive deliveries in a timely fashion and cuts costs. Vitronic’s Spanish partner, Lyl Ingeneria, handled the project.

Part of the world’s leading logistics group, Deutsche Post, DHL offers integrated services and tailored, customer-focused solutions for managing and transporting letters, goods and information. It operates all over the world and has over 300,000 employees.
DHL’s distribution centres process shipments automatically, and must identify destination addresses at high speed for quick, accurate parcel sorting. They do this by using machine vision to read package barcodes. The hubs in Madrid, Barcelona and Vitoria previously employed laser scanners but, favouring higher read rates, DHL replaced them with five VIPAC RD camera systems from Vitronic. It is now achieving record throughput levels at all three sites.

VIPAC RD uses auto-focus line-scan cameras to capture high-resolution images of parcels travelling through on powered conveyors. Sophisticated software isolates and interprets the barcodes within these images, before commanding sorters to send items to specific destinations. VIPAC RD achieves read rates approaching 100%. It identifies badly marked or damaged codes, and even codes behind reflective packaging.

Lyl Ingeneria installed VIPAC RD at DHL’s three Spanish distribution centres. Each uses three Vitronic VICAM-ssi2 cameras that photograph five sides of a parcel, and reads barcodes in any orientation on these faces. The conveyors run at speeds of up to two metres per second, which means each hub can automatically process approximately 4,700 packages per hour. Technical Manager Juan Iraola is delighted; "In comparison with scanners, we now have a very high read rate. This lowers our costs immensely and substantially improves our internal processes."

VIPAC RD is also certified to measure volume. It builds a three-dimensional image of a parcel before measuring its height width and length, and calculating its volume. DHL can use this data to prepare statistics on internal processes, automate invoicing, optimise space in transit vehicles, and verify customer-provided package information.

In addition to image archiving and analysis tools, DHL’s VIPAC RD systems feature web-based monitoring software that provides a variety of information, such as throughput rates and the operating status of each VIPAC RD unit. This means DHL can monitor the hubs’ activities in real time and make changes to improve working efficiency.

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