A new sortation system designed and installed by systems integrator SDI Greenstone for HMV's e-fulfilment distribution centre (DC) in Guernsey is automatically dispatching 40,000 items daily, and this number is set to grow significantly in 2007.
The packing and sortation system has been designed to deliver items bagged by postcode for collection by the Guernsey Post Office. Comprising four packing machines with an SDI Greenstone 120-dropstation sorter and an induction conveyor system, the installation streamlines dispatch of purchases made through HMV's hmv.co.uk online store.
“The brief that we gave the SDI Greenstone designers was to devise a process which eliminates manual product handling,” said Gideon Lask, HMV E-Commerce Director. “This is exactly what we now have. Once the products are fed into the packaging system they don't need to be handled again until the mailbags are sorted at the destination depots.”
HMV's package and dispatch operation had previously been extremely labour-intensive with products being handled several times through the process. Products were hand-picked, manually packaged and labelled before being manually handled once again by operatives sorting them by postcode and then placing them into mailbags. The new automated system can pack and sort products at a rate of 6,000 pieces per hour, bringing considerable efficiency gains to the operation.
HMV is the UK & Ireland's leading multi-channel music, DVD and games
specialist, trading from over 240 stores as well as online store at
hmv.co.uk and a music downloads service at hmvdigital.com.
SDI Greenstone designed the new DC process by integrating four packaging machines with sortation equipment comprising a 120-dropstation, double-tray bomb-bay sorter with specially constructed chutes to accommodate Guernsey Post Office mailbags. Packaged merchandise – DVDs and CDs – is fed directly from the automated packing machines commissioned by Jacob White, Packrobat and ALS, which also apply customer address labels to a predetermined position on the package.
The packages are correctly positioned – using a series of integral directional rollers within the conveyor belts – to present themselves via a singulator to the compartmented induction conveyor. Above the conveyor is mounted an omni-directional scanner to read the package barcodes. Each barcode represents customer order details and the destination postcode.
Order details read by the scanner are uploaded to the HMV host system to indicate that a shipment has been made. The postcode element is linked to a three-digit dropstation number and the scanner instructs the bomb-bay sorter to drop the package at the correct dropstation.
The incorporation of a specially designed diverter allows packages to be sent to an inner or outer circle of sorter trays so the packaged products can be dropped to either position. This enables operatives to work on the inside or the outside of the sorter, removing full mailbags from the dropstations and replacing them with empty bags as necessary. Full mailbags are placed on either one of two take-away conveyors which carry goods out of the dropstation to be marshalled in rigid stackable cages (RSCs) before being collected by Guernsey Post Office vehicles.
The installation of the new equipment was not achieved without some difficulty as HMV's DC is located down a very narrow lane unsuitable for articulated lorries. SDI Greenstone arranged for equipment to be offloaded at port onto smaller vehicles for delivery to the site.
“SDI Greenstone representatives were amazingly flexible in their approach to the project. Their understanding of our business and what we hoped to achieve has enabled them to design a future-proof solution which meets all our requirements,” said Gideon.