In the recently expanded and modernized logistics center of Austrian Post in Allhaming, parcels are being sorted at an incredible speed. The automation solution from SICK “keeps an eye on” the high-speed parcels, transmits all important information to the transport systems, and ensures a reliable tracking and tracing.
Identification at high speeds: 30,500 parcels per hour at Austrian Post
Logistics is one of the particularly demanding areas of automation. For good reason, because the number of parcels to be transported is increasing rapidly – speed and reliability are the decisive factors in this. To cater for this growth, Austrian Post commenced an expansion of its logistics center in Allhaming (Upper Austria) in April 2021. Besides expanding its parcel sorting facility, the company also built a new distribution center and office building.
Upgrade to highest performance location
The existing systems at the logistics center dating back to 2014 were also upgraded technically. The new, high-performance sorting machines commenced test operation in August 2022, whereby their integration with the modernized systems was extensively tested. After all, at speeds of up to 30,500 parcels per hour, nothing can be left to chance. Following this expansion, the parcel logistics center in Allhaming is now the highest performance location in the Austrian Post network. The official opening took place in October 2022.
Tripling of the parcel sorting capacity
Around 900 employees now work at the location. The total investment cost of the expansion project was about 80 million euros. The new building complex occupies approx. one quarter of the 200,000 m² property. This expansion has not only achieved a tripling of the parcel sorting capacity, but is also setting new benchmarks in terms of sustainability. The site was upgraded with green areas with bushes, trees and flowers for wild bees, nesting boxes for birds, and a biotope. Installed on the likewise greened biodiversity roof of the new building is a photovoltaic system with a capacity of around 500 kilowatt peak (kWp). When fully completed, this is expected to deliver around 1.5 megawatt peak (MWp) and produce green electricity for the site’s operations as well as e-vehicles. “The logistics center is a flagship green-yellow project,” as Dr. Georg Pölzl, Graduate Engineer and CEO of Austrian Post emphasized at the opening of the facility. Besides developing a comprehensive traffic concept to eliminate any impact on local traffic, the issue of efficiency, including inside the building complex, was therefore given particular importance.
1.7 million letters and 330,000 parcels per day
The expanded Upper Austria logistics center now serves as the logistics heart of Austrian Post and, thanks to its sorting capacity, is also one of the top ranking facilities in Europe. To achieve this, the existing sorting machines were upgraded to the state of the art, including high-efficiency track and trace systems from SICK. This has enabled the Allhaming facility to now process up to 330,000 parcels and 1.7 million letters for domestic and international delivery per hour at peak times.
Reliable identification at high speeds
The ICR 890 (Image-based Code Reader) track and trace systems used can identify all commonly used 1D / 2D codes as well as postal codes even at the fastest conveying speeds of up to 4.5 m/s. The outstanding image quality of the integrated camera (min. 200 dpi) also makes it possible to use OCR, video coding and vision applications. It can automatically capture, store and process images of multiple sides of the parcels, to the delight of the eagerly awaiting recipients when they use the Post app. And in the event of complaints, it is possible to determine from the images whether visible damage was already present when the parcel arrived at the logistics center. This is especially important for large customers who also deliver their parcels to the logistics center themselves.
Easy modernization and expansion
The 1,200 mm carrier width of the 1200 HC crossorter from Vanderlande is significantly less than the up to 1,600 mm width supported by the current ICR systems from SICK, which have only one camera on board. A further advantage is the modular design of the system, which on the one hand made it feasible for the postal service to upgrade its existing equipment, and on the other hand made it possible to integrate additional sensors – for example a volume measurement system.
Oliver Mosböck, Technical Manager Logistics Infrastructure at Austrian Post: “We wanted a fully-integrated solution. It was therefore absolutely essential to upgrade the existing equipment. In doing so, we sought to incorporate the additional desired functionality – for example capturing parcel details on all sides – while also taking into consideration the limited space in the existing building. The modular design of the systems and our longstanding collaboration with the experts at SICK were of great benefit to us. With a project of this size, there will always be changes, so it is important to be able to quickly access a competent contact person who can help you find a solution. Manfred Dietachmair and the team in SICK’s network of experts excelled in this regard.”
Volume as an additional measurand
“Our goal was to significantly increase the read rate while at the same time capturing additional information. Besides the weight, the volume and thus the dimensions are also becoming increasingly important. In particular when it comes to optimizing the transport of the parcels, not just the weight but also the volume is a relevant factor for the transport capacity. These measurands are also required for billing purposes. That is why, for example, we automatically capture them and forward them to the billing systems when we receive parcels directly from large customers. These measurands must always be correct. It was therefore a big advantage for us to be able to integrate these measurement systems into our controllers, even with the existing data tunnels – which is how we refer to our data capturing systems,” explains Oliver Mosböck.
Dimensioning Weighing Scanning
In selected areas of the logistics center, Austrian Post is now employing an innovative end-to-end solution that can capture all currently relevant data at one time. These DWS (Dimensioning Weighing Scanning) systems from SICK measure the parcels, weigh them, and scan the labels applied to multiple sides. The ICR890 code reader is also used for this. A laser-based volume measurement system (VMS) delivers the dimensions of the packages and a scale records the weight while the parcels are moving. Flexibility is another key feature: Thanks to the modular system design of the DWS, future upgrades or conversions are no issue. “Everything here fits together excellently. The hardware package is supplemented by the perfectly tailored analytics software package that monitors the individual components and clearly displays their performance in dashboards,” explains the Technical Manager Logistics Infrastructure at Austrian Post.
One data record for everything
Every sensor delivers data. Each parcel therefore has a multitude of information coming from a wide variety of sensors associated with it. Administering, merging and “marrying” this data with the shipment data is often an IT challenge of the highest order. “SICK accomplishes this using standardized interfaces and a data record that already contains all the necessary information. The postal service’s host system therefore receives a complete, already pre-processed data string from the data tunnel, including tracking ID. The data merging occurs directly on-site in the machines – an important aspect that makes further data processing significantly easier,” adds Manfred Dietachmair, the responsible sales specialist at SICK Austria.
Ready for the challenges of tomorrow
With its ultramodern logistics center in Allhaming, Austrian Post has upgraded an important hub in its network to the state of the art so that it can also cope with future challenges. Oliver Mosböck: “The expansion of this location has created additional flexibility. The market environment here is very volatile. The new solutions are an important component of ensuring that our customers can receive their parcels quickly even at peak times.”