Focus on high levels of reliability and  flexibility in goods distribution
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Focus on high levels of reliability and flexibility in goods distribution

26.05.2020.

Recently, Swiss company Ferag AG has increasingly focused on system solutions based on Denisort and Skyfall systems in the e-commerce/retail segment – a step that has been met with an extremely positive reaction. What both technologies have in common is that they not only offer outstanding reliability and efficiency coupled with low running costs, but also the flexibility required in an expansive, fast-paced segment. The Denisort tilting tray sorter, for example, offers a lot of scope in terms of product range and throughput. Meanwhile, the Skyfall gravity overhead conveyor system is the first choice for customers who have to assign and sequence many different products in an order.

The coronavirus pandemic is not only having a negative effect on the retail trade, but also on online trade as well. According to the German E-Commerce and Distance Selling Trade Association (Bundesverband E-Commerce und Versandhandel Deutschland [BEVH]), sales in Germany fell by 20 percent in March 2020 compared to the same period in the previous year. Nonetheless, there are also inconsistencies. Sales volumes at companies such as Amazon, for example, reached new record highs during the same period. David Frei, an expert in e-commerce/retail at Ferag, is thus convinced: “Over the long term, there will be an even greater shift towards online trade. E-commerce will continue to grow at the expense of retail.” According to David Frei, the reason for this is that many retailers are now expanding their online business. Moreover, an increasing number of companies are even adding online shops for distributing B2B products that require minimal consultation. In view of this trend, there is also growing pressure to further optimize processes in order fulfilment.

Individual system layouts for increasing demands

With system solutions based on the Denisort tilting tray sorter or Skyfall gravity overhead conveyor system, Ferag sees itself as ideally prepared for this predicted boom following the coronavirus crisis. “E-commerce depends on highly efficient logistics in which everything has to work perfectly, from warehousing to sorting and order picking, all the way through to transportation. A customer who orders goods online expects the provider to deliver the right products to the right place within an appropriate time and in the promised quality. If these demands are not met, there is not only the risk that the customer will change providers, but also that they will make their dissatisfaction known online,” stresses Frei. Both Denisort and Skyfall combine all relevant processes seen in goods distribution – conveying, sorting and order picking – in an end-to-end system without fault-prone transitions. Additionally, Skyfall also offers the possibility of buffering and sequencing products. What both Ferag innovations have in common is that they allow for individual system set-ups with a freely selectable layout. Even subsequent expansions are also possible with very little effort thanks to the modular design of both systems. This means that both Denisort and Skyfall systems can be adapted without any issues to the quickly growing demands, frequently changing conditions and other uncertainties that are common in the e-commerce segment. Both technologies thus offer the ideal prerequisites for ensuring those in the online trade can always meet their promises to the customer.

Integrated sorting solution without fault-prone transitions

Denisort offers the benefits of both tilt-tray and slide-tray sorters. As seen in the firmly established Deniway and Easychain systems, this integrated sorting solution works according to the principle of “rolling, not sliding”. The basis is a carrier chain that runs quietly on low-friction rollers in a steel profile with optimal energy efficiency. The configuration of this extremely durable, low-maintenance system is highly flexible in terms of track length, carriers, conveying speed, the number of infeed stations and chutes, and identification. This aspect was the decisive factor in the recent decision by multi-channel retailing specialist MyBox Logistics to install a Denisort line at its new distribution centre in the Polish city of Kielce. The Ferag customer has a network of over 400 stores selling shoes in East-Central Europe. In choosing the Denisort line, the company wanted to keep all its options open in future for expanding in several stages when necessary and further optimising the system with the addition of automatic feeding at any time.

High sorting accuracy, high reliability

The high sorting accuracy of Denisort (and its smaller counterpart Denisort compact consisting of a small number of standard modules) also appeals to many Ferag customers. It ensures the reliable and efficient distribution of a wide range of different products depending on demands. Thanks to the tilting tray sorter, each Denisort user also retains a high level of flexibility when it comes to future expansion of the product range. Take the Hungarian commercial group ShoeBox, for example. Although the company primarily distributes shoes at present, it can also process other items like T-shirts, belts and matching clothing on the Denisort line recently put into operation in Budapest without having to make any hardware adjustments. The 650 x 450 mm trays (other standard sizes in the Ferag range are 450 x 380 mm and 320 x 370 mm) are able to transport a wide range of different products safely and discharge them gently to the corresponding chutes in the positions assigned by the system. The engineers from Ferag have also optimized the trays for handling any kind of polybag, sachet or parcel. This means the trays are able to receive items with widely varying geometries.

Goods distribution in the third dimension

In contrast, Skyfall can be loaded with up to 20 kilograms per load carrier. With a throughput of up to 12,000 items per hour and speeds of up to two metres per second (gravity-driven stretches; 0.75 metres per second on pure conveyor sections), it is one of the most efficient material flow systems in the e-commerce segment. The renowned US fashion chain Stage Stores was the first company to recognize this three years ago, equipping its distribution centre in Jacksonville, Texas, with several Skyfall lines to save space at floor level for transportation areas and other purposes. The department store chain is extremely satisfied with the overhead conveyor system from Switzerland, which has been running with optimal maintenance intervals ever since. In fact, the company is so happy that further systems are now being planned. However, Skyfall is also gaining ground in European goods distribution as well. The Mayoral Group from Spain – the European market leader for children’s fashion – is currently opening a new logistics centre in Malaga. The Skyfall system installed here has 52,000 load carriers, with a mix of hanging pockets and garment hangers. This makes it the largest Skyfall system planned by Ferag in the goods distribution segment to date. A particular highlight here is the newly developed stations for the fully automatic unloading of pockets filled with folded goods.

Conclusion

Skyfall and Denisort are the undisputed main players in Ferag’s current e-commerce strategy. Nonetheless, there are also niche segments where the Deniway system comes into play – such as the disposal of used cardboard. In particular, the mail order company Zalando has been using the plate chain conveyor technology from Switzerland at several of its sites with great success.