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Highly flexible Denisort system also sorts DIN A3 photo calendars

Photo by Ferag AG

The latest Denisort-line, which the Swiss company Ferag AG has implemented at Europe’s leading photo service provider CEWE in Oldenburg, has some special features. For one thing, the extremely compact automatic sorting system integrated into an existing building is linked via a helix to a conveyor bridge via which the logistics service provider DHL directly loads its swap bodies. On the other hand, the comparatively large sorting trays with 75 by 55 centimeters are also suitable for large products: CEWE can thus also process the DIN A3 formats produced exclusively at the main location via the system.

CEWE has been relying on the technology of the Swiss material handling specialist Ferag for several years now; Oldenburg is already the third location of the photo service company where a denisort system makes a decisive contribution to order fulfilment optimisation. Like the sorting lines that Ferag has implemented in Germering near Munich and in Mönchengladbach, the new system for Oldenburg had to go into operation in October at the latest. And there was a simple reason for this: in order to cope with the rush of orders in the pre-Christmas period, production is traditionally running at full speed in all the photo service provider’s plants from October onwards. According to CEWE, photo books and photo calendars are among the most popular Christmas gifts ever. This means: the system, which was installed in autumn 2019 within only one month, had to prove its high reliability right after its commissioning. In the fourth quarter of the year, the permanent staff, reinforced by additional seasonal staff, usually works in three or even four shifts. The same applies to the machines, which must be fully available around the clock, seven days a week, and must not fail. For the Denisort plant this meant that right from the start it had to achieve the sorting maximum of up to 2,100 packaged units per hour, regardless of whether it was a mini photo book, a photo on a mobile phone cover, an Alu-Dibond or the large DIN A3 photo calendars that CEWE produces exclusively at its headquarters in Oldenburg.

Space-saving sorting system in existing property

CEWE did not see any possibility of expanding the factory premises in Oldenburg. For this reason, the new automatic sorting line had to be accommodated in an existing hall on the smallest possible area. Anyone entering the building immediately sees that this was a complete success. For example, the complete sorting line only requires an area of around 60m2 despite the 22 sorting destinations where the CEWE packages slide into a plastic container in a controlled and gentle manner. Their chain length is only 38 metres. In order to save space, the system consistently uses the 3D capability of the system; the return flow of the total of 54 sorting trays runs overhead at a height of three to four metres. For this to function smoothly and for the trays to be turned upside down, so to speak, they must be empty at the last discharge point at the latest. A further “carousel ride” of the up to four kilograms of heavy goods packs excludes this design principle. Accordingly, the system works like a linear sorter. The only prerequisite for this is that the line must not simultaneously function as a buffer store, where an article is sent on its way until the discharge is released.

Wendel provides automatic connection to the loading terminal

The layout concept in the style of an oversized Denisort bucket wheel has proven itself at CEWE. It can be found in a similar way in Germering and in Mönchengladbach. In contrast to the two plants there, however, the Oldenburg Denisort line has a special feature that additionally increases its efficiency: the first sorting destination is connected to an automatic shipping bridge via a helix after the chute. This leads directly to the loading gate, where the trucks of the CEP service provider DHL, the preferred CEP service provider of CEWE, dock. The goods to be shipped are screwed up to a height of three metres via the spiral, and then they are transported directly to the loading point via a belt conveyor and a telescopic belt.

Trays with maximum size for DIN A3 formats

With a length of 75 centimetres and a width of 55 centimetres, the trays in the Oldenburg sorting line offer the maximum tray size that Ferag has so far technically implemented in a Denisort system. The Swiss engineers have thus fulfilled a key wish of the customer. The background for this requirement: CEWE concentrated the production of particularly large-format products such as the DIN A3 wall calendar at its main location. For this reason the trays in Oldenburg must be able to accommodate dispatch packages measuring up to 68 by 48.5 by 34 centimetres. Ferag has also reinforced the trays on all four sides to make them even more stable. As in Germering and to some extent also in Mönchengladbach, the trays are loaded manually. To take account of this fact, the chain speed of the system has been reduced to 0.4 metres per second. The barcode of the packages placed in the trays by a CEWE employee is scanned immediately after the loading. In this way, the conveyed and sorted goods can be permanently tracked digitally; because the Denisort system is connected to the superordinate CEWE Warehouse Management System (WMS) via an Ethernet gateway.

Fire test passed with flying colours

The Christmas business is long since over, and the modular Denisort system, which can be easily expanded if necessary, has successfully passed its acid test. Since then, the automatic sorting line has been underlining its high flexibility every day anew, without the need for extensive maintenance. All this shows: Ferag technology is not only optimally equipped for the seasonal fluctuations occurring at CEWE, but also for handling the most varied article sizes and formats, which are processed by the system in a colourful mix with high sorting precision. And then there is another plus point: the very quietly running rollers are hardly audible for the people working at the sorting line. For this reason, too, the new technology met with great acceptance among the employees in Oldenburg after only a short time. They have learned to appreciate the system, which has now been running smoothly for months.

Europe’s leading photo service

From its beginnings in 1912 CEWE has developed into the first address in the photo service. This is particularly evidenced by the CEWE PHOTO BOOK, which has won numerous awards and sells more than six million copies every year. Customers can obtain additional personalised photo products under the brands CEWE, WhiteWall and Cheerz as well as from many European retailers. For the online printing market, the CEWE Group has established a highly efficient production for business stationery. Via the sales platforms SAXOPRINT, CEWE-PRINT.de, LASERLINE and viaprinto, billions of quality print products reliably reach their customers every year. The CEWE Group is present in more than 20 countries with more than 4,000 employees and in 2019 its turnover grew to 714.9 million euros. The CEWE share is listed in the SDAX.

For more information, please visit: https://www.ferag.com