Intral­o­gis­tics: Off to the basket!

Every­thing runs like clock­work at the ship­ping retailer Witt Group’s logis­tics center: every article ends up in the right box. Sorting systems from the intral­o­gis­tics specialist BEUMER Group show them the way. Servo drives from ebm-papst make sure the goods drop into the right basket. As a duo, they work extremely effi­ciently and intel­li­gently with predic­tive main­te­nance and are partic­u­larly sustain­able as a result.


At the logis­tics center in Weiden, every­thing is buzzing along without a hitch. Clothing and other items picked before­hand from mail-order company Witt Group arrive at the sorting system on the moving conveyor. There, the goods are scanned to iden­tify them and are trans­ported into the correct ship­ment tray at the system’s outlets. Equipped with flyers or give-aways, the collected items arrive at the next stage in the right-sized ship­ping carton and then go out to the customer. Order completed. To ensure that every­thing runs smoothly, sophis­ti­cated tech­nology is required, which also has to fulfill ever greater sustain­ability require­ments.

André Siele­mann, Controls Manager Logistic Systems at the BEUMER Group, values the long-standing part­ner­ship with ebm-papst. (Photo | Stefan Hobmaier | Fotogloria)

Increasing the sorting capacity in a sustain­able way

This is what the Witt Group contacted the intral­o­gis­tics experts BEUMER Group to order. They wanted to expand their existing logis­tics site in Weiden to increase their avail­able sorting capacity by at least 50 percent. Their most impor­tant request was having a solu­tion that is as effi­cient and sustain­able as possible. “Our high-perfor­mance sorter was ideally suited to this chal­lenge for the broadest mix of items. The BG Sorter Double-Belt can accom­mo­date the ship­ment using one or two load carriers,” explains André Siele­mann, Controls Manager Logistic Systems at the BEUMER Group.

“It has effi­cient servo and vari­able frequency drives, non-contact energy trans­mis­sion, real-time commu­ni­ca­tion with the sorter, and intel­li­gent automa­tion tech­nology for smart data.” To go the extra mile in terms of sustain­ability, BEUMER also used servo drives rather than pneu­matic drives to open and close the flaps that convey the picked items from the sorting cham­bers into the ship­ment trays. Siele­mann: “We decided to use the ECI drive from ebm-papst. In addi­tion to the desired effi­ciency and sustain­ability, it also provides our systems with that extra amount of preci­sion and intel­li­gence.”

No sooner said than done. The 275-meter sorting system is now the heart of the logis­tics center in Weiden. It uses five feed units to pick up items and sorts them out again in over 290 sorting cham­bers per sorting wave. This consti­tutes over 10,000 items per hour, 20 hours a day, six days a week. The ECI drives are used as small helpers in each of the 290 flaps, which cause the buffer items from the sorting chamber to fall into the ship­ment tray for each order. They reli­ably control the flaps 2,000 to 4,000 times a day and send the orders to the right basket. But what makes the drives so sustain­able and intel­li­gent?

Replacing pneu­matics with ECI

Switching from pneu­matic to servo drives alone serves both effi­ciency and sustain­ability. It starts with the energy source. The servo drive has a much lower power require­ment than compressed air gener­a­tion. The differ­ence is also notice­able when it comes to main­te­nance: if pneu­matic solu­tions need to be read­justed after thou­sands of move­ments, servo drives are much less prone to main­te­nance and servicing, which gives them a longer product cycle.

This is auto­mat­i­cally kind to the wallet: the amount of service costs are reduced and the total oper­ating costs also decrease. “This saving is often crucial for systems that have long oper­ating hours,” says Siele­mann. “These little things have a big effect overall.” The ECI drive from ebm-papst tips the scales.

Produc­tivity increased: with the new system, the Witt Group can dispatch 50 percent more pack­ages than before. (Photo | Stefan Hobmaier | Fotogloria)

Smart ECI drive

“The modern tech­nology of our ECI servo drives creates the perfect inter­play of effi­ciency and sustain­ability,” says Markus Psik, Head of Sales for Indus­trial Drive Tech­nology at ebm-papst. “They have inte­grated control elec­tronics and sensors, have IoT capa­bility and, thanks to Green­In­tel­li­gence, are also state-of-the-art in terms of predic­tive main­te­nance.” With the ECI 63 drive from ebm-papst, BEUMER went all out. “This gave us a solu­tion that is effi­cient from every perspec­tive,” says Siele­mann from BEUMER.

Impor­tant instru­ment: BEUMER moni­tors the status of the system with tablets. Machine data from ECI drives and other areas are prepared and used for optimum oper­a­tion and predic­tive main­te­nance. (Photo | Stefan Hobmaier | Fotogloria)

But what can the intel­li­gence of the drive do that others cannot? Firstly, the ECI 63 inte­grates the sensors that were previ­ously sepa­rate and had to be main­tained with pneu­matic drives. The servo drive auto­mat­i­cally detects the posi­tion of the flap and initi­ates its next action as a result. Its CAN bus inter­face makes it easier to control the entire field bus network. “Thanks to its small size, the ECI 63 is very suit­able for intral­o­gis­tics solu­tions such as this,” explains Psik from ebm-papst. “Also, the EtaCrown angular gearbox is espe­cially effi­cient, helping to save energy.”

Go green with Green­In­tel­li­gence

The fine add-on: thanks to the ECI 63’s Green­In­tel­li­gence, both BEUMER and the Witt Group them­selves have easier access to more machine data. This data is then processed by the BG Insight soft­ware solu­tion and can be viewed at any time via smart data dash­boards. “This means impor­tant added value for our systems when it comes to predic­tive main­te­nance. This makes our systems ever more intel­li­gent them­selves,” says Siele­mann. “In addi­tion, it also helps tech­ni­cians at the Witt Group to constantly improve tech­nical avail­ability.”

This is how the soft­ware errors are analyzed and warn­ings of poten­tial faults are provided. A simple example: based on the machine data, the soft­ware detects that the flap always gets jammed when two specific arti­cles are ordered together — a foot mat and a winter jacket. Thanks to its inte­grated sensors, the ECI drive detects the problem and stops so as not to damage the goods. The smart data dash­boards report the error, giving the valu­able infor­ma­tion that these two items should be sorted sepa­rately in the future.

Michèle Hille from the Witt Group is impressed by the high tech­nical avail­ability during oper­a­tion combined with a robust delivery promise. (Photo | Stefan Hobmaier | Fotogloria)

Flap open, flap closed!

Just half a year after the order was submitted, the Witt Group bene­fited from the new sorting system with the intel­li­gent drive. After all, as a stan­dard product, the drives were imme­di­ately avail­able for delivery. “With the new packing and sorting system, we are combining completely new oppor­tu­ni­ties for compiling ship­ments,” says Michèle Hille from the Witt Group. “We are impressed by the high tech­nical avail­ability during oper­a­tion combined with a robust delivery promise.”

Switching to servo drives has paid off. “The change is in keeping with the times and increases the sustain­ability a lot thanks to reduced energy consump­tion during oper­a­tion,” says Hille. In recent decades, there have already been major steps in the devel­op­ment of indi­vidual compo­nents in many areas and this is expected to continue. “For us, collab­o­rating with ebm-papst is not a one-hit-wonder,” says Siele­mann. “We still want to further expand the sustain­ability and intel­li­gence of our systems.” 

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