Innovative sortation doubles European capacity for DHL
Six integrated sorters deliver end-to-end sortation
After five years of double-digit annual growth, DHL’s distribution hub in Brussels was nearing capacity and a new hub was needed to support further expansion. The new €140 million distribution hub is an integral part of DHL’s vision for expansion and one of five major hubs worldwide.
Advanced technology is used to deliver end-to-end hub sortation with six integrated BEUMER sorters. The sorters have enabled capacity to be increased from 12,000 shipments to 32,500 items per hour. This increase has doubled DHL’s capacity in Europe and the system has been designed to support continued expansion.
The sortation system has five cross-belt loop sorters for pre-sort, sort, and to handle small parcels. An additional shoe sorter is integrated to streamline the handling of exception parcels. The decision to use cross-belt loop technology provides DHL with the flexibility to sort the broadest range of items across different sizes and shapes. The sorters also provide gentle handling of the items and ensure system availability to deliver optimum capacity.
To ensure accurate sortation, the system provides 100% track and trace for all items throughout sortation and the items are routed to take the fastest path through the hub. Each item typically takes just six-and-a-half minutes to be sorted from induction to the destination chute.
The sortation system in the DHL Express Brussels hub includes features which maintain a fast and efficient throughput of items. To eliminate delays caused by the high security demands of air transport, x-ray security screening units are integrated into the sorters.
An additional 94 camera units allow item labels to be scanned during sortation and the weighing and measurement of the items is also automated. A total of 70 gates simplifies the loading of items onto vans and trucks and the items are shipped on pallets or as loose loads. Tight control of material flow throughout the sortation process is achieved with BGFusion software.
To ensure a smooth transition to using the innovative sorting technology, the Stage-Gate® Model was used to ensure efficient implementation. The system was also installed on schedule.
Following installation, there was extensive testing and a programme of staff training for DHL staff, in addition to residential service from an on-site team from BEUMER Group. The joint team provides essential knowledge and expertise in the system processes and system operation. The team is responsible for maintenance and for continuous improvement which is achieved by monitoring and carrying out periodic reviews of system performance.
The state-of-the-art logistics technology used in the DHL Express Brussels hub has enabled the operational capacity to virtually match the theoretical capacity. This has enabled DHL to sort parcels with the speed and efficiency to meet customer demand and to support future expansion.