Automation masterclass: How Hermes achieved a seven-figure parcel processing capacity

The Hermes Midlands Super Hub is one of the most extraordinary examples of the vast potential in automation. The site in Rugby has added an incredible 45 percent to the company’s parcel processing capacity in the UK. In this article, you can get a sneak peek at what a super hub looks like from the inside.

By Brian Jones


How does the dramatic global rise of e-commerce affect CEP companies?

It depends on who you ask.

Even some major players have observed the increase in parcels with mostly frustration and concern. They have seen an until then familiar market change in front of their eyes. From a letter-heavy industry into a new landscape based on parcels that didn’t perhaps suit the strengths of the company.

Others have been able to welcome the changing waters rather opportunistically almost with open arms. And maybe even, with some investments in new technologies and facilities, take advantage of a new situation and thrive in it.

The German parcel delivery giant Hermes falls directly into the latter category.

In 2017, the company revealed its new sensational hub: Hermes Midlands Super Hub in Rugby. A spectacular site that arrives with an unmistakable statement: We are ready to dominate in the parcel age.

45 percent increase in processing capacity

The German consumer delivery specialist is no stranger to double-digit growth on a yearly basis. In general, Hermes has done well with the rise in e-commerce. And yet, the new site in Rugby represented the company’s boldest investment yet.

As the gates opened to the 140,000 m2 distribution centre, it represented what has turned out to be an increase in processing capacity by a staggering 45 percent in the UK for the company.

How did Hermes pull off such a spectacular increase? The answer is a new automated system.

High powered but familiar

In order to capitalise on the growth of e-commerce and also build on the potential already available from its original UK site in Warrington (30 kilometres away from Liverpool and Manchester), Hermes wanted to establish a new sorting hub of exceptional capacity. One that could take the company to the next level.

The new hub needed a system to serve the multi-channel online retail market which includes parcels in a wide range of shapes and sizes. Flexibility and adaptability were key parameters.

Read more: “Automated parcel sorting – an introductory guide.”

To ensure some similarity in the operational process Hermes also wanted the new system to have commonality with the one in place at the Warrington Hub. BEUMER designed and constructed the Warrington site and was able to build on that system in Rugby.

The inner workings

When arriving at the hub, parcels and polybags are loaded onto the inbound conveyor system at 60 doors. There are ten induction lines for each sorter.

The boom conveyors can extend into trailers to offload parcels. The sizing range goes all the way up to 1200mm in length, 800mm width, 600mm height and weighing up to 30kg. The three-level sortation system is designed with reserve capacities for the busy peak season over Christmas. Talk about flexibility and adaptability.

A fast-paced operation

The feed-ins onto the main sortation system use the latest scanning, volumetric and weighing technologies to identify and then accurately profile parcels. Automatic checks are carried out on each parcel to ensure they have been labelled correctly before they are transferred onto the sortation system itself.

Inside the automated sortation hub, parcels can be loose loaded or containerised using a standard fleet. This allows Hermes to fully integrate their hub fleet and operate as a single centrally planned network.

Finally, parcels exit down 60 spiral chutes to the delivery trucks, at any of 174 docks.

Despite all its different facets, the entire sortation process is completed in just two or three minutes. Emphasising that the Rugby Hermes distribution centre is indeed super – in terms of production, quality and speed.


What the company achieved

  • An automated system built to thrive in an era of massive increase in parcels from e-commerce
  • Ability to handle a wide range of parcel shapes and sizes to serve the multi-channel online retail market
  • Achieve a high level of flexibility and adaptability through the use of advanced sortation solutions

How they achieved it

  • A system where items are loaded onto the inbound conveyor system through 60 doors, with ten induction lines for each sorter
  • Three-level sortation designed to achieve maximum capacity
  • Boom conveyors that can extend to carry parcels up to 1200mm in length, 800mm width, 600mm height and weighing all the way up to 30kg
  • The result is an automated super hub with the capacity to handle one million parcels a day at a rate of more than 60,000 items per hour

The specs

  • 140,000 m2 exterior and 25,000 m2 interior space
  • Capacity to handle one million parcels a day (at more than 60,000 items an hour)
  • 60 entry and exit doors for loading in and out
  • 174 docks
  • Three-level sortation system
  • The entire sorting process is completed in two to three minutes

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