Wincanton warehouse modernisation cuts obsolescence

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Wincanton enlisted Dematic to modernise its Corby distribution centre, helping to remove the risk of obsolescence to the business.

The site has been in operation since 1995 so the technologies required to keep the automated system running had entered a phase of obsolescence.

This was creating problems for the company as parts were becoming more difficult to source resulting in greater time and effort to find alternatives, with increased lead times the stock holding had increased and the technical knowledge to diagnose unfamiliar faults was diminishing.

The stipulation was to ensure a minimum of ten years protection against obsolescence, implement non-bespoke hardware and improve the interfaces between the machine and the support engineers in times of fault rectification.

“The increasing risk to our business through obsolescence to supply our end customers was becoming a major concern for us; any downtime has an impact on us meeting deadlines. Any hardware failure, especially of an intermittent nature, would be a real challenge to diagnose,” said Paul Hipwell, engineering manager, Wincanton Corby.

The eight high bay pallet cranes had the complete ageing control system removed, including the main control panel. This was replaced with a new panel incorporating Unidrive SP Inverters, a Siemens S7 range PLC and a new touch screen HMI giving enhanced machine control and diagnostics. 

The DC motors for all three axis were replaced, including gearboxes for the X & Z axis. A new Profibus network was installed onto the machine along with remote I/O modules. To further enhance the diagnostics a second touch screen was installed within the operator cabin.

The single pallet pick crane design is following that of the main high bay cranes to ensure commonality of controls and parts.

The three conveyor systems, infeed, outfeed and dispatch were all running on the now obsolete Siemens S5 platform. The upgrade path for these was again the Siemens S7 range of PLCs incorporating the existing I/O network. A second Profibus network was installed to allow the use of Siemens mobile panels for fault rectification around the conveying system.

The three transfer cars used to feed the dispatch lanes were now running on obsolete controllers and positioning system. 

Using the Leuze barcode positioning system and control techniques Unidrive SP inverters these were brought up to date and used common parts inline with the AS/RS equipment, helping to keep spares holding to a minimum.

Finally, a second SCADA client was added into the high bay allowing faster local fault analysis and rectification and improved error reporting to identify specific errors.

The implementation has been in line with the planned business needs of Wincanton with five high bay cranes, two conveyor systems as well as the transfer cars completed. Further upgrade work is due to take place next year.

The SRM upgrades have given a higher level of reliability and with the increased diagnostic interfaces, along with remote support capability from Dematic engineers, any fault can now be quickly identified and rectified. In times of low throughput the site now has the benefit of reducing the overall SRM speeds to help reduce wear and tear on the mechanical interfaces.

The conveyor systems are no longer a business risk through obsolescence and component failure, spares released from the two completed upgrades are available for the remaining conveyor system until its completion in the new year.

The transfer cars are no longer at risk through component failures and by utilising improved positioning systems throughput has been increased.

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