Bomb bay system for Bertram

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Logistics systems integrator SDI Greenstone has supplied a high-capacity automated sortation system to book wholesaler Bertram Books. The £1.4 million “bomb bay” system will enable Bertram to process up to 2,000 orders, comprising around 50,000 individual books, each day. Bertram was founded 40 years ago and recently re-located to a 12,100 sq m head office and distribution centre in Norwich. It supplies around 2,000 customers on five continents. Until now Bertram has been assembling orders by hand, customer by customer. With the new system titles are picked from stock in batches and automatically assembled into individual customer orders on the SDI Greenstone sorter.

Bertram’s chief executive Terry Reilly says: “The SDI Greenstone system brings much more structure and discipline, and will reduce troublesome bottlenecks.”

The sortation system uses double, dual action trays. The 800 x 400 mm trays are split into two sections which can operate together or independently to drop items into customer-specific tote boxes beneath the carousel. Small books are loaded into either of the tray sections while larger volumes occupy both sections.

Orders arrive daily at Norwich by phone, fax or EDI. The day’s picking lists are assembled and all the required titles, for all the customer orders, are collated into batches which are taken, in totes on trolleys, to the SDI Greenstone sorter. The totes are then transferred by powered spiral conveyors to induct stations, where they are placed into the sorter’s dual-action trays. To give maximum flexibility to the system there are five induct stations located around the carousel.

The books are placed in the trays with their existing ISBN bar codes facing upwards. Scanners above the rotating carousel read the books’ bar codes and this information is fed into the system control software, developed by SDI Greenstone’s sister company RTI, which interfaces with Bertram’ order processing system.

The sortation system software automatically counts the progress of each tray-set around the carousel and as the tray passes over the appropriate customer-specific drop zone (identified via Bertram’ order processing system) solenoids are activated to open the bomb-bay flaps in the tray, either singly or together, depending on the book or books in the tray, to release the items into the tote box below. Outfeed conveyors then take the customer tote boxes to the despatch area for delivery.

With its dual bomb-bay arrangement the SDI Greenstone system has double the capacity of a comparable ‘orthodox’ sorter, and is capable of activating around 28,000 trays per hour. This is more than enough to enable Bertram to process up to 2,000 orders each day, the equivalent of around 50,000 individual books.

The sortation system will also be used to handle incoming stock.

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