More Than 1,000 Decentralised Drive Units

In its largest distribution centre, Chronopost International relies exclusively ondecentralised drive solutions from NORD DRIVESYSTEMS.Chronopost International specialises in the delivery of express parcels. The company employs more than 3,500 people throughout the world. In its largest distribution centre, Chronopost International relies exclusively on decentralised drive solutions from NORD DRIVESYSTEMS.

Chronopost International specialises in the delivery of express parcels. The company employs more than 3,500 people throughout the world. The main distribution centre is located in Chilly-Mazarin, south of Paris. This is one of the most efficient distribution centres in Europe. More than 60% of French parcels are processed here. Every day, an average of 170,000 parcels must be identified, sorted and transported to the correct dispatch station. Over the Christmas period, there are as many as 300,000 parcels per day. The parcels weigh up to 30 kg and have dimensions from 1 x 10 x 44 cm up to 120 x 80 x 100 cm.

All this requires an optimum use of space in the distribution centre. Because of this, Chronopost relies on NORD quality.

More than 1,000 decentralised drive units Equipped with extensive technology, the 13.000 m² centre has 34 unloading stations and 83 loading stations. The fully automatic two storey facility has two sorting systems, each 650 m long. During the sorting and distribution process, the barcodes on the parcels can be read from five sides by means of digital cameras.

Over 1,100 conveyor belts, equipped with bevel or worm gear drive units from NORD DRIVESYSTEMS transport the parcels through the distribution centre. All drive units are equipped with SK series decentralised inverters, which are mounted directly on the motors. More than 1,000 NORD drive units with decentralised drive electronics have been installed.

"The solution proposed by NORD for the decentralised control of each motor has definite advantages for us" says Eric Fouquet, Service and Maintenance Manager for the Chronopost distribution centres in Chilly-Mazarin and Roissy. "Eliminating large central drive electronics cabinets and their cables reduces the associated risks and results in a considerable space saving."

The decentralised inverters on the geared motors use a Profibus fieldbus to communicate with the PLC, which sends information to the control the control centre. Correct control and synchronisation of the drive solutions is a key factor in the system, as every parcel must reach the correct loadingstation in less than 3 minutes. Each parcel is registered at the beginning of the line and is tracked along the entire sorting chain. The conveyor belts have up to three insertion points – a technology which Chronopost is using for the first time in the world.

"Even a single sorter can have up to four insertion points", explains Fouquet. "If there is any delay at one of the loading stations, it is possible to slow down the chain and use it for temporary storage in order to avoid longer backlogs."

The SK 200E decentralised inverter series from NORD DRIVESYSTEMS is mounted directly on the motor terminal box to produce fully functional decentralised drive units. The inverters have a series of basic functions such as sensorless vector current control (ISD), brake management or energy saving functions. In addition, they are equipped with Ethernet-based BUS systems and integrated positioning control (Posicon).

"In this distribution centre, we exclusively wanted drive solutions from NORD", continues Fouquet. "Regardless of the technological quality, we are particularly impressed with the flexibility and service provided by the NORD support team. Whenever we have a problem or a query, we can always reach the NORD technical engineers very quickly. If necessary, they can be here on site in less than 48 hours. Although it is very rare for a drive unit to break down, we keep a stock of spare parts, so that we can replace defective units immediately."

Chronopost has ambitious targets for 2011: The performance of the Chilly-Mazarin distribution centre is to increase to an average of 200,000 parcels per day, which corresponds to an increase of 20%. In order to achieve this target, the buildings of the centre will need to be enlarged. The loading stations can be relieved and throughput can be increased by separating sorting and concentration from the distribution.


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