Automation is looking good at AVON

During the months of July to September 2006, . Client representative orders are received from the existing AVON database and relayed to the new automated picking system.
The process starts when erected cartons are received onto the new conveyor system, which automatically selects different-sized cartons accumulated on the conveyor according to an order profile. An automatically applied bar code is generated and applied to the carton, scanned for readability and entered into the picking conveyor system that occupies two levels of the existing building. The cartons progress to the SDA-2000 Autopicker with central belt technology.
Products stored in channels are dispensed onto a central belt that delivers to a loading station for placement into the order carton. A large number of various shape and weight products can be accommodated in the Autopicker, which picks and delivers the products at a high throughput and with high accuracy. The central belt runs continuously if there are enough orders, and the order profile for a specific carton is known before the carton reaches the loading station. This means that the order is available once the carton reaches the loading station and can be loaded almost immediately.
Cartons not needing loading by the Autopicker pass through the loading station without interruption. Picked orders are accumulated into the loading station by the Autopicker belt and placed into the carton, once the carton is available. A very large variety of products are stacked into the Autopicker due to the large variety of products sold by AVON. The Autopicker is very well suited to this type of order profile as high volume, large variety orders are picked with high accuracy and on comparatively little floor space, especially compared to the old pick-to-light system previously used in this area.
Cartons that pass the Autopick station progress to the weight check station to ensure pick accuracy, and either progress to the conveyor system or are rejected to a verification station, where an order report is automatically generated to assist the operator in determining if an error has occurred. Cartons then progress and either loop around the existing pick-to-light system or progress through the old system.
There were numerous challenges with the installation of the new system, due to the complexity of integrating new and existing systems and conveyors with minimal interruption to the process. This meant a lot of night and weekend work was required. Included in the new conveyor system is the installation of three vertical conveyors as it was determined that vertical conveyors are the most space-beneficial arrangements to get from the ground level picking to the 3.1 m suspended conveyor system.
All cartons are transported on a combination of the old and new conveyor system to the new system that transfers cartons through the picking level floor to the basement area, where sortation is done. The new sortation conveyor system scans the carton’s bar code and sorts the cartons into gravity-fed conveyor lines for manual palletising and despatch by truck.
A complete automated system was integrated with an existing semi-automatic system that caused particular challenges during installation and commissioning. Downtime to the existing system was kept to a minimum by the extensive planning, as well as due to the co-operation of AVON to ensure an on time delivery and rapid integration.
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