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Viapost, the logistics subsidiary of the La Poste group, has invested in a fully automated parcel preparation system, implemented with the support of Actemium. The aim is to adapt to the boom in e-commerce.

In 2021, France’s e-commerce sector for products and services exceeded €129 billion, representing an increase of 15.1% over the year (following a rise of 8.5% in 2020), says Fevad, the French federation of e-commerce and distance selling. This growth in online transactions boosted business in the logistics sector, particularly in the last mile delivery segment.

A long-standing player in small parcel distribution, La Poste (France’s postal service provider) saw its targets galvanised by successive lockdowns and the expansion of home working. This had an immediate mechanical effect on production at its delivery centres – medium-sized, medium-throughput logistics platforms – based near large cities.

Automatic parcel infeed and sorting

Viapost has just introduced an innovative, fully automated solution that sorts parcels by delivery round and uses a singulation process at one of these centres, the Argonay sorting hub to the north of Annecy in south-eastern France.

“The solution reduces delivery round preparation time by a factor of three.”

The solution is a first for a mail depot and was achieved thanks to Viapost’s partnership with Actemium Lyon Logistics, a VINCI Energies group business unit. The so-called Sort & Drive method significantly reduces preparation time and falls within a reasonable investment budget due to medium-throughput production calibration.

“Previously, delivery staff picked and sorted parcels on shelves before loading them into their vehicles. Now, the solution manages the infeed of parcels and sorting according to delivery rounds for postal delivery workers, who can load the items directly into their vehicles,” explains Xavier Brun, Actemium Lyon Logistics business manager.

Threefold reduction in sorting time

The sorting system designed by Actemium comprises four automated unloading lines, each equipped with a telescopic conveyor that enables operators to manually unload parcels from trailers. The items are then routed on another conveyor system and identified and measured thanks to a scanning tunnel that contains high-resolution cameras for barcode reading. Next comes the weighing, which is performed by a certified dynamic system, followed by delivery to a vertical crossbelt sorter supplied by Interroll.

“The solution, developed in conjunction with our client Viapost, with whom we’ve been working for 6 years, reduces delivery round preparation time by a factor of three. It means 35,000 parcels can be processed per day for last mile deliveries, which equates to 6,200 parcels per hour, discharged into their delivery round containers via 80 exit doors,” states Xavier Brun.

The innovation offers further advantages including reduced maintenance requirements, increased ease of use for operators and low noise levels, removable trolley exits and ergonomic workstations.