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DHL is using Vitronic’s camera-based recognition system, Vipac, to identify bar codes and address information on parcel labels at its distribution centre in Leipzig, Germany.

The system makes for swift, automatic parcel sorting and dispatch, and allows the hub to process up to 60,000 items per hour.

DHL Leipzig covers nearly two million square metres and is one of the world’s largest distribution centres.

Close to Leipzig airport, it incorporates a specially built air-freight hub, from which DHL planes fly to 46 global destinations.

Nineteen Vipac units operate above powered conveyors in DHL Leipzig’s goods-in area.

Each uses five auto-focus cameras to capture images of labels on the top and all four sides of parcels, and an additional fixed-focus camera underneath the conveying equipment, which acquires images of the bottoms of parcels through a small opening.

Vipac interprets these images using optical character recognition (OCR) techniques, and instructs DHL’s sorters to direct parcels to the correct loading bay for dispatch.

The system produces excellent read rates, and identifies bar codes, 2D codes, badly damaged or marked codes, text and handwritten addresses.

Six-sided camera configurations allow users to obtain label information no matter what the orientation of a package.

Each goods-in Vipac unit incorporates Vitronic’s Volumec volume-measuring system, which uses lasers to determine a parcel’s height, width and length.

Volumec calculates the smallest possible cube that will enclose an item, enabling DHL Leipzig to automate invoicing.

Three additional Vipac units identify labels on ‘flyers’, small to medium sized wallets and boxes optimised by DHL for automated sorting.

Each uses just one camera to identify labels on the top side of parcels travelling at speeds of 1.9m/s.

All Vipac units link to a videocoding system at DHL Leipzig.

In the event of an unreadable label, its image is sent via a high-speed network to one of six terminals for manual input.

Videocoding means DHL Leipzig achieves a successful read rate of almost 100 per cent.

A sophisticated interface allows DHL to monitor and control all devices, and evaluate statistics such as read rates, throughput and the number of distributed shipments.

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