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Knapp Conveyor Uses RFID to Help Sort and Pack Items in Proper Sequence

The hanging conveyor system, outfitted with passive tags and readers, is being installed at a warehouse run by Olymp, a German manufacturer of men's shirts.
By Rhea Wessel
Dec 07, 2012Knapp, an Austrian firm specializing in warehouse automation and logistics, has developed an RFID-based conveyor system for sorting and packing goods in a specified sequence. The solution ensures that items can be placed within boxes in the correct order—for instance, with the heaviest products on the bottom—and that packages can be loaded onto trucks in a particular sequence, so they can be unloaded easily at various stops along a delivery route. At present, the system is being installed at a warehouse operated by Olymp, a German manufacturer of men's shirts.

To create its Pick-it-Easy Pocket solution, Knapp outfitted its hanging conveyor with a radio frequency identification tag on each of the conveyor's roll adapters—ring-shaped receptacles from which objects being conveyed are hung. A cloth bag, designed to hold almost any sort of merchandise, is attached to each roll adapter. The Pick-it-Easy Pocket system can comprise several thousand tagged roll adapters, depending on its size, each containing a passive 13.56 MHz RFID plastic-encased tag conforming to the ISO 15692 standard.

To create its Pick-it-Easy Pocket hanging conveyor system, Knapp inserted a disc-shaped passive RFID tag in each of the conveyor's roller adapters.
The bags, or "pockets," that hang from the conveyor at each roll adapter are used to hold merchandise sorted and sequenced by the system, according to Oliver Lehner, the head of product management at Knapp, which is headquartered near the southern Austrian city of Graz.

"Systems for sequencing goods are something our customers have been asking for ever more often," Lehner says. The solution is well suited for e-commerce operations, he adds, given its ability to sequence the picking of items and make the handling of returns easier. (E-commerce businesses, Lehner explains, typically have high return rates.)

To use the system, workers stand at a Pick-it-Easy Pocket station along the conveyor, where they remove goods from their original shipping case—for example, 10 dress shirts—and place each object into a separate hanging cloth bag. Prior to inserting an item into a hanging bag, a worker uses a bar-code reader built into the Pick-it-Easy Pocket station to scan the bar-code label attached to the garment's plastic packaging. The solution then indicates in which hanging bag that item should be placed, based on the details of the batch-picking work order.

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