Fast delivery of thousands of different tire packages is only possible with rapid labeling and reliable code reading.
IHLE Baden-Baden AG, part of the Michelin Group, is a European high performance tire and wheel wholesaler. Wholesalers maintain profitability not only through competitive pricing and quality service, but also from reliable automated systems. Bluhm Systeme GmbH, a labeling technology company based in Rheinbreitbach, has partnered with Cognex to help maximize process efficiency.
Selecting the right tires and wheels is often just as important as deciding which car to buy. IHLE stores one million tires and rims in a 57,000 square meter central warehouse in Muggensturm, Baden-Württemberg. Each day, IHLE sends thousands of items to car dealers and car accessory retailers throughout Europe. At peak times, there can be as many as 14 shipments per minute.
"Our trouble-free, computerized logistics system allows us to shorten delivery times and enhance customer satisfaction,” explains Christian Lech, Technical Director of IHLE AG. “The Bluhm Systeme high-speed dispensing systems networked with our system reliably applies labels to goods every four seconds, ensuring that they are always sent to the correct recipients. Cognex barcode readers then read the codes on the labels and ensure correct delivery via rapid data synchronization in the control system.”
After order entry, the warehouse employees move the ordered tires and rims by forklift from the warehouse space to the dispatch center. There, shipping employees scan product labels, check the order and place a small barcode label with the order number on the goods. Next stacked products are bound together with shrink wrap. Then the stacks, which can consist of up to four tires, are moved via conveyer to the Legi-Air 6000 labeling unit.
Above the conveyor path, Cognex DataMan 363 image-based barcode readers read the codes on the packages as they quickly pass by in random order on the belt. The DataMan 360 series is versatile and ideal fast-moving lines. It offers various lighting and lens options and an intelligent auto-tune function automatically sets optimum parameters for lighting, autofocus and image sensors. The adjustable lighting and variable focus capabilities of the liquid lens technology adjusts of working distance, depth of field and field of view. Images are stored in the reader’s memory and can be analyzed immediately.
"The identification systems scan the order number on the small barcode labels, even through packaging film, and send this information to the dispatch control software,” comments Christian Lech. “The program converts the information into printed data for shipping labels and delivery slips and sends this information to the printer integrated in both label printing dispensers.”
The Avery print module integrated in the first labeler prints a shipping label. This contains all the relevant information not only in plain text, but also as machine-readable one-dimensional (1-D) barcodes and encrypted two-dimensional (2-D) matrix codes. Packages to be labeled reach the labeling unit seconds after being scanned by the Cognex barcode readers. The ability to read these 2 types of codes at high speed requires precise operation of the print head, which is no problem for the Avery printing module from Bluhm Systeme. It can very rapidly and accurately create high quality print images with ultra-fine type, small logos and 2-D DataMatrix or QR codes.
The height of tire stacks can vary from 160 mm to more than 700 mm. Therefore, the labeler must be able to recognize and adjust to different heights. The stamp arm of the Legi-Air 6000 can handle height differences of up to 500 mm in less than half a second.
The newly labeled goods travel along the conveyor belt to the second Legi-Air 6000 where the goods are labeled with a self-adhesive delivery slip. The Cognex DataMan 503 readers check whether the order has been correctly and completely identified. These readers are especially suited for logistics applications with high speeds, wide conveyor belts and large variations in freight item height. IHLE determines, among others, whether the order numbers match the products, delivery notes and shipping addresses by filtering through up to seven barcodes and DataMatrix codes to ensure that the respective number matches the respective label. After an exact match is confirmed in the database, the packages continue on to the shipping area.
Cognex DataMan readers can reliably and efficiently read a wide range of codes applied both under and on top of shrink wrapping, while products are traveling at high speed. With its powerful lighting and the ability to handle the variety of large and small packages, DataMan barcode readers achieved very satisfactory read rates of over 99%.