Meet PackMan, Our Unique Robot Used for Sorting Parcels
Zásilkovna Has Launched Robotics. It Is the First Company in Europe to Use Robotic Sorters Called PackMan at Its Depots.
Zásilkovna, the leading Czech technology company, has launched the operation of PackMan robotic sorters at its depots. PackMans are AGV trucks that can carry parcels weighing up to 15 kilograms with dimensions of 40 x 40 x 50 centimeters. Zásilkovna is the first company in Europe to use this type of equipment to this extent. The robots can drive and sort parcels for two hours on a single charge and take just 10 minutes to charge. Compared to the existing system, in which parcels were sorted by humans, the robots can handle and sort more than 10,000 parcels per hour, which is twice as many compared to the current regime. The robots require human intervention to operate, as the employee must read the parcel into an electronic reader so that the robot knows where to take the parcel. The human then loads the parcel onto the robot and PackMan takes it to the designated drop. PackMans thus allow depot workers to perform a job they are better at than robots. So far, the investment in PackMan and the surrounding infrastructure has amounted to tens of millions of crowns.
“Robotics offer a wide range of applications in our industry. I am very pleased that I was able to push the idea of robotizing our processes some time ago inside the company and build an absolutely great scientific team with which we brought the project of robotic sorters to the stage of practical use after about a year. This confirms the role of Zásilkovna as a technological leader and innovator,” says Simona Kijonková, founder of Zásilkovna and CEO of the Packeta Group. “We were looking for a solution that would scale quickly, i.e. be easily disassembled and portable as Packeta grows. PackMans meet these requirements. When we need them, we can move them from one depot to another and strengthen the operation there. Our aim is not to replace manpower completely; PackMans are there to make the work of our colleagues easier. It is a product that we can easily scale up, and, at the same time, one robodepot allows us to handle more than ten thousand parcels per hour. We can build several robodepots within one depot.”
The facility is in the form of a two-storey platform, around which there are small chutes for dropping parcels. On the platform, robots called PackMans move around to transport the parcels to the particular chute. A depot employee reads the parcel at the entrance, which then sends information to the central system on where the parcel should be directed – let’s say to the depot in Brno. Then he/she loads the parcel onto the PackMan, and, thanks to the connection to the system, it knows exactly which chute is used for parcels which are directed to Brno, and, therefore, which exit it should travel to.
“The topic of automation and robotization at depots has been resonating in our Packeta group for about three years. But it is very difficult to implement in practice. Because the purely human-powered sorting system we have had so far works perfectly well, and we needed to combine human power with robotic power. We started the project intensively about a year ago. Today, the robot cannot weigh and scan yet, and it is in the next phase that we will start to work out how to enhance our sorting platform with a scanner, scale and camera to automate the processes as much as possible. We plan to robotize things around PackMan in the future as well, so that a different type of robot can also carry cages or load parcels. But we are talking about the future in a few years,” says Tomáš Dort, director of the depot robotization project – PackMan.
Director of the depot robotization project
When choosing the robot, battery life was an important parameter. PackMan can operate for up to 2 hours on a single charge and charging it takes only 10 minutes. It should last up to 10,000 charge cycles, so it has a very long durability. For large platforms at depots, only four chargers per floor are necessary for normal operation. In addition, the robots have a great navigation system. They ride on special pads with chips, through which they are navigated towards a central control system. The very good quality of the material and wheels is also essential.