Conveyor Networks recommended a software based solution using Interface Manager to control the automation and hardware as well as providing the necessary reporting and QA. Interface Manager is a modular software suite that can integrate with existing ERP and business systems to drive a full range of inbound and outbound services, in other scenarios it can work as a standalone application.
At QVC it controls a complex automation solution incorporating order selection, packing, label design and print for manual and auto label functions as well as bulk order print. Acting as a Warehouse Control System Interface Manager handles all automated and manual pack requests and print functions for both packslip and label. It provides a single point of control for outbound order processing.
Its key customer benefits are that client IT input is at a minimum and that all functions are controlled by a single software package which communicates with all functions and collates data for processing and reporting. Moreover Interface Manager has a library of protocol convertors to enable direct communications with the wide range of automation solutions installed.
A Real time pack solution was installed on some lines, whereby the pack slip data is delivered by Interface Manager in real time to a laser print and apply system. Conveyor Networks convey pack slips in synchronisation with the product. Product and slip are then merged and presented to an Intelligent bagging machine, which trims the bag size to both width and length of product, ensuring the optimal bag size for the packed product. The automated solution increases the pack line efficiency as the printing labelling and bag solution are integrated with the product flow automatically, Interface Manager scans both SKU and pack slip to ensure integrity.
Other parts of the QVC solution include:
- A unique OSL solution (Over ship Label) where packslips are applied direct to a shipping carton and over-labelled.
- This eliminates the need for Document wallets and reduces processing times.
- A bulk print facility where Interface Manager delivers print commands to numerous bulk printers.
- A high speed sorter interface and several hundred metres of conveyor.
- A SCADA system.
Interface Manager can either reside on dedicated servers or in a virtual environment as is the case here, but a key factor in either case is resilience, this was a priority and a robust communications specification was developed – including rigorous testing criteria – between Conveyor Networks and QVC’s IT teams. Every module of Interface Manager was rigorously tested as was the integration into QVC’s network. Conveyor Networks can remotely access Interface Manager and the control system to address any issues and they can see exactly what QVC can.
Interface Manager drives volumes of over 6000 units per hour and can be interrogated at any time for a real time status report on the outbound warehouse operations. It is capable of handling even larger volumes related to appropriate automation needs.