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Speed in Mail Handling Centers: Less Hand Work

Siemens has developed a new system for the pre-sorting of letters. The innovation also can handle large-format mail, thus speeding up work at mail handling centers.

These pre-processing machines prepare letters for automatic mail sorting. They sort out mail that can’t be handled by machines, position the letters correctly, and check the postage. Until now, these complex machines could process only standard formats; large-format envelopes had to be prepared by hand. The new machine — the CFC 3004 — eliminates a large share of this handwork. The first seven machines will be delivered to the Danish postal service by the end of 2012.

A Siemens letter sorting system has the capacity to sort up to 60,000 letters an hour. It reads the address of the recipient, sorts the mail according to postal code areas, and even puts the letters in the right sequence for house-to-house delivery by the mail carriers. That works only if the letters are pre-processed, though, which leaves them standing upright, with the address facing forward and the postage stamped. This pre-processing has so far been automated only for standard letters up to the European B5 format (about seven by ten inches). Larger format mail was sorted out by the machine. Depending on the country, such envelopes account for between ten and 15 percent of the total amount of mail handled.

Now the new system can process envelopes in formats up to C4. With just a few modifications, the envelope throughput was expanded so that the system can handle a limited spectrum of large-format letters. A C4 color scanner provides high-resolution images of the complete front and back sides of the envelopes, and color recognition systems identify the postage, so the letters are positioned properly and the postage is correctly stamped. The high-quality scans are also suitable for reader- and video-coding systems for address recognition, making it possible for these functions to also be directly integrated in the machine. A high-precision scale module for letters weighing up to 300 grams can also be installed. It is accurate to within two grams and calibrated. This module enables personnel at mail handling centers for the first time to detect envelopes with insufficient postage — fully automatically.

The CFC 3004 has a modular design, allowing customers to put together the ideal variants for their specific individual needs — from the basic model, which positions letters and stamps their postage, to the high-end variant that sorts the mail in the correct sequence for door-to-door delivery by the mail carrier. The Danish postal service has ordered the high-end variant.

Dr. Norbert Aschenbrenner | Siemens InnovationNews
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