Concept Sorting Assistance System

Group 03, Videoprototype, WS1314

Postal services have been increasingly used in the last years. More and more retailers send catalogues and other types of advertisement to their customers at home.
Although the process of sorting this huge amount of mail has been done by machines for many years, the assistance of human workforce is still needed. Hence, errors can happen because of human failure.
The sorting machine needs two separate runs for sorting the mail correctly according to its destination:
In the first run, workers load all the unsorted mail in small batches into the machine which sorts it into an intermediate sorting. The result of the first run is hardly understandable for the postmen. Therefore, a second run is required to sort the mail in the correct order in which it is delivered by postmen. After the second run, the mail is loaded onto trucks and it is brought to the post offices to be distributed.
Our concept focuses on the process between the two machine runs. There, the intermediately sorted batches from the machine’s output have to be placed on wagons according to a number labeled on the batch itself and the wagon.
This process is cumbersome because the worker has to compare each label to ensure the correct placement of the batches.
If more than one batch is misplaced, the machine is unable to sort the mail in the second run correctly and thus the first run has to be repeated which takes at least two hours.
Our approach is to replace the paper labels on the batches with RFID Tags. Therefore, the numbering on the wagons has to be replaced, too, which could be done by using monitors.
These monitors serve two purposes: On the one hand, they can give feedback if the placement of the current batch is done correctly or not. This is achieved by showing intuitive optical signs. If a batch is misplaced, auditory feedback can be additionally be used to call immediate attention to the mistake. On the other hand, monitors could speed up the sorting work by indicating the right placing spot with a sign. This would eliminate the comparison process of the labels and thus save time.

Concept Development 2014 – Gruppe 3 on Vimeo.

Concept: Sorting Assistance System

Concept, Group 03, WS1314

After analysing the previously collected data with different design analysis approaches, we came to the conclusion that time managment and error-reduction is the most important point for postal services.
We discovered that the sorting-process between two machine-steps which has to be done by hand has some potential for optimization.
Our plan is to help the workers accomplishing their task of sorting the batches coming out of the sorting machine with optical guidings. These indicate the correct place for the current batch in a clear way and speed up the process. Making mistakes (for instance putting the batch in the wrong place) leads to both acoustic and visible warnings that force immediate correction. Hence severe and costly misfunction of the machine can easily be prevented.

User Research: Post Distribution Centre

Group 03, User Research, WS1314

Due to our helpful contact person at the Post Distribution Centre, we had the possibility of gaining comprehensive insight into the daily workmanship of tons of letters, magazines and broadsheets. We were there from 8 in the morning until 4 pm, so we had a lot of time to observe and interview the staff so as to understand the workflow and possibly detect problems within.

Gruppe 3 - Post

First, our contact person, the postmaster, gave us a review of the daily cycle of receiving the post, sorting it according to the postal code, and partly, bringing it into the order of route so that the postman does not have to do this at his locker.
Then we were introduced to the big sorting machines and the types of work that utilized these machines. While some of us interviewed the employees who were in charge of operating these machines, at the same time, others helped with the work so as to experience the workflow. Through observation and interviews with the workers and technicians, we were able to achieve detailed knowledge on how the machines work, as well as how to operate them theoretically.

We were impressed at the efficiency of the process cycle and the ergonomic design of many of the machines, but we are looking forward to finding new concepts to make it even better.