In Moscow, all roads lead to Vnukovo—for mail anyway. As the main sorting center for international mail and parcels arriving in Russia and for domestic mail and parcels making its way to and from the city, Russian Post’s Moscow International Exchange Center in Vnukovo, south-west of central Moscow, is a giant complex dedicated to the fast, efficient sorting of letters and parcels.
Vnukovo is huge, too big to be taken in at a single glance. Seen from inside the main gate this November, six loading bays stretched away into the already snowy surroundings. Inside, it’s a vast complex of smoothly whirring high speed conveyer belts transporting letters in a blur, and parcels large and small. To the untrained eye, it’s a bit overwhelming, but in fact it’s all highly organized and seamlessly integrated—as it has to be to handle 1,320,000 letters and 700,000 parcels a day.
Russian Post started to modernize its logistics in 2013. The world was changing, automating, and with the growth of e-commerce, more and more mail and parcels were flowing in from overseas especially from China. As developer of the world’s very first automated OCR mail processing system, with many years of experience of supplying postal and logistics automation systems to 20 or so countries, Toshiba was an obvious company to invite to the tendering process.
Listening to the customers’ voice closely
Evgeniy Pronin, Head of Infrastructure Systems and Solution Department at Toshiba Rus LLC (TRU) and leader of Toshiba’s Vnukovo team, takes up the story of how Toshiba handled the project: “We listened the customers’ voice closely, with the research of general trend.” That included a comprehensive questionnaire to find out the issues the old sorting office had to deal with.
Mr. Pronin led the negotiations, heading a team from TRU, Toshiba and Toshiba International Corporation, a US subsidiary. After a number of site visits, they focused on the large number of micro-sized parcels going through Vnukovo. Logistics centers usually have one line for sorting mail and one for parcels, but they realized that a line to sort and separate micro-sized packets from others would be speedier and more efficient. The final proposal to Russian Post was for four lines: a letter sorter, express parcel sorter (EPS); small parcel sorter (SPS); and micro packet sorter (MPS).
Toshiba’s proposal also made it system integrator, coordinating other major companies. All were to be combined in a unified system with centralized monitoring and management. The proposal proved to be a winner for Russian Post.
In addition, Toshiba proposed a solution for the customs check system. Russia puts all parcels from overseas through a customs check that verifies actual weight against claimed-weight. When this was done manually it took time, but the new customssystem automates weighing, and also scans the declared contents. Now all operators have to do is monitor screens, including X-ray displays, to make sure that content and weight are properly declared.
Evgeniy Pronin, Head of Infrastructure Systems and Solution Department at Toshiba Rus LLC (TRU)
“Why Russian Post’s barcode sticker red?”
“Our customer’s needs were not about, ‘We need these sorters,’” recalls Mr. Takashi Yamaguchi of Toshiba’s Security & Automation Systems Div. “Their concern was, ‘We want to do this in this time span.’ So our target was not just simple installation of the necessary equipment. We needed to think about how we could make everything operate better.” This inspired the project team members try to seek better solutions for operations. Mr. Sergey Larkov, who acts as project manager at Vnukovo site, explains one example, and also shines a light on Toshiba’s attention to detail.
“EMS, SPS and MPS usually sort parcels by reading barcodes, but Russian Post use a barcode sticker with a white background that did not stand out, and that were too small to scan consistently. Operators also often put the barcode on upside down, and that prevented scanning. We proposed a bigger barcode sticker with a bigger barcode and with a red background, the same color as the sorter’s scanner light. This prevented human error and made scanning easier. Sensing accuracy was improved by 20%.”
The red and the white
Mr. Takashi Yamaguchi, Toshiba’s Security & Automation Systems Div.
Mr. Sergey Larkov, project manager at Vnukovo site
In addition to the Moscow center, Toshiba’s attention to detail has won an order from Russian Post for the logistics center in Novosibirsk, Russia’s third city. With the one-stop solutions provided by Toshiba, Russians can look forward to a postal system built for years to come.
Russian Post plans to automate several more of its international logistics centers across Russia, and has signed an MOU with Toshiba that will strengthen comprehensive collaboration in the postal and logistics automation systems business in Russia.
The Japanese government is also promoting an ecomonic cooperation plan in eight domains. In this, postal solutions occupy an important place. Other of Toshiba’s Japanese-made technologies are also drawing attention: banknote processing systemsoffering excellent capabilities and high throughput; SCiB™ rechargeable batteries that can charge even in temperatures lower than -30oC; and a face authentication system that helps to meet security needs.