Logistics systems supplier Dematic has completed the installation and commissioning of a conveyor systems at Kmart’s new distribution centre (DC) in Melbourne.

The heart of the new 75,000 square metre DC at Truganina in Melbourne’s western suburbs is Dematic’s cross dock sorting system using crossbelt conveyor technology, which has the capacity to automatically sort up to 6,000 items per hour to individual orders for up to 88 stores concurrently.

The DC has enabled Kmart to consolidate general merchandise distribution from its previous Hoppers Crossing, Laverton and Woodlands DCs under the one roof, providing significant cost and operational efficiencies for the business.

The strategic location of the new Goodman Interchange Industrial Estate to major arterial roads was a key consideration for Kmart, with the DC servicing the apparel and general merchandise distribution requirements for 65 stores in Victoria, Northern Territory, Tasmania and South Australia, as well as a further 15 stores in New Zealand.

The Dematic crossbelt sorting system for the new DC comprises 273 individual carriages, each equipped with their own conveyor belt, enabling them to handle and sort a diverse range of product types and sizes.

Goods up to 1.1m long and weighing up to 30kg are loaded onto four automatic inducts, where they are accumulated and conveyed onto the crossbelt sorter carriages. The carriages travel around a 260m loop at speeds of up to 2m per sec, automatically sorting their packages to 88 sort lanes, facilitating efficient cross docking and individual store order assembly.

Kmart was one of the first companies in Australia to implement crossbelt sorting technology over 15 years ago, with its first system in Melbourne in 1994. This was followed up by further cross dock sorting systems in Sydney in 1998 and in Brisbane and Perth in 2006.

When the decision was taken to consolidate its Melbourne distribution operations, Kmart asked Dematic to review a range of materials handling options. Dematic’s detailed analysis showed that crossbelt sorting, which had been cleverly developed over 25 years ago, was still the best technology for Kmart’s distribution needs over the next decade and beyond.

Dematic’s Retail Industry Group Manager, John Briscoe, said: “The previous crossbelt sorting systems, which were originally implemented for the Coles Myer group, have provided consistent, reliable performance for Kmart over the past decade.”

“When we looked at Kmart’s current and projected requirements over the next 15 years, we evaluated a range of materials handling technology solutions, but the one that kept on coming out on top of the list was the crossbelt sorter.

“Of course, technology, controls, software and IT systems have changed a lot over the past decade, and these have further enhanced the performance and reliability of crossbelt sorting systems,” added Mr Briscoe. “Kmart uses the crossbelt sorter to handle import and local supplied product, both SSCC and non-SSCC labelled, and even sorts batch picked Pick & Pack product improving the traditional pick costs and accuracy.”

“The new crossbelt sorters also offer larger carriages enabling a larger, heavier and more diverse range of products to be handled,” he said.