Jörg Lohmann, industry manager for the courier, express and parcel market, Interroll Holding, tells us about his first year in his job, and announces his company’s next technology.
Can you tell us about your latest product development?
The most interesting Interroll solution for the CEP community is our sorter. The crossbelt sorter is the only one in the industry in which the crossbelt is driven mechanically. A little gearbox inside the carrier translates the movement of the sorter train into the rotation of the crossbelt, activated by a mechanical actuator.
This sorter, used worldwide in hundreds of projects, is great for mid-range applications. It is low in cost and easy to operate and to maintain. It is the perfect solution for operators who want to make a start with mechanization, or for systems with low to middle throughputs.
Maybe it is a bit too early, but I can tell you today that in spring 2020 we will present the Interroll New Generation Sorter. This will be a breakthrough innovation because by then we will have developed our mechanical crossbelt sorter into a high-speed system. This will combine the best of both worlds: using the simple mechanical drive principle for the high-speed applications of various large-scale projects to be planned and realized in the near future.
Needless to say, the sorter’s peripheral systems have also been part of the innovation process. Take our new high-speed sorter induction lane, for example. It uses the latest Interroll Synchronous Drum Motor generation, which makes the sorter easy to install, operate and maintain.
Additionally, the destination chute design for the Interroll New Generation Sorter has improved substantially, fulfilling the latest requirements for buffer capacity and health and safety rules.
Tell us about a recent installation you have made. Who was it for, and what did it entail?
In postal and parcel, the biggest markets in volume of infrastructure investments for sorting facilities are China, Southeast Asia and the Americas. Producing in 16 production facilities across Europe, Asia and America, Interroll in principle produces the same product quality in each region to be able to efficiently serve the regional markets and to be global at the same time. That is a strategic criterion which makes us an enabler to global CEP service providers.
China Post, the state administration and operator of posts and express parcels, has installed 15 Interroll crossbelt sorters in its national hubs in recent years. Interroll also last year supplied the sorters to SF Express, the leading CEP operator in China.
Another example is the large follow-up orders that were received from a leading express and parcel delivery service in North America. These new orders comprise the supply of sorter systems and amount to a volume in the region of double-digit millions of dollars.
And in Europe, Interroll received a large follow-up order from Siemens Postal, Parcel & Airport Logistics for the delivery of five crossbelt sorters. The fully automated, high-performance sorting system will be installed in the existing infrastructure of a Swiss customer.
What are the main benefits for parcel and post companies?
Our mechanical crossbelt sorters are perfectly designed for taking the first steps into automated sortation. Our solutions require low investment only, and are easy and simple to maintain as well as easy to control and operate. Therefore, we are in a position to offer sorter systems for mid-size stations that do not have a full-time maintenance person on-site.
With products requiring lower investment and offering low operating costs, we strive to better fulfill the requirements of clients confronted with fast-emerging CEP volumes driven by domestic and international e-commerce, poor quality items, a lack of operating personnel, and the need for fast return on investment due to highly dynamic and competitive markets.
You’ve been in your role for about a year. What has been the biggest challenge?
Before I joined Interroll, I worked as a logistics planner and consultant for a very well-known planning office in Hamburg, Germany, for about 20 years. I was responsible not only for the analysis, concept, business case, tender and contract, but also for the realization/testing/ramp-up of middle-sized and large-scale international logistics projects on behalf of the CEP end-user.
That’s why I like the process-oriented approach of Interroll. We want to be a technological partner and a solution provider for our system integrators and the postal and parcel operators – a perfect match.
My biggest challenge was becoming accustomed to the setup of the Interroll organization. With 2,300 employees in 16 factories and 32 sales offices worldwide, Interroll is a truly global player. There are more than 300 sales experts all around the world selling Interroll products. Becoming an integral part of such a big team takes a while.
On the other hand, founded as a family-owned business 60 years ago and today listed on the SIX Swiss Exchange, Interroll has kept a flat hierarchy and flexible decision-making processes combined with personal engagement and trust-based integrity. My personal background as a planner and consultant is highly appreciated at Interroll and that allows me to really add value; this is a classic win-win situation.
What has Interroll achieved as a company lately?
In Hiram, near Atlanta, Georgia, USA, we are building a second factory and doubling our production capacity in order to cover the double-digit growth in the region. We are investing US$11m. The project adds 122,000ft2 (11,300m2) of available floor space, including 15,000ft2 (1,400m2) of office space.
In Germany, we are about to also substantially expand our production capacities. We plan to build a new factory of about 160,000ft2 ( 15,000m2 ) with an investment of about US$45m (€40m) for the production of sorters and conveyors in Europe.
In Thailand, we just moved into our new 60,000ft2 (5,500m2) production facility near Bangkok, where we will handle the dynamic development in the Southeast Asia market.
The growth of Interroll is our mission. Our company values encompass sustainable commitments to the CEP market, as well as providing high-quality and superior solutions for serving system integrators, ultimately creating beneficial solutions for CEP providers.
How do you see the parcel and postal industry changing over the next 5 to 10 years?
Obviously, everybody is talking about the last mile nowadays, but there is a lot more happening. Interroll focuses on the logistical process inside the hub, the station, and even smaller entities.
We see that these network elements are becoming smaller, more flexible and greater in number. On the other hand, there is increasing pressure on the system’s performance, with the requirement for increased speed as well as lower damage and missort rates with items that are becoming more difficult to handle.
We must be the innovator for our clients. We are open and eager to develop according to parcel and postal operators’ requests in order to increase their satisfaction. And we believe we can do that because of our proven and sustainable international success.
Our systems will become more intelligent; predictive maintenance is in preparation and close to being launched in full. If we look at our latest RollerDrive generation, EC 5000, which is used to drive conveyors, you can already ‘talk’ to your drive through a simple interface. Embedded sensors can tell you exactly the current parameters such as torque, speed, temperature, current angle, and so forth, but the solution also tells you also about its lifecycle: total running time, expected date of service required and, in case of emergency, the need for replacement.
What are you most excited to see at Parcel+Post Expo?
We will exhibit at the Parcel+Expo for the first time, and I am eager to discuss experiences and learn from a planner’s perspective. Just stop by and get inspired. I look forward to seeing you at booth 1335 at the Parcel+Post Expo!