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Large retrofit at TNT Euro Hub Liege


Early July TNT Express Worldwide (Euro Hub) and Vanderlande signed an order for a retrofit.

The order consists of a replacement of the FSCs, the PLCs and the installation of ‘missing pin’ detectors at the POSISORTERs at TNT’s air hub in Liege, Belgium. Only a week later the activities started because the hub needs to be ready before the busy period starts again end 2010.

TNT’s air hub in Liege (Euro Hub) is an important international hub where all parcels for Europe are sorted. Every night, an average of 40 planes and 120 trucks carry the parcels to the hub, the sort centre, split into airside and roadside sections. Once sorted, the shipments are sent to 36 European countries plus the United States and Asia.

All these shipments are handled by the material handling system built by Vanderlande Industries. This system has a total length of 8 km and consists of 6 POSISORTERs and 44 VERTISORTERs that deliver the parcels to 134 chutes.

The main activities take place during the night but the facilities operate also during daytime to handle the non European parcels (direct flight to China for example). The hub is therefore active 24/07. 70% of all the international express shipments transported by TNT Express are transiting through the Liege Hub.

Vanderlande works together with TNT’s own maintenance team to constantly improve reliability and availability. This results in a joint development of system improvements in order to meet future demands.

Scope of work

The air hub is operational since 1998. After 13 years, it was time to have a critical look at the system. This resulted in some changes required to make sure that the system will be fully up to date again to meet current and future performance requirements.

The FSCs and PLCs, responsible for the controls of the sorters, are ‘end of life’. Measures needed to be taken to maintain the serviceability and availability of the system. Therefore, TNT Express decided to replace all FSCs. The current hardware will be replaced and the software will be upgraded to the latest version. Friday 6 August 2010 the first new FSC has gone live without any disturbances to TNT’s operational process. This is quite an achievement for such a migration and could not have been realised without the perfect preparation and the off-line testing by the Vanderlande FSC engineers.

Although the system still met the performance requirements, the original PLCs were no longer supported by the manufacturer. That could mean difficulty in obtaining spare parts, possibly leading to unacceptable downtime in case of failure. Reason for Vanderlande to advise TNT Express to migrate the PLCs from S5 to S7 to simplify maintenance and minimise risk for the customer.

The system in Liege has pneumatic POSISORTERs without the nowadays standard ‘missing pin’ detection. Vanderlande did a successful test with installing a ‘missing pin’ detection on one POSISORTER. Now the other five POSISORTERs will also be changed, in both directions.

When the retrofit is realised, the system in Liege will be fully up to date again with less risk for downtime due to problems with older hard- and software and the lack of the ‘missing pin’ detection.


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