Case study Postal

Royal mail – mail sortation

Royal Mail’s state-of-the-art international mail centre near Heathrow, London is one of the most technically advanced mail handling centres in the world. Costing £367million and occupying an area the size of six football pitches, the Heathrow Worldwide Distribution Centre sorts and distributes every letter or parcel that leaves and enters Britain.

The centre replaces eight foreign mail sorting offices that previously served Britain and is designed to handle up to 10 million mail items per day and operates 24hrs a day. This single distribution centre is designed around a highly automated operation that includes 12 kilometres of conveyor which incorporate Itoh Denki’s energy efficient Power Moller® motorised drive rollers.

  • 1


    • Huge capacity requirement
    • 24 hour operation
    • Reduce energy demand
    • High levels of automation & control integration
  • 2


    • 10,000 24v long-life brushless motorised rollers manufactured by Itoh Denki
    • Adjustable speed and transport configurations
    • Smooth, low noise transport of goods on precision bearing rollers
  • 3


    • Energy efficient, run-on-demand low voltage motorised rollers
    • Power Moller® brushless technology ensures long life
    • Convenient and simple integration with PLC controls.

Handling around 6 Million items of mail each day is only made possible by the high levels of automation and control integration. Mail is initially scanned and coded to identify product, item size etc and is then conveyed to the correct sortation area. Addresses are ‘read’ automatically by scanners powered by Siemens-designed computers that use 4.2million lines of code!

Letters and ‘flats’ are automatically batched by destination into trays ready to be conveyed to their appropriate destination. These trays are transported around approximately 4 kilometres of motorised roller conveyor driven by efficient Itoh Denki motorised rollers.

Power Moller® 24v drive rollers incorporate brushless technology that provides high levels of torque within a compact 50mm diameter roller. The drives are each controlled by a simple and flexible CB016 controller which provides commutation to drive the motor as well as several options for control by external PLCs.

Itoh Denki’s modular and compact drive solution not only reduces space requirements, they also reduce noise levels and energy consumption compared to traditional external drive solutions. The roller conveyor is made up of lots of drive zones that comprise of a single motorised roller and several slave rollers. In this way a drive zone is able to readily transfer the trays from one zone to the next. Because each zone is independently controlled the motors can be operated on a run-on-demand basis enabling substantial energy savings to be made compared with continuously running external drives with complex belt drives and pneumatic actuators or slipping clutches.

Calculations show that when comparing a similar section of conveyor driven by a continuously run external motor, Power Moller® drives can reduce energy consumption by up to 60%. The whole-life-costs of the installation are also affected by belt drives and clutches that often require replacement as little as two years after installation. With a typical life expectancy of around 20,000 hrs Itoh Denki motorised rollers are being selected by system integrators and end users as the preferred solution to unit conveying applications.

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