PowerFlex SmartFlow – Don’t work hard, work Smart.

07/01/2021


The name FMH is synonymous with Flexible Conveyors. After all, if you’re going to name your company after something, you better be sure you’re the ‘Best’ at it, right? Flexible Material Handling or Best Conveyors (as we were previously known) have been manufacturing and shipping Flexible Conveyors around the world since day one. Our Flexible units were the first of their kind and have since gone on to pave the way for an entire industry sector dedicated to their unique functionality. To continue to be successful though, in today’s harsh warehousing environments, you must continue to innovate - allowing the equipment operators to work smarter, not harder. We believe SmartFlow is that next big step.

FMH Flexible Conveyors come in all shapes and sizes. With virtually infinite options for width, pitch, length, and height, the conveyor can be whatever the operation needs – whenever it needs it. There are 2 distinct variants of the Flexible catalogue though, Powered or Gravity. Our famous Gravity Flexible Conveyors are known as BestFlex, a name that has become commonplace throughout the world’s distribution centres. These units consistently provide a reliable and steady feed of goods from ‘A to B’ in any operation. Unless someone happens to turn the Earth’s gravity off (a notoriously bad idea), a BestFlex Conveyor will continue to deliver that service, time after time. PowerFlex is the alternative to a gravity feed and, you guessed it, it’s a powered motorised conveyor. These units snake parcels through virtually every corner of the warehousing and distribution sector. A firm favourite with the world's largest eCommerce companies, PowerFlex uses efficient motors to transport goods effortlessly to their destination. PowerFlex is also where SmartFlow makes its appearance.

It is not unusual to add flow control to a conveyor (flexible or not). Companies want confidence that their product is being handled with care and precision - damaged goods are no good to them or the end customer. Using optical electronic flow control, PowerFlex can transport delicate shipments around warehouses in the knowledge they will be kept in a separated, organised, and efficient flow. This automation can take many forms, precisely tailoring the controls to meet the demands of any material handling situation. The most common though is our ZLP control function. ZLP stands for Zero Line Pressure and its controls functionality provides exactly that – zero pressure. The conveyor is broken down into Zones that are in constant communication with each other. The conveyor is constantly assessing whether a product is free to move forward to the next upstream zone or, hold steady if that next zone is full. The result is a controlled, organised flow of product that never collide or touch. When zone lengths are matched correctly to the product profile (sizes and shape of the shipments), this flow control allows for maximised productivity and parcel density - all in a carefully managed environment.

So, SmartFlow. As mentioned earlier, conveyor flow control can take on many forms. Multiple types of ZLP, Build Back, Electronic Package Stop, etc - these all require very different controls and wiring. If you required a conveyor with one type of control, it will always be limited to that one type of control. If you need a ZLP conveyor, you buy a ZLP conveyor. If you need a Build Back conveyor, you buy a Build Back conveyor. Although this architecture has been okay for decades, it doesn’t work in today’s fluid warehousing environment. Conveyors need to be like a Multi-Tool. In the morning, they may be unloading a container full of shipments. In the afternoon, they’re part of a fully automated outbound sortation system. This is especially true of Flexible Conveyors; they need to be able to do it all. So, SmartFlow… we did exactly that.

SmartFlow is an enhancement to our already renowned PowerFlex15 and PowerFlex19 models - the next big step. The philosophy encompasses all required conveyor flow control options in one Flexible Conveyor. Using ASi Bus wiring, PLC control and state-of-the-art controls design, a PowerFlex SmartFlow can deliver multi-mode functionality in one machine. The true Multi-Tool Conveyor. Operationally identical to the existing PowerFlex range, a simple positional switch can determine whether your PowerFlex operates as a ZLP, Build Back, Electronic Package Stop, or even a standard (non-controlled) conveyor. Now, rather than having a collection of specific/ single-use machines, a stock of PowerFlex SmartFlow can become whatever the operation needs – all at the turn of a switch.

Although the modes are completely customisable to suit various applications; out of the box, the conveyor has 5 pre-set selectable modes. Mode 01 - ZLP Singulation Release. As explained earlier, this mode provides a singulated and controlled flow of products along the conveyor line. Once the upstream zone is free, the product will move individually forward. Mode 02 – ZLP Train Release. This mode functions in much the same way, but with a distinct difference when products advance upstream. When the end zone is cleared (the product has been taken off the end of the PowerFlex), all of the zones release simultaneously. This results in a train release that progresses all zones at once. Mode 03 – Build Back/ Die Back. The conveyor initially looks to function as if there is no control present. All products move upstream undisturbed. Once one product dwells at the final zone though, the conveyor begins to systematically stop the zones up the length of the conveyor to reach maximum parcel density. Once the end zone is cleared, the products progress again. Mode 04 – Package Stop. The conveyor is in an ‘All Run’ mode and operates in a low controlled state. In much the same way as the Build Back operates, once a product gets to the final zone, the whole conveyor line stops. Products do not advance to ‘fill the gaps’ and the conveyor restarts once the product in the final zone is removed. Mode 05 – All Run. The mode of self-explanation. The All Run mode allows the conveyor to bypass its controls functionality and operate as a standard PowerFlex unit. Useful for achieving high, uninterrupted throughput or for larger product handling.

SmartFlow means the Flexible Conveyor can be even more flexible. Able to adapt to any material handling requirement, the controls give a new critical resource to the warehousing industry. It gives them options. Whether implemented into a large, automated sortation line or simply providing a bulk product flow from inbound to operation, SmartFlow has the tools for the job.

For enquiries into PowerFlex SmartFlow, or any of our other catalogue products, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our globally interacting Sales Team. FMH would be delighted to help improve and resolve your material handling requirements.

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