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Past Project in Detail

Australia Post - Design Review of Mail Sorting Machine (MLOCR)

30/06/2004

Deon broke the pickoff area into 6 zones, for analysis.   LtoR: C.Smith, M.Pittaway, R.Lunnon, D.Cullen (Aust Post). Front: Deepak R (QUT), Deon Cordie (UQ).  

Design Review of Mail Sorting Machine (MLOCR) – Australia Post (Mechanical Engineering student)

Australia Post use Multi-Line Optical Character Readers (MLOCR) to sort small mailpieces (up to C5 in size). They work by taking an image of the mailpiece with a high-speed digital camera and passing this image to a high speed Optical Character Reader (OCR) computer. The results of the character recognition are used to decide where the mailpiece is forwarded, for delivery ... with the machine running at speeds of up to 40,000 items per hour.

Dave Cullen and Robert Lunnon, as part of Australia Post’s Reliability Improvement Section (RIS), work on maintaining and improving the productivity of Mail Processing Equipment. RIS undertake reliability analysis on current equipment, and if required, subsequent in-house redesign of these machines.

Dave and Robert, along with Australia Post technical staff, recognised that there are a number of problems with the MLOCR’s ‘pickoff’ area, and that the design of this area could be significantly improved (the pickoff acts as a type of sheet feeder, guiding mailpieces into the machine). Technical staff proposed a number of modifications to address these problems. However, due to the relatively large number of design issues, the criticality of the pickoff’s performance and the fact that any design changes affect almost every aspect of the pickoff’s design, it was decided to undertake a comprehensive review of the MLOCR’s pickoff design.

Deon Cordie, UQ Mechanical Engineering student, was chosen for the project. He started by compiling a list of all the known problems associated with the MLOCR pickoff, so that he could later formulate design solutions. As a result of his project, Deon aimed to:

· reduce machine maintenance costs

· increase the rates (speed) of mail processing

· reduce the incidence of a double pickoff (taking more than one mailpiece at a time)

· reduce the frequency of jamming

· reduce the sensitivity of the MLOCR system to difficult mail types (eg. keys, pens, CD’s)

During his investigations, Deon broke down the pickoff area into 6 zones and he proceeded to isolate and identify characteristics and/or problems within each of these zones by talking to technical staff, and analysing failure mode analysis & other relevant data/reports. He documented all of the problems in detail.

Later, Deon worked in conjunction with machine operators and other technical staff, to design solutions for a number of the key problem areas. Deon then generated detailed drawings of his designs, and recommended that prototypes be manufactured and trialed.

Dave commented that he was very happy with the results of Deon’s project. Deon has demonstrated how Australia Post can improve many areas of the troublesome pickoff area, for increased productivity and reliability in the future. Australia Post is now in the process of costing materials and manufacturing for at least one of Deon’s prototype designs, for testing.

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