Ferag worked with Viapost to create an automatic sorting system

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Largest denisort conveyor built to date enables efficient “Sort&Drive”

Viapost, a French postal service subsidiary (of La Poste) -  recently worked with Ferag to supply an automatic sorting system bringing parcels as closed as possible to the delivery vehicles. The heart of the system is a modular denisort tilting tray sorter, which processes up to 8500 parcels per hour in the tightest of spaces. With 1200 trays and a length of 700 metres, this is the largest denisort line built to date by the Swiss material handling specialist. The 21-square-metre double chutes integrated on the sorter are another highlight, and are used for loading the parcels into the delivery vehicles.


With its department of industrial innovation, Viapost has been mandated by La Poste Parcels Group (named Colissimo) to configure a sorting system accelerating its sort and delivery abilities, taking full advantage of the e-commerce boom.


After a first sorter installed on a platform in the west of Paris, a second was provided in the north of the capital. Ferag installed almost identical sorting and conveyor technology, also under the direction of the Viapost department of industrial innovation. Both logistics centres are also blueprints for the further state-of-the-art parcel sorting centres that La Poste is planning to open in the coming years.

Compact and flexible layout thanks to denisort

The site of La Poste in the west covers 9500 square metres and consists of three interconnected halls measuring 130 x 78 metres. Two of these halls are dedicated to the sorting system, configured with Viapost precisely according to the specific demands of the customer and supplied by Ferag. The sorting and conveyor technology from the Swiss specialists requires comparatively little space. Above all, this is due to the denisort tilting tray sorter at the heart of the installation. This allows for a very flexible layout with very tight curve radii and spiral helices for mastering the different height levels within a very tight space. Thanks to its outstanding adaptability, a denisort installation can be integrated perfectly into existing hall layouts and structures. Another plus point is its ability to utilise the height of the respective structure to its full potential without major work. Ferag put this to good use so that a lot of space remained at floor level for the delivery vehicles circulation and their loading areas.

Continuous automation is king

La Poste Parcel Group, Viapost’s customer and parent company, is a dedicated service for handling parcels and packages, which are primarily delivered by lorries in the evening and at night. Unloading is done by hand, whilst transport from the lorry docking terminals to the sorting system is done completely automatically. Six telescopic conveyor belts and a belt system–also supplied by Ferag – are used for this purpose. The same applies to the two weighing modules with integrated volume measuring systems that are used to register both the weight and size of the parcels and packages as they pass. The immediate transfer to the 700-metre-long denisort line is made by three induction modules that position the items carefully into one of 1200 sorting trays.

Double-tray conveying of large parcels

A single tray measures 45 x 65 cm and can carry a maximum load of 15 kg. If the parcel is too big for a single tray, it is positioned on two neighbouring trays before being conveyed and sorted. A parcel may weigh up to 20 kg in such cases. Of all the parcels handled in the first french site, 82 per cent can be conveyed using one tray, with a further 15 per cent requiring a double tray. This means only 3 per cent are classified as bulky goods, which are handled separately away from the system itself.

Tilting tray sorter allows for sorting on two sides

Viapost have specified 480 delivery zones for this site, which in turn defines the delivery routes and sorting destinations. The number of vehicles used is also based on this parameter. Ferag utilised the space on offer to the greatest possible extent and designed 60 parking spaces with two double chutes each (i.e. 120 double chutes) that the delivery drivers use to load their vans. The chutes are split into four lanes in order to divide the parcels up further according to the route sequences. What’s special is that the denisort line used for distributing 8500 units per hour runs on two levels at the chute area. The trays can be tipped to both sides here. This means that each tray can send the parcels onto one of the chutes at both the left and right. Furthermore, each of the 60 loading areas is occupied by vehicles in two delivery phases. This allowed the engineers from the Swiss material handling specialist to meet the customer requirements to the letter – the 480 route sectors correspond exactly to the 480 planned delivery zones. There was also sufficient space available for 30 single chutes, which are used for the direct loading of cage trolleys for far way distribution La Poste platforms.

“Sort&Drive” – a model for the future

When delivery drivers arrive at the parcel sorting centre in their yellow vans, they are then guided to the correct loading sites with the help of monitors. After parking in the correct space, they activate the flap for the parcel drop point under the chutes with their 33-degrees incline. Using the four splits, Drivers can then fill their vans according to their route within the shortest possible time.


A shorter time to load vans, means for the Parcels Group more time to deliver parcels, and so more parccels per day and drivers !


With “Sort&Drive”, Viapost, mandated by La Poste, is striving towards a pioneering parcel sorting concept. Thanks to its efficiency, this concept has quickly become part of everyday operations for the plateform. Although loading the 3.5-tonne vans is still done by hand, the Ferag sorting system features the highest level of automation. It has underlined its exemplary qualities in this regard and will soon be seen as part of process optimisations at further sites.



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