SICK’s barcode scanners endured stress test at Febelco


In order to achieve a faultless and accurate order picking at the pharmaceutical wholesaler Febelco, the scanners need to read barcodes within a fraction of a second. Yitch was given the task to optimise the scanning system and the order picking process.





The challenge at Febelco is no small feat. With over 2500 pharmacies as customers, each receiving deliveries three to four times a day from eight sales points and distribution centers, the company operates a fleet of 220 delivery vans covering over 50,000 km daily. In the warehouses, where the company handles 43,000 different products and processes over 7000 orders per day per warehouse, efficiency is paramount.


To efficiently process this volume without errors, a central conveyor belt runs through the warehouse, carrying coded transport containers for each order. These containers are automatically diverted to the appropriate sections of the warehouse, where operators pick the goods based on packing slips placed in the containers at the start of the conveyor belt. The unique barcode on each transport container is scanned at the starting point to determine its destination within the warehouse.


Based on a barcode the system determines which bin should be transported to which sector in the warehouse via the conveyor belt. The most important element in this process is the scan rate. If the evaluation of the scan takes too long, the bin may have passed the sorting point.


Optimisation of barcode scanners and controlling the order picking process

The speed of barcode scanning is crucial, as any delay could result in missed diversion opportunities. Febelco sought to upgrade its scanning and control system with the assistance of Yitch, who was given the task to optimise the scanning system and the order picking process.





Yitch replaced the existing PC with a PLC (Programmable Logic Controller). The network was upgraded to the high quality Ethernet/IP. The cycle time of the whole system has been reduced to 2-3 milliseconds thanks to the conversion. 

To make full advantage of the short cycle time, Febelco needed high-speed scanners. To find the best scanner, we organised a stress test with multiple scanners. The candidates were triggered more than 500.000 times during the night. At the end the CLV620-series of SICK came out on top. 





The result of the system upgrade is a significant reduction in picking errors, practically eliminating them. Barcode scanning issues are also a thing of the past, with the controller automatically diverting containers with unreadable barcodes. This ensures that containers reaching the end of the conveyor belt in the dispatch area contain all necessary products, boosting operational efficiency and accuracy.