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TriFactor White Papers


TriFactor shares thoughts on effective ways to reduce costs, increase capacity and improve the accuracy of your distribution facility.

Ways to Improve Material Handling Efficiency

Critical Factors when Choosing an Order Picking System


Planning a Warehouse or Distribution Center


Choosing a Conveyor System


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TriFactor Articles

Articles featured in trade publications that highlight our Client Partners projects, TriFactor and information written by TriFactor's staff. 


The Five Most Common Mistakes When Planning a Distribution Center by TriFactor's Craig Bertorello and featured in Supply & Demand Chain Executive (online).  


Seven Factors to Consider When Choosing an Order Picking System by TriFactor's Richard Gillespie and featured in Industrial Distribution (online).


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Advanced Handling Systems (AHS) Changes Its Name

Advanced Handling Systems has changed its name to TriFactor.  Learn more about the meaning of TriFactor.

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Electrical Control Design

Programmable Logic Controllers for Material Handling Control Systems

Material Handling Electrical Control Systems Design

Controlling an automated material handling system requires an extensive amount of Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC) or industrial Personal Computer (PC) programming, so that material flow in the distribution center is accomplished in an efficient and well thought out manner.  Additionally, with the growing emphasis on energy savings and operational cost control, a smart conveyor system can be programmed to run on demand so as to minimize the power consumption and noise levels. 

The typical material handling system utilizes conveyors to transport cartons, totes, boxes or cases through a variety of order fulfillment operations prior to reaching the final destination in the distribution center, the shipping doors.  In doing so, there can be diverts to various subsections of the operations such as a forward pick area, dunnage and seal area, value added services, checkweigh scales and sortation for pallet building and staging.  In order to successfully navigate these areas, scanners and other sensors are commonly used to identify material and quickly decide where it goes.

There are several steps required in order to properly design the controls for a material handling system.  The first step is to develop a sequence of operation, which is simply a narrative explanation of all of the options a product could take as it makes its way from one destination in the distribution center to another. This is also done effectively using a process flow diagram.  In either case, the next step would be to identify all of the points that need to be controlled in the material handling system. These control points are typically at sorter induction points, merge points, divert locations, full lane locations, etc.  Once these first two steps are complete, then the description of operation, process flow diagram and the system layout with all of the control points is translated into control code.

Typically, for large conveyor systems with motors spread out across the entire footprint, PLCs located inside an industrial control cabinet are used as the primary device for operating the material handling system; whereas an industrial PC is most applied for smaller conveyor systems with limited devices to interface.  In either case, a complex but well documented program must be developed by experienced electrical controls engineers.  The program must be able to take input from a variety of devices such as photo-eyes, proximity switches and pressure sensors and run real-time algorithms that send output signals to motor starters or divert switches. At the same time, the control system program must also take input from the Warehouse Control System (WCS) or other higher level Enterprise Resource Program (ERP) software so that the control instructions can be applied appropriately.  Finally, the status of all input and output devices must be reported accurately to visual displays, databases, the WCS, WMS or the ERP system.

TriFactor offers facility design layout services for those companies in the new construction planning stages of a storage facility or the reconfiguration of an existing operation.  Regardless of the material handling situation, TriFactor has selected to innovate rather than replicate traditional material handling system delivery methods and services.  Our unique solution process is called the TriFactor Edge.  If you’re looking for an Edge on your competition, discover how TriFactor can make a difference with your material handling control systems, call today at 1-800-507-4209.

For additional information on Product Slotting, Distribution Center Planning, Choosing a Conveyor System and related material handling issues visit the Material Handling White Papers section of TriFactor Learning Center.