(19)
(11)EP 2 786 323 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
05.04.2017 Bulletin 2017/14

(21)Application number: 12795390.9

(22)Date of filing:  23.11.2012
(51)International Patent Classification (IPC): 
G06Q 10/06(2012.01)
B65B 57/10(2006.01)
G06Q 50/28(2012.01)
(86)International application number:
PCT/EP2012/073480
(87)International publication number:
WO 2013/079409 (06.06.2013 Gazette  2013/23)

(54)

METHOD AND SYSTEM FOR CONTROLLING ITEMS ON A PRODUCTION/DISTRIBUTION LINE

VERFAHREN UND SYSTEM ZUR PRÜFUNG VON GEGENSTÄNDEN AUF EINER PRODUKTIONS-/VERTEILUNGSLINIE

PROCÉDÉ ET SYSTÈME DE CONTRÔLE D'ARTICLES SUR UNE CHAÎNE DE PRODUCTION/DISTRIBUTION


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR

(30)Priority: 28.11.2011 EP 11009412
28.11.2011 US 201161564116 P

(43)Date of publication of application:
08.10.2014 Bulletin 2014/41

(73)Proprietor: SICPA HOLDING SA
1008 Prilly (CH)

(72)Inventors:
  • COLLOMBET, Yvan
    01630 Peron (FR)
  • COTSFORD, Daniel
    1815 Clarens (CH)
  • FÉFIN, Christian
    25160 Malbuisson (FR)
  • LORCA, Rodrigo
    1123 Aclens (CH)
  • TORRES, Luciano
    1800 Vevey (CH)

(74)Representative: Hoffmann Eitle 
Patent- und Rechtsanwälte PartmbB Arabellastraße 30
81925 München
81925 München (DE)


(56)References cited: : 
US-A1- 2008 121 537
US-A1- 2011 270 432
US-A1- 2011 178 633
  
  • "Universal Preset Counters Codix 923/924 The Ready-to-go Control and Display Solution for Pulses, Time and Frequency", , 16 November 2008 (2008-11-16), XP055265534, Retrieved from the Internet: URL:https://web.archive.org/web/2008111615 2929/http://www.kuebler.com/PDFs/kataloge_ publikationen/english/PresetCounter923_924 _en.pdf [retrieved on 2016-04-14]
  
Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


Description

TECHNICAL FIELD



[0001] The present invention relates to the technical field of control systems for automated production or distribution lines. The invention particularly relates to the technical field of systems for tracking and tracing items on a production/distribution line.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION



[0002] Many methods are implemented in industry for controlling production/distribution lines, not only for detecting problems arising on transport paths but also reliably determining a quantity of items produced or distributed on said lines. Particularly, some of these methods are used for ensuring proper dispatching or packaging of said items, or even further allowing accurate billing or tax accounting of the items so produced or distributed.

[0003] Imaging devices are of common use for controlling production of items on automated production lines. For example, on bottling lines, strobe light (using a LED lighting unit controlled by a laser trigger device which detects presence of an item, for example) illuminates bottles transported on a conveyor and marked with a barcode (1D or 2D barcode, like SKU code or data matrix, for example), and digital cameras take digital images of the so illuminated bottles. A strobe light source typically uses a LED lighting unit controlled by a laser trigger device, which detects the presence of an item. Conventional image processing means then automatically detect on a digital image of an item a region of interest containing a barcode pattern and then identify the item by decoding the detected barcode. Such identification may be used, for example, for correctly labeling the above bottles according to their type (or content, etc.). There are many known techniques relating to image processing which can be used for identifying an item marked with an identifier (including item identification data) from a digital image of said identifier.

[0004] The above imaging devices, or readers, may be adapted to read identifiers from light reflected or emitted by said identifier within any optical wavelength range between the UV (ultraviolet) and the IR (infrared).

[0005] There are also many other well known techniques adapted to different types of identifiers. For example, a RFID reader is adapted for reading identifiers like RFID tags disposed on items, these RFID tags including item identification data (possibly encrypted). As another non-limiting example, the identifier may be a magnetic marking, and the corresponding adapted reader is then of magnetic sensor type.

[0006] Thus, whatever specific type of identifier including identification data is used for marking items transported on a production/distribution line, an adapted type of reader is used for reading said identifier and sending a corresponding reader signal to a controller having processing means capable of extracting identification data from said reader signal.

[0007] Most often, items on a production distribution line are transported (for example, on a conveyor) arranged according to a given disposition all along a transport path. This given disposition may correspond to items in single file, or may be different, like for items grouped in columns or any other geometrical disposition. The items may as well be transported by batch, the items having said given disposition within the batch. As a non-limiting example, the items may be transported already packed by batch within a packaging adapted for allowing a reader to read identifiers on the items. As an illustration, for example in case the items are cigarette packs, and the identifier is a barcode printed on the pack (or on a label stuck on the pack), said adapted packaging may then be a transparent film wrapped around a batch of cigarette packs so that an optical reader can read the barcodes through the film.

[0008] Generally, in case a distribution of items, or a packaging of items, possibly by batch of a given number N (N≥1) of items, is carried out on a production/distribution line, the items are transported arranged according a given disposition along a transport path from a first zone toward a second zone on the line, each transported item being marked with a unique item identifier including unique item identification data of the item, the items transported from the second zone are then collected by a collector device (like a pusher, for example) to form a batch of a given number N of said items. The collector device generally includes a sensor operable to detect that a batch of N items has been formed (for example, a mechanical counter, or an electronic counter in which a light beam between diodes is interrupted by a transported item). This sensor is operable to deliver a batch signal each time a batch of N items has been counted. Operations on the line are generally controlled by a controller. Also, mounted on the line, at the level of the first zone, a reader connected to the controller typically reads the unique identifier on each one of the items within said first zone, and sends corresponding reader signal to the controller. The controller has processing means capable to extract each unique item identification data from the received reader signal in accordance with an ordering corresponding to said given disposition of the items. These processing means may in fact be split, for example, between the controller itself and the reader (i.e. some processing steps of the reader signal being then executed at the reader), or may even involve a remote connected processing unit.

[0009] As an example, in case the items are transported in single file and the identifier is a barcode, the reader classically comprises a camera (or a plurality of cameras around the first zone, and possibly including illumination source for illuminating the items to be imaged) set for reading a barcode on one item at the time crossing the first zone, by taking a digital image of a region of interest containing the barcode on the (illuminated) item. Many known methods are available to be used by the processing means for detecting and decoding the digital image of the barcode sent by the reader. As another non-limiting example, in case the items are transported grouped according to a given disposition, the first zone has an extension covering a group of items, and the reader may be a camera capable to take a digital image of a group of items in the first zone, as known in the art. Then the processing means are capable to detect each barcode within the digital image, and extract the corresponding identification data for each item according to an ordering which corresponds (by a one-to-one mapping) to the respective positions of the items within the group.

[0010] In the above conventional production/distribution line, due to physical constraints it may be not possible to bring the first and second zones closer together with each corresponding reading equipment, particularly to allow maintenance by technicians of said reading equipment and also of the sensor and collector device near the second zone, without excessive perturbation of the line. Indeed, for reading each item crossing the first zone, generally at high speed on modern production/distribution lines, the real-time reader equipment is quite sizable.

[0011] However, due to quite frequent jams on the line causing loss or deterioration of items, or even due to fraudulent interception of items between the two zones, it is not sure that all the items identified by the reader in fact correspond to the items counted at the sensor level, i.e. after the second zone. Thus, problems are generated in case items having being identified on the line (and thus, possibly accounted for taxation, or billed as being delivered) are lost before being collected by the collector device, or in case the collected batches of items in fact contain unidentified items and are nevertheless distributed, or packaged.

[0012] Consequently, the above conventional controlling of operations is not well adapted to real-time item identification, particularly on high speed production or distribution lines, and especially if every single item passing on the line needs to be identified.

[0013] The prior art further includes:

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION



[0014] In view of the above mentioned limitations of the background art, the present invention is therefore aimed at providing a robust real-time method and a corresponding system for controlling items on a production/distribution line. An object of the invention is to provide a production/distribution control tool which is well adapted to high speed production/distribution lines carrying items maintained in a given disposition on the transport path, whilst being capable of processing read signals for every single item passing on the line, for precise identification of collected items, all necessitating only limited computing resources and yet allowing easy access to equipment on the line.

[0015] In the following, the processing means of a controller, and thus processing steps carried out via said processing means, are defined in a broad sense which includes the possibility of being distributed between a plurality of units connected to the controller (as known in the art), although being designated as processing means of the controller.

[0016] According to a first aspect, the invention relates to a method for controlling items on a production/distribution line, as defined in claim 1.

[0017] Due to the ordering of the extraction of each item identification data, in one-to-one correspondence with the relative positions of the items disposed on the transport path in the first zone, all the items within the first zone can be identified whatever is said given disposition of the items. Thus, the invention is well adapted to high speed production/distribution lines carrying items maintained in a given disposition on the transport path, whilst being capable of processing read signals for every single item passing on the line. In a preferred embodiment of the above method, and corresponding system (see below), the second reader in fact reads one identifier on one test item at a test position in the second zone. Thus, as the second reader may only have to read a reduced number of identifiers (i.e. less than N), and even as few as only one identifier, on the items within the second zone, the corresponding equipment can be quite simple and compact, and thus does not limit access to the line, particularly for maintenance of the collector device or the line itself at the level of the second zone. Also, the identification by means of the second reader of a test item, triggered by the batch signal, and the check of matching with item identification data already stored (as extracted from a first reader signal) allow more reliably determining the effective content of the batch of items collected by the collector device, as there is a "double check" of the identity of at least some of the items transported between the two zones. As this "double checking" operation may not concern all the N items to be collected to form a batch, the required calculations are not intensive and the corresponding load on the processing means is not excessive, and the overall operation of qualifying the content of a collected batch can be quickly executed.
With said method according to the invention, in case an item is removed from the transport path between the first and second zone, it will not be counted by the sensor (although the batch signal still indicates that N items have been collected by the collector device) and thus, due to said known ordering and test position, a relative rank in the list of the matching item identification data will not be same from a collected batch of N items to the next one: as a result, loss of an item may be detected. Indeed, successive lines in the list in fact correspond to each successively extracted unique item identification data (according to the ordering) so that a matching unique item identification data corresponding to a test item at a given test position must have a rank (or line number, modulo N) in the list which is the same from a block of N lines to the next one (corresponding to a batch of N collected items to the next batch to be collected). Thus, if any item is removed from the line between the first and the second zone, the rank in the list corresponding to the matching unique item identification data, for a test item at a given test position, will then be shifted away (by a number equal to the number of removed items) from the rank generally corresponding to said test position within the block of N lines relating to the next batch of items to be collected. In case an item is added on the line, the shift may also be detected (the matching rank being then shifted toward the rank corresponding to the test position). Accordingly, in a variant of the invention, the controller detects that a relative rank in the list of the matching unique item identification data of a test item at a test position is shifted with respect to the relative rank generally corresponding to said test position, and associates in the memory a rank error message to the retrieved at least on unique item identification data stored in the memory.
The level of security may even be increased by allowing the controller to set the test position of a test item within the second zone (this setting may further programmed to vary over time). The number of test items may also be set. In case only few test items are read in the second zone, it is thus not possible for an observer to know in advance which items will be read. As a consequence, the possibility to detect unidentified item and/or a fraudulent interception is increased, even directly at the second zone. A clock may deliver time data to the controller which may associate this time data with the item identification data as they are stored in the memory (according said ordering), thus allowing a technician consulting the list stored in the memory to better diagnose a cause of a problem on the line.

[0018] According to a first variant of the above method according to claim 2, in case the controller fails to extract a unique item identification data from a received first reader signal or a received second reader signal, it respectively delivers a first or a second identification error data as the unique item identification data respectively corresponding to said received first or second reader signal. This allows keeping track of any extraction problem in the list. In said first variant, the controller may further have the possibility to deliver an error message, so as to help a technician diagnosing a cause of an error in case an extraction of item identification data has failed. Consequently, the method may include the further step, as defined by claim 3, in case the controller extracts a unique item identification data from a received second reader signal but fails retrieving a matching unique item identification data in the list, of delivering an error message, by means of the controller. In this case, the error message may further indicate a matching error. According to the method as defined by claim 4, in case the controller fails to extract a unique item identification data from a received second reader signal and fails retrieving a matching second identification error data in the list, the controller may deliver an error message. In this case, the error message may further indicate an extraction error relating to a second reader signal. Also, according to the method as defined by claim 5, in case the controller fails to extract a unique item identification data from a received second reader signal but retrieves a matching first identification error data in the list, the controller may deliver an error message. In this case, this error message may further indicate an extraction error relating to both a first and a second reader signal. Moreover, according to the method as defined by claim 6, in case any error message is delivered, the controller may further store said error message in the memory. An error message delivered by the controller may further be sent to a display (possibly associated with time data delivered by the above mentioned clock), in order to alert an operator watching operations on the line, for example, or may be sent, as well as any part of the data stored in the memory, to a remote device via appropriate transmission means. The above possibility of detecting and signaling errors is advantageous, as it is easy to retrieve from the list a batch of which content is concerned by an error message without having to stop the line or affect the sequential storage of item identification data relating to the next items arriving in the first zone.

[0019] According to a second aspect of the invention, as defined by claim 7, the above method is adapted for better securing item identification in packaging operations on the line. Accordingly, any one of the above mentioned variants of the method for controlling items on a production/distribution line, wherein said collector device is further operable to deliver a batch of N collected items to a packaging device connected to the controller and operable to pack the batch of N items delivered by the collector device into a batch packaging marked with a batch identifier including batch packaging identification data, comprises the further steps of:

upon delivering of a batch signal by the sensor, packing the batch of items received from the collector device into a batch packaging to form a packed batch, and delivering said packed batch by means of the packaging device;

reading the batch identifier on the batch packaging of said delivered packed batch by means of a third reader mounted on the line and connected to the controller, the third reader sending corresponding third reader signal to the controller;

extracting batch packaging identification data from the third reader signal received from the third reader and storing the extracted batch packaging identification data in the memory associated with said retrieved at least one unique item identification data corresponding to an at least one item of the batch of collected items packed into said delivered batch packaging, by means of the controller. Thus, as it is possible to keep track of at least one identified item contained in a packed batch associated with batch packaging identification data, more reliable track and trace operations, or tax accounting operations, are then possible based on said stored associated data.

According to a first variant of the above second aspect of the method of the invention, as defined by claim 8, in case an error message is delivered by the controller as indicated above, a further step of associating in the memory said error message with the corresponding extracted batch packaging identification data of the batch packaging of the delivered packed batch, is carried out by the controller. This feature allows better tracing the history of the aggregation or packaging operations on the line. Particularly, for identifying batches containing unknown items (not identified) in case specific action is required: such as ejection of a batch or special labeling. Moreover, any error message may further be uploaded and accessible through reports. Also, time data delivered by a clock may further be associated to said error message and said corresponding extracted batch packaging identification data of the batch packaging of the delivered packed batch.

[0020] The invention also relates to a system for controlling items on a production/distribution line which is operable to implement any of the above mentioned aspects and/or variants of the method for controlling items on a production/distribution line according to the invention, and also corresponding use of said system, as defined in claim 9.

[0021] The level of security may even be increased by allowing the controller to set the test position of a test item within the second zone. The number of test items may also be set.
A clock may deliver time data to the controller which may associate this time data with the item identification data as they are stored in the memory.
According to a first variant of the above system according to claim 10 , in case the controller fails to extract a unique item identification data from a received first reader signal or a received second reader signal, it may be operable to respectively deliver a first or a second identification error data as the unique item identification data respectively corresponding to said received first or second reader signal.
In the above system, as defined by claim 11, in case the controller further extracts a unique item identification data from a received second reader signal but fails retrieving a matching unique item identification data in the list, the controller may be operable to deliver an error message. This error message may indicate a matching error.
According to the above system, as defined by claim 12, in case the controller fails to extract a unique item identification data from a received second reader signal and fails retrieving a matching second identification error data in the list, the controller may further be operable to deliver an error message. This error message may indicate an extraction error relating to a second reader signal. Also, as defined by claim 13, in case the controller fails to extract a unique item identification data from a received second reader signal but retrieves a matching first identification error data in the list, the controller may be operable to deliver an error message. This error message may indicate an extraction error relating to both a first and a second reader signal. Moreover, as defined by claim 14, in case an error message is delivered by the controller, the controller may further be operable to store said error message in the memory. For example, an error message delivered by the controller may also be sent to a display (possibly associated with time data delivered by the above mentioned clock), in order to alert an operator watching operations on the line. This error message, as well as any part of the data stored in the memory, may further be sent to a remote device via appropriate transmission means.

[0022] According to a fourth aspect of the invention, as defined by claim 15, the above system is adapted for better securing item identification in packaging operations on the line. Accordingly, any one of the above mentioned variants of the system for controlling items on a production/distribution line, wherein said collector device is further operable to deliver a batch of N collected items to a packaging device connected to controller and operable to pack the batch of N items delivered by the collector device into a batch packaging marked with a batch identifier including batch packaging identification data, is such that:

upon delivering of a batch signal by the sensor, the packaging device is operable to pack the batch of items received from the collector device into a batch packaging to form a packed batch, and deliver said packed batch;

a third reader mounted on the line and connected to the controller is operable to read a batch identifier on the batch packaging of a packed batch delivered by the packaging device, the third reader being operable to send corresponding third reader signal to the controller; and

the controller is operable to extract batch packaging identification data from a third reader signal received from the third reader and store the extracted batch packaging identification data in the memory associated with retrieved at least one unique item identification data stored in the memory corresponding to an at least one item of the batch of collected items packed into said delivered packed batch.

According to a variant of said fourth aspect of the invention, in case an error message is delivered by the controller as indicated above, the controller is further operable to associate in the memory said error message with the corresponding extracted batch packaging identification data of a batch packaging of a packed batch delivered by the packaging device. Also, time data delivered by a clock may further be associated to said error message and said corresponding extracted batch packaging identification data of the batch packaging of the delivered packed batch.

[0023] The present invention will be described more fully hereinafter with reference to the accompanying drawings in which like numerals represent like elements throughout the several figures, and in which prominent aspects and features of the invention are illustrated.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS



[0024] 

Fig.1 is a schematic view of control system of a production/distribution line illustrating an embodiment of the invention.

Fig.2 is a schematic view of a batch packaging for packing items.

Fig.3 is a schematic view of a packed batch of items.

Fig.4 illustrates a list resulting from sequential storing of unique item identification data according to the embodiment of Fig.1.


DETAILED DESCRIPTION



[0025] In the following non-limiting and illustrative embodiment of the invention, a system for controlling packaging operations on items on a production/distribution line (2), as illustrated on Fig.1, comprises a conveyor (3) for transporting items (1, 2,..., N, N+1, ..) arranged in single file along the transport path from a first zone (4) toward a second zone (5) on the line. Each item is marked with a unique item identifier (6), here a barcode, which includes unique item identification data of the item. A controller (10) controls the operations on the line. A pusher (7) (i.e. collector device), connected to the controller (10), collects the items transported from the second zone (5) to form a batch (8) of a given number N of said items. The pusher (7) delivers said formed batch of items (8) to a packaging device (not represented), also connected to the controller, which packs the received batch of N items (8) into a batch packaging (13) shown on Fig.2, to obtain a packed batch of items (15) shown on Fig.3.
The pusher (7) device includes a sensor (9) connected to the controller (10) for detecting that a batch of N items has been formed. This sensor (9) may be a laser trigger equipped with a counter (which counts the number of times the laser beam has been cut off), for example, or a mere detector of presence of an item at specific place within the pusher. Once the sensor (9) has determined that a batch of N items is formed, it delivers a batch signal to the controller (10). The system further comprises a first camera (11) (i.e. first reader) mounted on the line and connected to the controller (10). The first camera (11) is equipped with an illumination source (not shown) for sequentially illuminating each item crossing the first zone (i.e. the view field of the first camera), and operable to read a unique item identifier (6) on each item transported across the first zone (4). This first camera (11) delivers corresponding first reader signal, corresponding to digital image of an item identifier, to the controller (10). The controller has processing means (CPU unit) and a memory, and is operable to perform image processing of a digital image received from the first camera, and extract a unique item identification data from the received first reader signal in accordance with an ordering corresponding to said given disposition, here in single file, of the items (depending on which camera is used, some image processing operations may be executed by the camera itself, and the result is then transmitted to the controller). In fact, a mere sequential imaging of each item passing through the first zone is carried out here, the ordering merely reduces to that of the sequential passage of the items through the first zone. As known in the art, the first camera may be triggered with sensor means (a conventional laser trigger, for example) which detect a passage of an item within the first zone and thus triggers illumination of the passing item and activate the first camera to take an image of the item.

[0026] According to the invention, the controller (10) is operable to sequentially store in the memory each unique item identification data extracted from a first reader signal according to said ordering, so as to form a list (16) of unique item identification data (17) shown in Fig.4 (each successive line (17) corresponding to each item identification data sequentially stored). For better understanding the invention, there is also indicated on Fig. 4 a rank (18) of corresponding items in a collected batch (8) (i.e. ranks 1, ..., N) and of following items in the second zone (i.e. ranks N+1, N+2,...). In this embodiment, a second camera (12) (i.e. second reader), mounted on the line and connected to the controller (10), is operable to take an image of the item identifier on an item of rank (N+1) (counted from the first collected item in the batch of N items collected by the collector, see Fig.1) within the second zone (5) and disposed just before the entrance of the pusher (7), at the level, but just before sensor (9), as shown on Fig.1. This placing makes the system particularly robust to errors in case there is a fault or jam in the transport or collection operations. When a batch signal is delivered by the sensor (9) to the controller (10), indicating that the pusher (7) is full with items 1 to N, the controller (10) triggers the second camera (12) to read the unique item identifier on the test item corresponding here to item (N+1) at a corresponding test position which is at the level, but just before sensor (9), i.e. corresponding to the first item to be collected by the pusher (7) to form the next batch. The second camera (12) is also equipped with an illumination source (not shown) for sequentially illuminating each item crossing the second zone (i.e. the view field of said second camera). Alternatively, the second camera may be triggered by sensor (9) (i.e. upon delivering of the batch signal). The second camera then sends corresponding second reader signal to the controller (10). The controller (10) extracts a unique item identification data from the received second reader signal. Once said unique item identification data from the second reader signal is extracted, the result being a unique test item identification data, then the controller searches in the list (16) which unique item identification data (i.e. which unique item identification data already extracted from a first reader signal previously sent to the controller) matches (i.e. is identical with) said unique test item identification data. In this embodiment, in case the controller fails to extract a unique item identification data from a received first reader signal or a received second reader signal, it respectively delivers a first or a second identification error data as the unique item identification data respectively corresponding to said received first or second reader signal. In fact, the above identification error data may be as simple as a special character on a line of the list (each line of the list corresponding to one identification data) corresponding to "no identification data registered".

[0027] The result of the above search is a matching unique item identification data. Due to the ordering of the items, here a mere single file order, this matching unique identification data in fact corresponds to said at least one test item N+1 which has been first read by the first camera (11) (see the list (16), line corresponding to item ID data of item of rank N+1) and later read by the second camera as test item at test position corresponding to rank N+1: as a consequence, unique identification data in the list (16) corresponding to the N items identified before the item of rank N+1, i.e. the unique identification data on lines corresponding to ranks 1 to N indicated on Fig.4, are those of the batch (8) of items packed in the batch packaging (and of which detection by the sensor (9) has triggered the reading of item N+1 by the second camera).
The unique ID data specified at each one of the N lines of the list preceding the line of the matching unique item identification data, i.e. line corresponding to rank N+1 (as the list is searched in the reverse order), are retrieved by the controller and associated in the memory as corresponding to items of a same batch.
Also upon delivering of the batch signal by sensor (9), the pusher (7) pushes the batch (8) of N items just formed in the packaging device which packs said batch (8) into a batch packaging (13) already marked with a batch barcode (14) (i.e. batch identifier) and delivers a corresponding packed batch (15). Then a third camera (i.e. third reader) connected to the controller (10) and triggered by such delivering of the packed batch (15), reads the batch barcode (14) on the packed batch (15) and sends a corresponding third reader signal to the controller (10). The controller (10) then extracts the batch identification data (i.e. decodes batch barcode (14)) from the received third reader signal and stores in the memory this batch identification data associated to the above retrieved unique item ID data specified at each one of the N lines of the list preceding the line of the matching unique ID data, i.e. the unique item identification data corresponding to the packed batch. From this association of batch content data (item identification data) and package data (packed batch identification data), reliable track and trace operations are made possible.

[0028] The invention is not limited to the above embodiments and various modifications may be made without departing from the scope of the invention as defined by the claims. For example, the memory may be distributed (like the processing means): at least part of the memory, for example for storing associated batch content data and package data may be in a remote database connected to the controller. As another example, the readers may have their own storage capacities. Thus, although being designated as memory of the controller in the above description of the invention, said memory may in fact be distributed between several units connected to the controller.

[0029] The method and system for identifying items on a production line according to the invention, in any of its above mentioned aspects, may be used with a high level of confidence for item identification in industry for many applications such as, for example, determining a production volume on said production line (for tax value estimation, etc...), line production control, line production inspection (for fraud detection, etc...).


Claims

1. Method for controlling items on a production/distribution line (2), the items being transported arranged according a given disposition along a transport path from a first zone (4) toward a second zone (5) on the line, each transported item being marked with a unique item identifier (6) including unique item identification data of the item, the items transported from the second zone being collected by a collector device (7) to form a batch (8) of a given number N of said items, said collector device including a sensor (9) operable to detect that a batch of N items has been formed and deliver a corresponding batch signal, wherein a first reader (11) reads the unique identifier on each one of the items within said first zone, the first reader being connected to a controller (10) and sending corresponding first reader signal to the controller, the controller extracting each unique item identification data from the received first reader signal in accordance with an ordering corresponding to said given disposition of the items, wherein the second zone is adjacent to the sensor of the collector device, the transport path comprises an intermediate zone between the first and second zones, and an item may potentially be removed from, or added to, the intermediate zone, the method being characterized by comprising the further steps of:

sequentially storing in a memory connected to the controller, to form a list (16) of unique item identification data (17), each unique item identification data extracted from said first reader signal according to an ordering corresponding to said given disposition of the items, by means of the controller;

upon delivering of a batch signal by the sensor, reading the unique item identifier on a test item at a corresponding test position according to said ordering within the second zone by means of a second reader (12) connected to the controller, wherein the second reader is located before the collector device, the test position corresponds to one of the N items, expectedly having ranks N+1 to 2N respectively, to be collected by the collector device to form the next batch, and the second reader sends corresponding second reader signal to the controller;

extracting the unique item identification data from the received second reader signal, and searching in the list the unique item identification data matching said unique item identification data extracted from the second reader signal to obtain matching unique item identification data corresponding to said test item, and retrieving in the list, according to said ordering and test position, among the unique item identification data preceding said matching unique item identification data and which correspond to unique item identification data of the N items forming the batch of collected items, at least one unique identification data by means of the controller; and

storing in the memory said retrieved at least one unique item identification data as corresponding to an at least one item of the batch of collected items, by means of the controller.


 
2. Method according to claim 1, wherein, in case the controller fails to extract a unique item identification data from a received first reader signal or a received second reader signal, it respectively delivers a first or a second identification error data as the unique item identification data respectively corresponding to said received first or second reader signal.
 
3. Method according to claim 2, wherein, in case the controller extracts a unique item identification data from a received second reader signal but fails retrieving a matching unique item identification data in the list, the controller delivers an error message indicating a matching error.
 
4. Method according to claim 2 or 3, wherein, in case the controller fails to extract a unique item identification data from a received second reader signal and fails retrieving a matching second identification error data in the list, the controller delivers a error message indicating an extraction error relating to a second reader signal.
 
5. Method according to any one of claims 2 to 4, wherein, in case the controller fails to extract a unique item identification data from a received second reader signal but retrieves a matching first identification error data in the list, the controller delivers an error message indicating an extraction error relating to both a first and a second reader signal.
 
6. Method according to any one of claims 3 to 5, comprising a further step, in case an error message is delivered, of storing said error message in the memory.
 
7. Method according to any one of claims 1 to 6, wherein said collector device (7) is operable to deliver a batch (8) of N collected items to a packaging device connected to the controller and operable to pack the batch of N items delivered by the collector device into a batch packaging (13) marked with a batch identifier (14) including batch packaging identification data, comprising the further steps of:

upon delivering of a batch signal by the sensor, packing the batch of items received from the collector device into a batch packaging to form a packed batch (15), and delivering said packed batch by means of the packaging device;

reading the batch identifier on the batch packaging of said delivered packed batch by means of a third reader mounted on the line and connected to the controller, the third reader sending corresponding third reader signal to the controller;

extracting batch packaging identification data from the third reader signal received from the third reader and storing the extracted batch packaging identification data in the memory associated with said retrieved at least one unique item identification data corresponding to an at least one item of the batch of collected items packed into said delivered packed batch, by means of the controller.


 
8. Method according to claims 6 and 7, comprising the further step of, in case an error message is delivered by the controller, associating in the memory said error message with the corresponding extracted batch packaging identification data of the batch packaging of the delivered packed batch, by means of the controller
 
9. System for controlling items on a production/distribution line (2), comprising transport means (3) operable to transport items arranged according a given disposition along a transport path of the line from a first zone (4) toward a second zone (5) on the line, each transported item being marked with a unique item identifier (6) including unique item identification data of the item, a collector device (7) operable to collect the items transported from the second zone to form a batch of a given number N of said items and deliver said formed batch of items, said collector device including a sensor (9) operable to detect that a batch (8) of N items has been formed and deliver a corresponding batch signal, the system further comprising a first reader (11) mounted on the line operable to read a unique item identifier on each one of the items within the first zone and deliver corresponding first reader signal, and a controller (10) connected to the first reader operable to receive a first reader signal and extract each unique item identification data from said received first reader signal in accordance with an ordering corresponding to said given disposition of the items, wherein the second zone is adjacent to the sensor of the collector device, the transport path comprises an intermediate zone between the first and second zones, and an item may potentially be removed from, or added to, the intermediate zone, the system being characterized in that:

the controller is operable to sequentially store in a memory connected to the controller each unique item identification data extracted from said first reader signal according to said ordering, to form a list (16) of unique item identification data;

upon delivering of a batch signal by the sensor, a second reader (12) connected to the controller is operable to read the unique item identifier on a test item at a corresponding test position according to said ordering within the second zone, wherein the second reader is located before the collector device, the test position corresponds to one of the N items, expectedly having ranks N+1 to 2N respectively, to be collected by the collector device to form the next batch, and the second reader is operable to send corresponding second reader signal to the controller;

the controller is operable to extract the unique item identification data from the received second reader signal, search in the list the unique item identification data matching the unique item identification data extracted from the second reader signal to obtain matching unique item identification data corresponding to said test item, and retrieve in the list, according to said ordering and test position, among the unique item identification data preceding said matching unique item identification data and corresponding to unique item identification data of the N items forming the batch of collected items, at least one unique item identification data; and

the controller is further operable to store in the memory said retrieved at least one unique item identification data as corresponding to an at least one item of the batch of collected items.


 
10. System according to claim 9, wherein in case the controller fails to extract a unique item identification data from a received first reader signal or a received second reader signal, it is operable to respectively deliver a first or a second identification error data as the unique item identification data respectively corresponding to said received first or second reader signal.
 
11. System according to claim 10, wherein, in case the controller extracts a unique item identification data from a received second reader signal but fails retrieving a matching unique item identification data in the list, the controller is operable to deliver an error message indicating a matching error.
 
12. System according to claim 10 or 11, wherein, in case the controller fails to extract a unique item identification data from a received second reader signal and fails retrieving a matching second identification error data in the list, the controller is operable to deliver a error message indicating an extraction error relating to a second reader signal.
 
13. System according to any one of claims 10 to 12, wherein, in case the controller fails to extract a unique item identification data from a received second reader signal but retrieves a matching first identification error data in the list, the controller is operable to deliver an error message indicating an extraction error relating to both a first and a second reader signal.
 
14. System according to any one of claims 11 to 13, wherein, in case an error message is delivered by the controller, the controller is further operable to store said error message in the memory.
 
15. System according to any one of claims 9 to 14, wherein, said collector device is operable to deliver a batch (8) of N collected items to a packaging device connected to the controller and operable to pack the batch of N items delivered by the collector device into a batch packaging (13) marked with a batch identifier (14) including batch packaging identification data, wherein:

upon delivering of a batch signal by the sensor, the packaging device is operable to pack the batch of items received from the collector device into a batch packaging to form a packed batch (15), and deliver said packed batch;

a third reader mounted on the line and connected to the controller is operable to read a batch identifier on the batch packaging of a packed batch delivered by the packaging device, the third reader being operable to send corresponding third reader signal to the controller; and

the controller is operable to extract batch packaging identification data from a third reader signal received from the third reader and store the extracted batch packaging identification data in the memory associated with retrieved at least one unique item identification data stored in the memory corresponding to an at least one item of the batch of collected items packed into said delivered packed batch.


 


Ansprüche

1. Verfahren zum Prüfen von Gegenständen auf einer Produktions-/Verteilungslinie (2), wobei die Gegenstände, gemäß einer gegebenen Anordnung angeordnet, entlang eines Transportweges von einem ersten Bereich (4) in Richtung eines zweiten Bereichs (5) auf der Linie transportiert werden, wobei jeder transportierte Gegenstand mit einer eindeutigen Gegenstandskennung (6) markiert ist, die einen eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensatz des Gegenstands beinhaltet, wobei die Gegenstände, die aus dem zweiten Bereich transportiert werden, von einer Sammelvorrichtung (7) gesammelt werden, um eine Charge (8) von einer gegebenen Anzahl N der Gegenstände zu bilden, wobei die Sammelvorrichtung einen Sensor (9) aufweist, der dafür ausgelegt ist zu erkennen, dass eine Charge von N Gegenständen gebildet worden ist, und ein entsprechendes Chargensignal zu liefern, wobei ein erster Leser (11) die eindeutige Kennung auf jedem der Gegenstände innerhalb des ersten Bereichs liest, der erste Leser mit einer Steuereinheit (10) verbunden ist und ein entsprechendes erstes Lesersignal an die Steuereinheit sendet, die Steuereinheit jeden eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensatz aus dem empfangenen ersten Lesersignal gemäß einer Reihenfolge extrahiert, die der gegebenen Anordnung der Gegenstände entspricht, wobei der zweite Bereich dem Sensor der Sammelvorrichtung benachbart ist, der Transportweg einen Zwischenbereich zwischen dem ersten und dem zweiten Bereich umfasst und ein Gegenstand potentiell aus dem Zwischenbereich entfernt oder zu ihm hinzugefügt werden kann, wobei das Verfahren dadurch gekennzeichnet ist, dass es die folgenden weiteren Schritte umfasst:

sequentielles Speichern, in einem mit der Steuereinheit verbundenen Speicher, jedes eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensatzes, der aus dem ersten Lesersignal gemäß einer Reihenfolge extrahiert wurde, die der gegebenen Anordnung der Gegenstände entspricht, mittels der Steuereinheit, um eine Liste (16) eindeutiger Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensätze (17) zu bilden;

nach Lieferung eines Chargensignals durch den Sensor, Lesen der eindeutigen Gegenstandskennung auf einem Prüfgegenstand an einer entsprechenden Prüfposition gemäß der Reihenfolge innerhalb des zweiten Bereichs mittels eines zweiten Lesers (12), der mit der Steuereinheit verbunden ist, wobei der zweite Leser vor der Sammelvorrichtung angeordnet ist, die Prüfposition einem der N Gegenstände entspricht, die voraussichtlich die Reihenfolgenummern N+1 bis 2N haben und von der Sammelvorrichtung zu sammeln sind, um die nächste Charge zu bilden, und der zweite Leser ein entsprechendes zweites Lesersignal an die Steuereinheit sendet;

Extrahieren des eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensatzes aus dem empfangenen zweiten Lesersignal und Suchen des eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensatzes, der mit dem aus dem zweiten Lesersignal extrahierten eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensatz übereinstimmt, in der Liste, um einen übereinstimmenden eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensatz zu gewinnen, der dem Prüfgegenstand entspricht, und Auffinden in der Liste, gemäß der Reihenfolge und der Prüfposition, unter den eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensätzen, die dem übereinstimmenden eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensatz vorangehen und welche eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensätzen der N Gegenstände entsprechen, welche die Charge von gesammelten Gegenständen bilden, wenigstens eines eindeutigen Identifikationsdatensatzes mittels der Steuereinheit; und

Speichern, in dem Speicher, des aufgefundenen wenigstens einen eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensatzes als wenigstens einem Gegenstand der Charge von gesammelten Gegenständen entsprechend, mittels der Steuereinheit.


 
2. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei, falls es der Steuereinheit misslingt, einen eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensatz aus einem empfangenen ersten Lesersignal oder einem empfangenen zweiten Lesersignal zu extrahieren, sie einen ersten bzw. einen zweiten Identifikationsfehler-Datensatz als den eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensatz liefert, der dem empfangenen ersten bzw. zweiten Lesersignal entspricht.
 
3. Verfahren nach Anspruch 2, wobei, falls die Steuereinheit einen eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensatz aus einem empfangenen zweiten Lesersignal extrahiert, es ihr jedoch misslingt, einen übereinstimmenden eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensatz in der Liste aufzufinden, die Steuereinheit eine Fehlermeldung liefert, die einen Übereinstimmungsfehler anzeigt.
 
4. Verfahren nach Anspruch 2 oder 3, wobei, falls es der Steuereinheit misslingt, einen eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensatz aus einem empfangenen zweiten Lesersignal zu extrahieren, und misslingt, einen übereinstimmenden zweiten Identifikationsfehler-Datensatz in der Liste aufzufinden, die Steuereinheit eine Fehlermeldung liefert, die einen ein zweites Lesersignal betreffenden Extraktionsfehler anzeigt.
 
5. Verfahren nach einem der Ansprüche 2 bis 4, wobei, falls es der Steuereinheit misslingt, einen eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensatz aus einem empfangenen zweiten Lesersignal zu extrahieren, sie jedoch einen übereinstimmenden ersten Identifikationsfehler-Datensatz in der Liste auffindet, die Steuereinheit eine Fehlermeldung liefert, die einen sowohl ein erstes als auch ein zweites Lesersignal betreffenden Extraktionsfehler anzeigt.
 
6. Verfahren nach einem der Ansprüche 3 bis 5, welches einen weiteren Schritt des Speicherns, falls eine Fehlermeldung geliefert wird, der Fehlermeldung in dem Speicher umfasst.
 
7. Verfahren nach einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 6, wobei die Sammelvorrichtung (7) dafür ausgelegt ist, eine Charge (8) von N gesammelten Gegenständen einer Verpackungsvorrichtung zuzuführen, die mit der Steuereinheit verbunden ist und dafür ausgelegt ist, die von der Sammelvorrichtung zugeführte Charge von N Gegenständen in eine Chargenverpackung (13) zu packen, die mit einer Chargenkennung (14) markiert ist, die einen Chargenverpackungs-Identifikationsdatensatz beinhaltet, die folgenden weiteren Schritte umfassend:

nach dem Liefern eines Chargensignals durch den Sensor, Packen der von der Sammelvorrichtung empfangenen Charge von Gegenständen in eine Chargenverpackung, um eine verpackte Charge (15) zu bilden, und Liefern der verpackten Charge mittels der Verpackungsvorrichtung;

Lesen der Chargenkennung auf der Chargenverpackung der gelieferten verpackten Charge mittels eines dritten Lesers, der auf der Linie angebracht und mit der Steuereinheit verbunden ist, wobei der dritte Leser ein entsprechendes drittes Lesersignal an die Steuereinheit sendet;

Extrahieren eines Chargenverpackungs-Identifikationsdatensatzes aus dem von dem dritten Leser empfangenen dritten Lesersignal und Speichern des extrahierten Chargenverpackungs-Identifikationsdatensatzes in dem Speicher, zugeordnet zu dem aufgefundenen wenigstens einen eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensatz, der wenigstens einem Gegenstand der Charge von gesammelten Gegenständen entspricht, die in die gelieferte verpackte Charge gepackt wurden, mittels der Steuereinheit.


 
8. Verfahren nach den Ansprüchen 6 und 7, welches den weiteren Schritt umfasst, falls von der Steuereinheit eine Fehlermeldung geliefert wird, im Speicher die Fehlermeldung mittels der Steuereinheit dem entsprechenden extrahierten Chargenverpackungs-Identifikationsdatensatz der Chargenverpackung der gelieferten verpackten Charge zuzuordnen.
 
9. System zum Prüfen von Gegenständen auf einer Produktions-/Verteilungslinie (2), welches Transportmittel (3) umfasst, die dafür ausgelegt sind, gemäß einer gegebenen Anordnung angeordnete Gegenstände entlang eines Transportweges der Linie von einem ersten Bereich (4) in Richtung eines zweiten Bereichs (5) auf der Linie zu transportieren, wobei jeder transportierte Gegenstand mit einer eindeutigen Gegenstandskennung (6) markiert ist, die einen eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensatz des Gegenstands beinhaltet, und eine Sammelvorrichtung (7), die dafür ausgelegt ist, die Gegenstände zu sammeln, die aus dem zweiten Bereich transportiert werden, um eine Charge von einer gegebenen Anzahl N der Gegenstände zu bilden und die gebildete Charge von Gegenständen zu liefern, wobei die Sammelvorrichtung einen Sensor (9) aufweist, der dafür ausgelegt ist zu erkennen, dass eine Charge (8) von N Gegenständen gebildet worden ist, und ein entsprechendes Chargensignal zu liefern, wobei das System ferner einen auf der Linie angebrachten ersten Leser (11) umfasst, der dafür ausgelegt ist, eine eindeutige Gegenstandskennung auf jedem der Gegenstände innerhalb des ersten Bereichs zu lesen und ein entsprechendes erstes Lesersignal zu liefern, und eine mit dem ersten Leser verbundene Steuereinheit (10), die dafür ausgelegt ist, ein erstes Lesersignal zu empfangen und jeden eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensatz aus dem empfangenen ersten Lesersignal gemäß einer Reihenfolge zu extrahieren, die der gegebenen Anordnung der Gegenstände entspricht, wobei der zweite Bereich dem Sensor der Sammelvorrichtung benachbart ist, der Transportweg einen Zwischenbereich zwischen dem ersten und dem zweiten Bereich umfasst und ein Gegenstand potentiell aus dem Zwischenbereich entfernt oder zu ihm hinzugefügt werden kann, wobei das System dadurch gekennzeichnet ist, dass:

die Steuereinheit dafür ausgelegt ist, in einem mit der Steuereinheit verbundenen Speicher sequentiell jeden eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensatz zu speichern, der aus dem ersten Lesersignal gemäß der Reihenfolge extrahiert wurde, um eine Liste (16) eindeutiger Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensätze zu bilden;

nach Lieferung eines Chargensignals durch den Sensor ein mit der Steuereinheit verbundener zweiter Leser (12) dafür ausgelegt ist, die eindeutige Gegenstandskennung auf einem Prüfgegenstand an einer entsprechenden Prüfposition gemäß der Reihenfolge innerhalb des zweiten Bereichs zu lesen, wobei der zweite Leser vor der Sammelvorrichtung angeordnet ist, die Prüfposition einem der N Gegenstände entspricht, die voraussichtlich die Reihenfolgenummern N+1 bis 2N haben und von der Sammelvorrichtung zu sammeln sind, um die nächste Charge zu bilden, und der zweite Leser dafür ausgelegt ist, ein entsprechendes zweites Lesersignal an die Steuereinheit zu senden;

die Steuereinheit dafür ausgelegt ist, den eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensatz aus dem empfangenen zweiten Lesersignal zu extrahieren, in der Liste den eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensatz zu suchen, der mit dem aus dem zweiten Lesersignal extrahierten eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensatz übereinstimmt, um einen übereinstimmenden eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensatz zu gewinnen, der dem Prüfgegenstand entspricht, und in der Liste gemäß der Reihenfolge und der Prüfposition unter den eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensätzen, die dem übereinstimmenden eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensatz vorangehen und eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensätzen der N Gegenstände entsprechen, welche die Charge von gesammelten Gegenständen bilden, wenigstens einen eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensatz aufzufinden; und

die Steuereinheit ferner dafür ausgelegt ist, in dem Speicher den aufgefundenen wenigstens einen eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensatz als wenigstens einem Gegenstand der Charge von gesammelten Gegenständen entsprechend zu speichern.


 
10. System nach Anspruch 9, wobei, falls es der Steuereinheit misslingt, einen eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensatz aus einem empfangenen ersten Lesersignal oder einem empfangenen zweiten Lesersignal zu extrahieren, sie dafür ausgelegt ist, einen ersten bzw. einen zweiten Identifikationsfehler-Datensatz als den eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensatz zu liefern, der dem empfangenen ersten bzw. zweiten Lesersignal entspricht.
 
11. System nach Anspruch 10, wobei, falls die Steuereinheit einen eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensatz aus einem empfangenen zweiten Lesersignal extrahiert, es ihr jedoch misslingt, einen übereinstimmenden eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensatz in der Liste aufzufinden, die Steuereinheit dafür ausgelegt ist, eine Fehlermeldung zu liefern, die einen Übereinstimmungsfehler anzeigt.
 
12. System nach Anspruch 10 oder 11, wobei, falls es der Steuereinheit misslingt, einen eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensatz aus einem empfangenen zweiten Lesersignal zu extrahieren, und misslingt, einen übereinstimmenden zweiten Identifikationsfehler-Datensatz in der Liste aufzufinden, die Steuereinheit dafür ausgelegt ist, eine Fehlermeldung zu liefern, die einen ein zweites Lesersignal betreffenden Extraktionsfehler anzeigt.
 
13. System nach einem der Ansprüche 10 bis 12, wobei, falls es der Steuereinheit misslingt, einen eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensatz aus einem empfangenen zweiten Lesersignal zu extrahieren, sie jedoch einen übereinstimmenden ersten Identifikationsfehler-Datensatz in der Liste auffindet, die Steuereinheit dafür ausgelegt ist, eine Fehlermeldung zu liefern, die einen sowohl ein erstes als auch ein zweites Lesersignal betreffenden Extraktionsfehler anzeigt.
 
14. System nach einem der Ansprüche 11 bis 13, wobei, falls von der Steuereinheit eine Fehlermeldung geliefert wird, die Steuereinheit ferner dafür ausgelegt ist, die Fehlermeldung in dem Speicher zu speichern.
 
15. System nach einem der Ansprüche 9 bis 14, wobei die Sammelvorrichtung dafür ausgelegt ist, eine Charge (8) von N gesammelten Gegenständen einer Verpackungsvorrichtung zuzuführen, die mit der Steuereinheit verbunden ist und dafür ausgelegt ist, die von der Sammelvorrichtung zugeführte Charge von N Gegenständen in eine Chargenverpackung (13) zu packen, die mit einer Chargenkennung (14) markiert ist, die einen Chargenverpackungs-Identifikationsdatensatz beinhaltet, wobei:

nach dem Liefern eines Chargensignals durch den Sensor, die Verpackungsvorrichtung dafür ausgelegt ist, die von der Sammelvorrichtung empfangene Charge von Gegenständen in eine Chargenverpackung zu packen, um eine verpackte Charge (15) zu bilden, und die verpackte Charge zu liefern;

ein dritter Leser, der auf der Linie angebracht und mit der Steuereinheit verbunden ist, dafür ausgelegt ist, eine Chargenkennung auf der Chargenverpackung einer von der Verpackungsvorrichtung gelieferten verpackten Charge zu lesen, wobei der dritte Leser dafür ausgelegt ist, ein entsprechendes drittes Lesersignal an die Steuereinheit zu senden; und

die Steuereinheit dafür ausgelegt ist, einen Chargenverpackungs-Identifikationsdatensatz aus einem von dem dritten Leser empfangenen dritten Lesersignal zu extrahieren und den extrahierten Chargenverpackungs-Identifikationsdatensatzes in dem Speicher zu speichern, zugeordnet zu dem aufgefundenen wenigstens einen in dem Speicher gespeicherten eindeutigen Gegenstands-Identifikationsdatensatz, der wenigstens einem Gegenstand der Charge von gesammelten Gegenständen entspricht, die in die gelieferte verpackte Charge gepackt wurden.


 


Revendications

1. Procédé de contrôle d'articles sur une chaîne de production/distribution (2), les articles étant transportés agencés selon une disposition donnée le long d'un itinéraire de transport en provenance d'une première zone (4) vers une seconde zone (5) sur la chaîne, chaque article transporté étant marqué avec un identifiant d'article unique (6) comprenant une donnée d'identification d'article unique de l'article, les articles transportés en provenance de la seconde zone étant collectés par un dispositif collecteur (7) pour former un lot (8) d'un nombre donné N desdits articles, ledit dispositif collecteur comprenant un capteur (9) permettant de détecter qu'un lot de N articles a été formé et d'émettre un signal de lot correspondant, un premier lecteur (11) lisant l'identifiant unique sur chacun des articles dans ladite première zone, le premier lecteur étant connecté à un contrôleur (10) et envoyant un premier signal de lecteur correspondant au contrôleur, le contrôleur extrayant chaque donnée d'identification d'article unique du premier signal de lecteur reçu selon un ordre correspondant à ladite disposition donnée des articles, la seconde zone étant adjacente au capteur du dispositif collecteur, l'itinéraire de transport comprenant une zone intermédiaire entre la première et la seconde zone, et un article pouvant être potentiellement retiré de la zone intermédiaire ou ajouté dans la zone intermédiaire, le procédé étant caractérisé en ce qu'il comprend en outre les étapes consistant à :

stocker séquentiellement dans une mémoire connectée au contrôleur, pour former une liste (16) de données d'identification d'article uniques (17), chaque donnée d'identification d'article unique extraite dudit premier signal de lecteur selon un ordre correspondant à ladite disposition donnée des articles, au moyen du contrôleur ;

à l'émission d'un signal de lot par le capteur, lire l'identifiant d'article unique sur un article de test à une position de test correspondante selon ledit ordre dans la seconde zone au moyen d'un deuxième lecteur (12) connecté au contrôleur, le deuxième lecteur étant situé avant le dispositif collecteur, la position de test correspondant à l'un des N articles, ayant respectivement, comme prévu, des rangs N+1 à 2N, devant être collectés par le dispositif collecteur pour former le lot suivant, et le deuxième lecteur envoyant un deuxième signal de lecteur correspondant au contrôleur ;
extraire la donnée d'identification d'article unique du deuxième signal de lecteur reçu, et rechercher dans la liste la donnée d'identification d'article unique concordant avec ladite donnée d'identification d'article unique extraite du deuxième signal de lecteur afin d'obtenir une donnée d'identification d'article unique concordante correspondant audit article de test, et récupérer dans la liste, selon ledit ordre et ladite position de test, parmi les données d'identification d'article uniques précédant ladite donnée d'identification d'article unique concordante et qui correspondent aux données d'identification d'article uniques des N articles formant le lot d'articles collectés, au moins une donnée d'identification unique au moyen du contrôleur ; et

stocker dans la mémoire ladite au moins une donnée d'identification d'article unique récupérée comme correspondant à au moins un article du lot d'articles collectés, au moyen du contrôleur.


 
2. Procédé selon la revendication 1, dans lequel, si le contrôleur échoue à extraire une donnée d'identification d'article unique d'un premier signal de lecteur reçu ou d'un deuxième signal de lecteur reçu, il émet respectivement une première ou une seconde donnée d'erreur d'identification en guise de donnée d'identification d'article unique correspondant respectivement audit premier ou deuxième signal de lecteur reçu.
 
3. Procédé selon la revendication 2, dans lequel, si le contrôleur extrait une donnée d'identification d'article unique d'un deuxième signal de lecteur reçu, mais échoue à récupérer une donnée d'identification d'article unique concordante dans la liste, le contrôleur émet un message d'erreur indiquant une erreur de concordance.
 
4. Procédé selon la revendication 2 ou 3, dans lequel, si le contrôleur échoue à extraire une donnée d'identification d'article unique d'un deuxième signal de lecteur reçu et échoue à récupérer une seconde donnée d'erreur d'identification concordante dans la liste, le contrôleur émet un message d'erreur indiquant une erreur d'extraction relative à un deuxième signal de lecteur.
 
5. Procédé selon l'une quelconque des revendications 2 à 4, dans lequel, si le contrôleur échoue à extraire une donnée d'identification d'article unique d'un deuxième signal de lecteur reçu, mais récupère une première donnée d'erreur d'identification concordante dans la liste, le contrôleur émet un message d'erreur indiquant une erreur d'extraction relative à un premier et à un deuxième signal de lecteur.
 
6. Procédé selon l'une quelconque des revendications 3 à 5, comprenant en outre l'étape consistant, si un message d'erreur est émis, à stocker ledit message d'erreur dans la mémoire.
 
7. Procédé selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 6, dans lequel ledit dispositif collecteur (7) permet de distribuer un lot (8) de N articles collectés à un dispositif d'emballage connecté au contrôleur et permet d'emballer le lot de N articles distribué par le dispositif de collecteur dans un emballage par lot (13) marqué avec un identifiant de lot (14) comprenant la donnée d'identification d'emballage par lot, le procédé comprenant en outre les étapes consistant à :

à l'émission d'un signal de lot par le capteur, emballer le lot d'articles reçus du dispositif collecteur dans un emballage par lot afin de former un lot emballé (15), et distribuer ledit lot emballé au moyen du dispositif d'emballage ;

lire l'identifiant de lot sur l'emballage par lot dudit lot emballé au moyen d'un troisième lecteur monté sur la chaîne et connecté au contrôleur, le troisième lecteur envoyant un troisième signal de lecteur correspondant au contrôleur ;

extraire la donnée d'identification d'emballage par lot du troisième signal de lecteur reçu du troisième lecteur, et stocker dans la mémoire la donnée d'identification d'emballage par lot extraite associée à ladite au moins une donnée d'identification d'article unique récupérée correspondant à au moins un article du lot d'articles collectés emballés dans ledit lot emballé distribué, au moyen du contrôleur.


 
8. Procédé selon les revendications 6 et 7, comprenant en outre l'étape consistant, si un message d'erreur est émis par le contrôleur, à associer dans la mémoire ledit message d'erreur à la donnée d'identification d'emballage par lot extraite correspondante de l'emballage par lot du lot emballé distribué, au moyen du contrôleur.
 
9. Système de contrôle d'articles sur une chaîne de production/distribution (2), comprenant un moyen de transport (3) permettant de transporter des articles agencés selon une disposition donnée le long d'un itinéraire de transport de la chaîne en provenance d'une première zone (4) vers une seconde zone (5) sur la chaîne, chaque article transporté étant marqué avec un identifiant d'article unique (6) comprenant une donnée d'identification d'article unique de l'article, un dispositif collecteur (7) permettant de collecter les articles transportés en provenance de la seconde zone pour former un lot d'un nombre donné N desdits articles et pour distribuer ledit lot formé d'articles, ledit dispositif collecteur comprenant un capteur (9) permettant de détecter qu'un lot (8) de N articles a été formé et d'émettre un signal de lot correspondant, le système comprenant en outre un premier lecteur (11) monté sur la chaîne et permettant de lire un identifiant d'article unique sur chacun des articles dans ladite première zone, et d'émettre un premier signal de lecteur correspondant, et un contrôleur (10) connecté au premier lecteur et permettant de recevoir un premier signal de lecteur et d'extraire chaque donnée d'identification d'article unique dudit premier signal de lecteur reçu selon un ordre correspondant à ladite disposition donnée des articles, la seconde zone étant adjacente au capteur du dispositif collecteur, l'itinéraire de transport comprenant une zone intermédiaire entre la première et la seconde zone, et un article pouvant être potentiellement retiré de la zone intermédiaire ou ajouté dans la zone intermédiaire, le système étant caractérisé en ce que :

le contrôleur permet de stocker séquentiellement dans une mémoire connectée au contrôleur chaque donnée d'identification d'article unique extraite dudit premier signal de lecteur selon ledit ordre, pour former une liste (16) de données d'identification d'article uniques ;

à l'émission d'un signal de lot par le capteur, un deuxième lecteur (12) connecté au contrôleur permet de lire l'identifiant d'article unique sur un article de test à une position de test correspondante selon ledit ordre dans la seconde zone, le deuxième lecteur étant situé avant le dispositif collecteur, la position de test correspondant à l'un des N articles, ayant respectivement, comme prévu, des rangs N+1 à 2N, devant être collectés par le dispositif collecteur pour former le lot suivant, et le deuxième lecteur permettant d'envoyer un deuxième signal de lecteur correspondant au contrôleur ;

le contrôleur permet d'extraire la donnée d'identification d'article unique du deuxième signal de lecteur reçu, de rechercher dans la liste la donnée d'identification d'article unique concordant avec la donnée d'identification d'article unique extraite du deuxième signal de lecteur afin d'obtenir une donnée d'identification d'article unique concordante correspondant audit article de test, et de récupérer dans la liste, selon ledit ordre et ladite position de test, parmi les données d'identification d'article uniques précédant ladite donnée d'identification d'article unique concordante et qui correspondent aux données d'identification d'article uniques des N articles formant le lot d'articles collectés, au moins une donnée d'identification d'article unique ; et

le contrôleur est en outre capable de stocker dans la mémoire ladite au moins une donnée d'identification d'article unique récupérée comme correspondant à au moins un article du lot d'articles collectés.


 
10. Système selon la revendication 9, dans lequel, si le contrôleur échoue à extraire une donnée d'identification d'article unique d'un premier signal de lecteur reçu ou d'un deuxième signal de lecteur reçu, il permet d'émettre respectivement une première ou une seconde donnée d'erreur d'identification en guise de donnée d'identification d'article unique correspondant respectivement audit premier ou deuxième signal de lecteur reçu.
 
11. Système selon la revendication 10, dans lequel, si le contrôleur extrait une donnée d'identification d'article unique d'un deuxième signal de lecteur reçu, mais échoue à récupérer une donnée d'identification d'article unique concordante dans la liste, le contrôleur permet d'émettre un message d'erreur indiquant une erreur de concordance.
 
12. Système selon la revendication 10 ou 11, dans lequel, si le contrôleur échoue à extraire une donnée d'identification d'article unique d'un deuxième signal de lecteur reçu et échoue à récupérer une seconde donnée d'erreur d'identification concordante dans la liste, le contrôleur permet d'émettre un message d'erreur indiquant une erreur d'extraction relative à un deuxième signal de lecteur.
 
13. Système selon l'une quelconque des revendications 10 à 12, dans lequel, si le contrôleur échoue à extraire une donnée d'identification d'article unique d'un deuxième signal de lecteur reçu, mais récupère une première donnée d'erreur d'identification concordante dans la liste, le contrôleur permet d'émettre un message d'erreur indiquant une erreur d'extraction relative à un premier et à un deuxième signal de lecteur.
 
14. Système selon l'une quelconque des revendications 11 à 13, dans lequel, si un message d'erreur est émis par le contrôleur, le contrôleur permet en outre de stocker ledit message d'erreur dans la mémoire.
 
15. Système selon l'une quelconque des revendications 9 à 14, dans lequel, ledit dispositif collecteur permet de distribuer un lot (8) de N articles collectés à un dispositif d'emballage connecté au contrôleur et permet d'emballer le lot de N articles distribué par le dispositif de collecteur dans un emballage par lot (13) marqué avec un identifiant de lot (14) comprenant la donnée d'identification d'emballage par lot, dans lequel :

à l'émission d'un signal de lot par le capteur, le dispositif d'emballage permet d'emballer le lot d'articles reçus du dispositif collecteur dans un emballage par lot afin de former un lot emballé (15), et distribuer ledit lot emballé ;

un troisième lecteur monté sur la chaîne et connecté au contrôleur permet de lire un identifiant de lot sur l'emballage par lot d'un lot emballé distribué par le dispositif d'emballage, le troisième lecteur permettant d'envoyer un troisième signal de lecteur correspondant au contrôleur ; et

le contrôleur permet d'extraire la donnée d'identification d'emballage par lot d'un troisième signal de lecteur reçu du troisième lecteur, et de stocker dans la mémoire la donnée d'identification d'emballage par lot extraite associée à l'au moins une donnée d'identification d'article unique récupérée stockée dans la mémoire, correspondant à au moins un article du lot d'articles collectés emballés dans ledit lot emballé distribué.


 




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Cited references

REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



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Patent documents cited in the description




Non-patent literature cited in the description