GB2439539A - Stack-nest container with visual identification and management/ tracking system - Google Patents

Stack-nest container with visual identification and management/ tracking system Download PDF

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Publication number
GB2439539A
GB2439539A GB0612807A GB0612807A GB2439539A GB 2439539 A GB2439539 A GB 2439539A GB 0612807 A GB0612807 A GB 0612807A GB 0612807 A GB0612807 A GB 0612807A GB 2439539 A GB2439539 A GB 2439539A
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United Kingdom
Prior art keywords
container
identification
rim
tracking
visual identification
Prior art date
Legal status (The legal status is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the status listed.)
Withdrawn
Application number
GB0612807A
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GB0612807D0 (en
Inventor
Jean-Marc Dubois
Boris Schwab
Current Assignee (The listed assignees may be inaccurate. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy of the list.)
RENTACRATE Ltd
Original Assignee
RENTACRATE Ltd
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Filing date
Publication date
Application filed by RENTACRATE Ltd filed Critical RENTACRATE Ltd
Priority to GB0612807A priority Critical patent/GB2439539A/en
Publication of GB0612807D0 publication Critical patent/GB0612807D0/en
Publication of GB2439539A publication Critical patent/GB2439539A/en
Withdrawn legal-status Critical Current

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Classifications

    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65DCONTAINERS FOR STORAGE OR TRANSPORT OF ARTICLES OR MATERIALS, e.g. BAGS, BARRELS, BOTTLES, BOXES, CANS, CARTONS, CRATES, DRUMS, JARS, TANKS, HOPPERS, FORWARDING CONTAINERS; ACCESSORIES, CLOSURES, OR FITTINGS THEREFOR; PACKAGING ELEMENTS; PACKAGES
    • B65D21/00Nestable, stackable or joinable containers; Containers of variable capacity
    • B65D21/02Containers specially shaped, or provided with fittings or attachments, to facilitate nesting, stacking, or joining together
    • B65D21/0209Containers specially shaped, or provided with fittings or attachments, to facilitate nesting, stacking, or joining together stackable or joined together one-upon-the-other in the upright or upside-down position
    • B65D21/0212Containers presenting local stacking elements protruding from the upper or lower edge of a side wall, e.g. handles, lugs, ribs, grooves
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65DCONTAINERS FOR STORAGE OR TRANSPORT OF ARTICLES OR MATERIALS, e.g. BAGS, BARRELS, BOTTLES, BOXES, CANS, CARTONS, CRATES, DRUMS, JARS, TANKS, HOPPERS, FORWARDING CONTAINERS; ACCESSORIES, CLOSURES, OR FITTINGS THEREFOR; PACKAGING ELEMENTS; PACKAGES
    • B65D21/00Nestable, stackable or joinable containers; Containers of variable capacity
    • B65D21/02Containers specially shaped, or provided with fittings or attachments, to facilitate nesting, stacking, or joining together
    • B65D21/0233Nestable containers
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65DCONTAINERS FOR STORAGE OR TRANSPORT OF ARTICLES OR MATERIALS, e.g. BAGS, BARRELS, BOTTLES, BOXES, CANS, CARTONS, CRATES, DRUMS, JARS, TANKS, HOPPERS, FORWARDING CONTAINERS; ACCESSORIES, CLOSURES, OR FITTINGS THEREFOR; PACKAGING ELEMENTS; PACKAGES
    • B65D21/00Nestable, stackable or joinable containers; Containers of variable capacity
    • B65D21/02Containers specially shaped, or provided with fittings or attachments, to facilitate nesting, stacking, or joining together
    • B65D21/06Containers specially shaped, or provided with fittings or attachments, to facilitate nesting, stacking, or joining together with movable parts adapted to be placed in alternative positions for nesting the containers when empty and for stacking them when full
    • B65D21/062Containers specially shaped, or provided with fittings or attachments, to facilitate nesting, stacking, or joining together with movable parts adapted to be placed in alternative positions for nesting the containers when empty and for stacking them when full the movable parts being attached or integral and displaceable into a position overlying the top of the container, e.g. bails, corner plates
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65DCONTAINERS FOR STORAGE OR TRANSPORT OF ARTICLES OR MATERIALS, e.g. BAGS, BARRELS, BOTTLES, BOXES, CANS, CARTONS, CRATES, DRUMS, JARS, TANKS, HOPPERS, FORWARDING CONTAINERS; ACCESSORIES, CLOSURES, OR FITTINGS THEREFOR; PACKAGING ELEMENTS; PACKAGES
    • B65D25/00Details of other kinds or types of rigid or semi-rigid containers
    • B65D25/005Side walls formed with an aperture or a movable portion arranged to allow removal or insertion of contents
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65DCONTAINERS FOR STORAGE OR TRANSPORT OF ARTICLES OR MATERIALS, e.g. BAGS, BARRELS, BOTTLES, BOXES, CANS, CARTONS, CRATES, DRUMS, JARS, TANKS, HOPPERS, FORWARDING CONTAINERS; ACCESSORIES, CLOSURES, OR FITTINGS THEREFOR; PACKAGING ELEMENTS; PACKAGES
    • B65D25/00Details of other kinds or types of rigid or semi-rigid containers
    • B65D25/20External fittings
    • B65D25/205Means for the attachment of labels, cards, coupons or the like
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65DCONTAINERS FOR STORAGE OR TRANSPORT OF ARTICLES OR MATERIALS, e.g. BAGS, BARRELS, BOTTLES, BOXES, CANS, CARTONS, CRATES, DRUMS, JARS, TANKS, HOPPERS, FORWARDING CONTAINERS; ACCESSORIES, CLOSURES, OR FITTINGS THEREFOR; PACKAGING ELEMENTS; PACKAGES
    • B65D81/00Containers, packaging elements, or packages, for contents presenting particular transport or storage problems, or adapted to be used for non-packaging purposes after removal of contents
    • B65D81/24Adaptations for preventing deterioration or decay of contents; Applications to the container or packaging material of food preservatives, fungicides, pesticides or animal repellants
    • B65D81/26Adaptations for preventing deterioration or decay of contents; Applications to the container or packaging material of food preservatives, fungicides, pesticides or animal repellants with provision for draining away, or absorbing, or removing by ventilation, fluids, e.g. exuded by contents; Applications of corrosion inhibitors or desiccators
    • B65D81/263Adaptations for preventing deterioration or decay of contents; Applications to the container or packaging material of food preservatives, fungicides, pesticides or animal repellants with provision for draining away, or absorbing, or removing by ventilation, fluids, e.g. exuded by contents; Applications of corrosion inhibitors or desiccators for ventilating the contents
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65DCONTAINERS FOR STORAGE OR TRANSPORT OF ARTICLES OR MATERIALS, e.g. BAGS, BARRELS, BOTTLES, BOXES, CANS, CARTONS, CRATES, DRUMS, JARS, TANKS, HOPPERS, FORWARDING CONTAINERS; ACCESSORIES, CLOSURES, OR FITTINGS THEREFOR; PACKAGING ELEMENTS; PACKAGES
    • B65D85/00Containers, packaging elements or packages, specially adapted for particular articles or materials
    • B65D85/50Containers, packaging elements or packages, specially adapted for particular articles or materials for living organisms, articles or materials sensitive to changes of environment or atmospheric conditions, e.g. land animals, birds, fish, water plants, non-aquatic plants, flower bulbs, cut flowers or foliage

Abstract

A stack-nest storage and transportation container 101 having a main body comprising side walls 103, 104, 105, 106 connected to a base 107. The main body has a plurality of air ventilation orifices 108, 109 and an access aperture located substantially opposite the base 107. The walls 103, 104,105,106 comprise an upper strengthened rim portion 111 comprising an internal face facing the inside of said container 101 and an external face. Stack-nesting means in the form of at least one bail arm 112 are also provided. Additionally, said container 101 is characterised in that the rim 111 comprises at least one portion having an externally facing surface region 118, 119 configured to affix/ receive a visual identification means for use in identifying said container 101. Said at least one portion comprising rim strengthening means 117 located on the internally facing side of said portion. Preferably the rim strengthening 117 means takes the form of ribs. The visual identification means may take the form of a label carrying (e.g.) a barcode, and may be used in part of an electronic crate management and tracking system.

Description

<p>IMPROVEMENTS TO STORAGE & TRANSPORTATION CONTAINERS</p>

<p>AND METHODS OF IDENTIFICATION THEREOF</p>

<p>Field of the Invention</p>

<p>The present invention relates to improvements to storage and transportation containers and particularly, but not exclusively, the present invention relates to container of the type that are stackable and nestable, as commonly used, for example, in transporting food. More particularly the present invention relates to an improved container that permits ready identification by an automatic container identification system and also to the tracking/identification system as used in conjunction with such containers. * ** * S * *5**</p>

<p>Background to the Invention</p>

<p>:.:::. 15 A large number of types of stacking/nesting transport containers are known for use in transporting goods of one type or another. For example European * patent no. EP 0953509 and US patent application publication no. * .: US200510263424 Al both disclose a moveable arm (bail arm) type stackable and nestable container having two nesting heights. Use of a moveable arm at opposite ends of a transportation crate is well known to those skilled in the art.</p>

<p>Stack-nest containers of the type of concern in the present application are typified by those disclosed in European patent no. EP 0953509 and US patent application publication no. US200510263424 Al wherein bail arms are provided to allow for the stacking and nesting of crates in relation to one another. The bail arms are each pivotally mounted to container walls facing opposite each other.</p>

<p>Each bail comprises an elongate member that runs alongside and parallel to the respective wall with which the arm is associated. Each bail is configured to pivot from a position outside the container to a fixed position such that they lie across the open top of the container. In this way the containers can (a) nest with one another when the bails are in the outermost position and (b) stack on top of the bails when the bails are in the internal position.</p>

<p>P1567.spec In certain industries, including the food industry, such crates are used in exceedingly large numbers and the cost of lost crates is a serious problem.</p>

<p>Typically a food packagingfdistribution company obtains its required foods from a number of producers and other contracted parties and once the foods are S suitably packaged and organised these are then passed onto the various supermarkets and other retail outlets. The distributor (or other entity in the production/distribution/delivery chain) may rent a large number of such crates from a crate manufacturer such as the applicant of the present application and any lost crates are billed accordingly to the party that rented the crates. The number of lost crates is often significant and the cost has to be met by the party responsible for them. However keeping track of the crates that a particular * *, business entity is responsible for is a huge problem given that many contractors, ::::: at least one packaging/distribution entity and a number of retail outlets/supermarkets are involved. * S.</p>

<p>* . . 15 I...</p>

<p>*:. Tracking systems are known for keeping track of the whereabouts of containers. A good example is that disclosed in European patent no. EP 1228482 S..</p>

<p>in the name of (FCO Systems Europe GMBH wherein a transponder is used inlon . .: each crate such that each crate can then be monitored by a computer tracking system. However the crate tracking system of EP 1228482 is directed for use with collapsible (foldable) containers, rather than stack-nest type containers.</p>

<p>Additionally the system disclosed in EP 1228482 considered to be expensive in that each crate is required to have a transponder (an electronic tag) comprising a memory and associated electronics that can receive, store and deliver information about the location of said transportation container. Although this latter system is suitable for certain environments the cost of implementation is considerable and use of radio frequency signals can lead to problems in certain areas. Furthermore such a radio-frequency based system is limited in that the reader needs to be in close proximity to a crate in order to correctly read the information it is attempting to receive which means that only a small number of crates can be "read" at any one time. Also tags located near to each other can P1567 spec cause confusion in the reading process, again posing a limit on the number of crates that can be read from a single pass of the reader device.</p>

<p>In general other types of tracking/identification system are known for tracking various kinds of objects, such as, for example, those using visual identification means. Although a visual image-based system offers a potentially lower cost solution for tracking crates there is the problem of visibility of a suitably affixed label on the crate. In particular with bail arm type stacking/nesting crates as typified by those disclosed in European patent no. EP 0953509 and US patent application publication no. US2005/0263424 Al such crates are configured such that the upper rim (edge) of the crate is strengthened by use of ribbing so as to * * add strength and resilience to the crate during use. As is known to those skilled in the art such ribbing is located on the outside of the crate so as to avoid it trapping food substances that are placed inside the crate. This fact essentially means that *. 15 use of visual identification means such as a label on the outside of known bail S...</p>

<p>arm type stacking/nesting crates is not possible due to the lack of a suitable position on which to attach a suitable visual crate identification means. * S* S. *</p>

<p>In order to solve the aforementioned problems there is thus a need to provide (a) an alternative and/or improved stacking/nesting bail arm type crate and (b) an associated tracking system for tracking and identifying such crates in commercial environments.</p>

<p>Summary of the Invention</p>

<p>The object of the present invention is to overcome one or more of the aforementioned problems with tracking/identifying stacking/nesting type containers.</p>

<p>According to a first aspect of the present invention there is provided a stack-nest storage and transportation container comprising: P1 567.spec a main body comprising side walls connected to a base, said main body having a plurality of air ventilation orifices and an access aperture located substantially opposite said base, said walls comprising an upper strengthened rim portion comprising an internal face facing the inside of said container and an externalface;and stack-nesting means in the form of at least one bail arm; said container charactensed in that said rim comprises at least one portion comprising an externally facing surface region configured to affix a visual identification means for use in identifying said container, said at least one portion : * comprising rim strengthening means located on the internally facing side of said S...</p>

<p>portion.</p>

<p>: .. 15 Preferably said strengthened rim portion comprises ribbing.</p>

<p>S S..</p>

<p>S</p>

<p>Preferably said external face of said portion is substantially flat. I.. * . .</p>

<p>SI S</p>

<p>*. Preferably said external face of said portion is recessed relative to the outwardly facing surface of said rim.</p>

<p>Preferably said recess has a depth of 3mm or less.</p>

<p>Preferably said internal face of said portion comprises at least one rib.</p>

<p>Preferably said container is configured with a said visual identification means affixed thereto.</p>

<p>Preferably said visual identification means comprises a two-dimensional identification label.</p>

<p>P1567.spec Preferably said two-dimensional label is used in conjunction with a bar-code device.</p>

<p>Preferably said identification means is affixed to said identification portion by use of an adhesive.</p>

<p>Preferably said crate is substantially rectangular in shape by virtue of having four walls and comprises first and second bail arms located on opposite sides of said container.</p>

<p>Preferably said crate comprises two of said visual identification portions : * each said portion being located on opposite walls of said container. S... * S5.</p>

<p>Preferably said container is a moulded plastics-based container comprising : . * 15 air vents for ventilating food carried in the container. I..</p>

<p>S</p>

<p>Preferably said container comprises a substantially rectangularly shaped *5I ::: aperture of at least 30cm in length by 20 cm in width.</p>

<p>Preferably said container comprises a substantially rectangularly shaped aperture of approximately 60cm in length by 40cm in width.</p>

<p>Preferably said container is not collapsible.</p>

<p>Preferably said container is reusable.</p>

<p>According to a second aspect of the present invention there is provided a system for identifying and tracking a plurality of storage and transportation containers, said system comprising: a plurality of containers of the type claimed in claim I each having at least one visual identification means affixed thereto; and P1567.spec an image recognition system comprising: at least one image capture device for capturing an image comprising said visual identification means; a computer processor coupled to said image capture device for performing image processing of said captured image in order to identify said visual identification means and thereby track said container to which said visual identifier is attached; and * ** output means configured to provide container identification/tracking information to a user of said system. S...</p>

<p>: * : 15 Preferably said processed data is stored in an electronic memory.</p>

<p>S *..</p>

<p>S</p>

<p>Preferably said output means is configured to display said information on a *..</p>

<p>:::.; screen to a user of said system.</p>

<p>Preferably said image capture device comprises a camera utilising visible electromagnetic radiation.</p>

<p>Preferably said camera is a video-based camera.</p>

<p>Preferably said sensor uses an infrared beam to capture said visual identification means.</p>

<p>Preferably said visual identification means comprises a bar code type device.</p>

<p>According to a third aspect of the present invention there is provided a stack-nest storage and transportation container comprising: P1567.spec a main body comprising side walls connected to a base, said main body having a plurality of air ventilation orifices and an access aperture located substantially opposite said base, said walls comprising an upper strengthened rim portion comprising an internal face facing the inside of said container and an external face; and stack-nesting means in the form of at least one bail arm; said container characterised in that said rim comprises at least one portion comprising an externally facing surface region configured to affix a visual : * identification means for use in identifying said container. S... *...</p>

<p>Brief Description of the Drawings</p>

<p>: .*. 15 For a better understanding of the invention and to show how the same may S...</p>

<p>be carried into effect, there will now be described by way of example only, specific embodiments, methods and processes according to the present S..</p>

<p>invention with reference to the accompanying drawings in which: Fig. I schematically illustrates in perspective view a storage and transportation crate of the type configured in accordance with the present invention; Fig. 2 schematically illustrates a side elevation view the storage and transportation crate of Fig. 1; Fig. 3 schematically illustrates in end elevation view the storage and transportation crate of Figs. I and 2; Fig. 4 schematically illustrates in perspective plan view the storage and transportation crate of Figs. 1-3 when looking down into the access aperture; P1 567.spec Fig. 5 schematically illustrates a plan view of the underside (base) of a storage and transportation crate of the type configured in accordance with the present invention; Fig. 6 schematically illustrates a typical warehouse environment of a food processor/distributor's premises with a plurality of containers as configured in accordance with the present invention (containing prepared food for dispatch to customers) and with a visual container identification system installed; and Fig. 7 schematically illustrates the main components of the visual container identification system depicted in Fig. 7. * ..</p>

<p>Detailed Description</p>

<p>There will now be described by way of example a specific mode ::::. 15 contemplated by the inventors. In the following descriptiOn numerous specific details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding. It will be apparent however, to one skilled in the art, that the present invention may be * practiced without limitation to these specific details. In other instances, well known methods and structures have not been described in detail so as not to</p>

<p>unnecessarily obscure the description.</p>

<p>Fig. 1 schematically illustrates, in perspective view, a storage and transportation container (crate) 101 as configured in accordance with the present invention. Container 101 is of the stacking/nesting (stacked-nest) type of containers typically used in the food industry and various other industries.</p>

<p>Container 101 is substantially of a rectangular box-type construction comprising four side walls respectively numbered 103, 104, 105 and 106. The two longest side walls are sides 103 and 105 which are substantially parallel and face opposite each other. The shorter sides comprise sides 104 and 106 which again are substantially opposite each other. Walls 103 to 106 are connected to a base 107. In use the walls of the crate generally extend from the base in a substantially vertical direction. The walls and base of the main body comprise a P1567 spec plurality of air ventilation orifices such as those that are indicated at 108 and 109.</p>

<p>Opposite the base is the container access aperture generally indicated at 110 this opening being substantially of the same cross sectional area as the base of the container and being the opening into which goods are placed in or removed the crate. Preferably crate 101 is made of a rigid moulded plastics based material.</p>

<p>Container walls 103 to 106 comprise an upper strengthened rim portion 111 extending around access aperture 110. Rim portion 111 comprises an internal face facing the inside of the container and an external face. Container 101 also comprises stack-nesting means in the form of a first bail arm 112 associated with side wall 104 and a second bail arm 113 associated with side wall 106. The * ** upper strengthened rim portion 111 functions to provide a resilient upper edge to the walls 104-106 such that when a further container is stacked thereon these edges are less likely to rupture. Rim portion 111 comprises reinforcing rib like : *. structure such as indicated at 114 and 115. The rib structures indicated at 115 *:. are positioned above an orifice 116 that serves as a hand hole such that an operator can pick the crate up. Ribbed structures 114, 115 are located on the *** outside of the container as is generally desired in the food industry so that food does not get lodged in the areas that are reinforced with ribbing. Thus, it is generally desired to keep the inside walls of the crate smooth to avoid such problems. However, in contrast to this normal requirement and in accordance with the present invention certain portions of rim 111 are configured with a rim strenghening means located on the inside face of the walls such as, for example, as indicated at 117, 118 and 119. Portions 118 and 119 show the outward facing face of wall 104. On the outward facing face these portions comprise a region that is configured to affix a visual identificaton means for use in identifying the container. In the preferred embodiment the fixing region is made of a solid moulded and flat plastics-based portion of the main body. Although ribbing of the type shown at 117 is preferred on the internally facing face, this region may simply comprise a solid layer of plastics based material that in itself is thereby configured to add strength to the upper rim portion. The advantage of having ribbing such as that shown at 117 is that less plastics-based material is used in P1567.spec the manufacturing of the crates. Similarly, although ribbing may extend across the internal face of the region (such as region 118) it may suffice, in certain applications, to simply have a rib at each end of the region (without having ribs present in-between the ends of the identification region). Thus, the ribs act as strengthening means that are located on the internally facing side of the portion.</p>

<p>However, alternatively, by increasing the thickness of the identification attachment surface such that it is substantially the width of the crate edge, then this would also provide the required strengthening. To aid the attachment of a visual identification means to region 118 the outer surface of region 118 is preferably flat. In this way a visual identification means may be attached to the surface such that it can be captured as part of an image and thereafter identified.</p>

<p>* ,* Suitable identification means include, for example, a two-dimensional identification label that may be affixed using an adhesive. Similarly, the label 0S*s.</p>

<p>could take the form of a bar code device as is well known to those skilled in the : .. 15 art of identification systems. **.</p>

<p>I</p>

<p>Preferably, an identification means attachment region is provided on at least .. : two sides of the crate and in Fig. I these are provided, for example, by regions *..: 117 and 118. In certain applications however it may be desirable to have such regions on the upper rim portion of all four walls of a substantially rectangular shaped crate. In the example shown there are preferably two such regions, one on each of two oppositely facing walls. Suitably container 101 is substantially rectangular in shape having a rectangularly shaped aperture of at least 30cm in length by 20cm in width. However, in the UK at least, it is common to have containers (as for example used in the food industry) having an access aperture size of approximately 60cm in length by 40cm in width.</p>

<p>An upper rim portion of the type disclosed in Fig. I may find application in various other types of containers (besides stacking/nesting type bail arm containers). However, in the preferred embodiment the container is not collapsable and the container is, as will be apparent from the drawings, of the type that is reusable.</p>

<p>P1567.spec The outwardly facing surface of region 118 is configured such that it is either flush with the outer edge of the rim portion or slightly recessed with respect to the rim face. The ideal recess size for purposes of using a visual identification system to capture the visual identification means attached to the crate is 2mm.</p>

<p>The maximum recess depth should not be more than approximately 3mm.</p>

<p>Fig. 2 schematically illustrates a side elevation view of the storage and transportation container of Fig. 1 and illustrates that wall 105 is substantially rectangular in shape.</p>

<p>* ** Fig. 3 schematically illustrates an end elevation view for the storage and ::::: transportation container of Figs. 1 and 2 and again more clearly illustrates that wall 104 is substantially rectangular in shape. Various other label attachment : *. is devices may also be provided on container 101 such as that indicated at 301 for :. holding various types of information/documentation.</p>

<p>*:: : Fig. 4 schematically illustrates in perspective plan view the storage and transportation container of Figs. 1 to 3 when looking down into access aperture 110.</p>

<p>Fig. 5 schematically illustrates a plan view of the underside of base 107 of a storage and transportation container of the type configured in accordance with the present invention as generally illustrated in Figs 1 to 4. Fig. 5 illustrates that the base also comprises ventilation holes and it also generally illustrates that the walls are not exactly vertical, but extend in a direction away from the base as they proceed towards access aperture 110. Thus the outer rim is indicated at 111 and the edge of the base 107 is indicated at 501. The perimeter edge of the base is therefore seen to be within the perimeter of the outer rim in this view.</p>

<p>Fig. 6 schematically illustrates a typical warehouse environment 601 of a food processor/distributors premises in which there is stored a plurality of P1567 spec containers of the type configured in accordance with the present invention. Two stacks of containers are shown as generally indicated at 602 and 603. The containers comprising stacks 601 and 602, as used in the food industry, contain prepared food for dispatch to various customers. Each container, such as that indicated at 604, comprises a plurality of two-dimensional visual identification means located on the upper rim. For example, visual identification means are provided at 605 and 606 such that a visual identifiation means is thereby provided on a pair of adjoining walls of a given container. The containers may be ready for dispatch or alternatively they could have just arrived, but for whatever reason they need to be monitored so as to avoid loss of crates since typically there would be a lot more crates in the warehouse from various other entities * q involved in the retail chain. According to the present invention the crates as configured with an upper rim portion as described in relation to Fig. 1-5 are provided so that a visual identification system may be used to identify and track plurality of the storage and transportation container. By a visual identification *. system it is meant herein an image recognition system. In this regard an image recognition system is suitably employed in the warehouse as indicated at 607.</p>

<p>Image recognition system 607 comprises an image capture device 608 that may suitably be in the form of video-based camera or a sensor utilising an infrared beam. Coupled to image capture device 608 there is provided a computer processor unit 609. Processor 609 is configured to perform image processing of a captured image of the warehouse in order to identify one or more of the visual identification means that are affixed to the crates located in the field of view of camera 608. In this way, the visual identification means' located on the crates may be used to track a particular container to which the visual identifier is attached. Images captured by imaging system 607 may be communicated via a data communications cable 610 to a suitable output means that is configured to provide container identification and/or tracking information to a user of the system. Image capture system 607 may suitably comprise one or more image capture devices of the type indicated at 608 and in which case appropriate software is then required to be provided to enable processing of the images from P1567.spec different cameras. This may or may not be implemented to provide required information in real time.</p>

<p>Fig. 6 illustrates two columns of stacked crates wherein the bail arms of the crates have been place such that they are in a position for stacking crates. In other words the bail arms extend across the access aperture a few centimetres or so in from the container wall with which they are associated. The crates may also be used with the bail arms in the outer position such that a crate may then nest with a crate above and/or below. In the nesting case an identifier located near io the base end of the wall would be obscured due to the nesting of the container inside the container immediately below. The present invention solves this * ** problem by adapting an upper rim of a nesting/stacking crate so that the visual identification means is always visible from an external reference point (external to * the crate being viewed) whether a crate is in its stacked or nested configuration. * S.</p>

<p>*. . 15 S...</p>

<p>Fig. 7 schematically illustrates the main components of the visual container identification system depicted in Fig. 7. First and second cameras 701 and 702 : are illustrated for capturing images of an industrial area where crates are .: incoming and/or outgoing. Preferably the image capture devices are digital image capture devices comprising high resolution charge-coupled devices (CCD's) or CMOS image sensors which is in contrast to radio frequency container identification systems. Visual image capture devices of the type disclosed herein may be used at any reasonable distance from the containers.</p>

<p>Examples of such distances would be, for example, 5m, lOm, 20m, 30m, 40m, or even lOOm. This is possible since the image capture devices may be fitted with appropriate wide-angle lenses and/or telephoto lenses. Similarly, auto-focus equipment and light sensors may be employed to adjust for almost any commercial environment. Image capture devices 701,702 generate image files that are sent to a reader/processor unit (RPU) 703. The RPU is configured to control one or a plurality of image capture devices 701, 702 and also runs software 704 configured to detect and decode the container visual identification means that it comes across on one or more containers. The skilled person in the P1567 spec art will understand that collectively the RPU and image capture device or devices 701, 702 represent a "reader" device for reading images of scenes that are obtained. Images acquired by image capture devices 701, 702 may be processed by RPU 703 and associated software 704 concerning detection and decoding. Images obtained may be stored in memory 704 and an operator of the system may interact with RPU 703 via input/output device 706 which may comprise a keyboard (and/or mouse) as generally indicated at 706. Furthermore, images and/or information acquired may be displayed on a suitably configured display monitor 707. Input/output device 706 and display monitor 707 may be located in an office associated with the warehouse that is some distance away from image processing system 607. Image processing system 607 thus * ** comprises one or more image capture devices 701,702, RPU 703 and detect/decode software module 704. The memory 705 may also be located in an office of a user of the system along with input/output device 706 and display 707. * *.</p>

<p>*. * 15 *** Preferably, a visual identification means as used on containers in accordance with the present invention comprises a two dimensional label : : combined with a bar code. A two dimensional label is well known to those skilled in the art and comprises a matrix of information such that the label is able to store much more information than a one-dimensional label. Furthermore, a two dimensional label offers benefits in terms of its resilience to scratching. A two dimensional label is thus generally more robust than a simple bar code device.</p>

<p>By combining a two dimensional label (with a matrix portion) and a bar code portion a greater degree of resilience is provided as regards to the integrity of the information stored on the label.</p>

<p>A suitable commercial system for implementing visual identification system 607 is commercially available under the trade name VisidotTM and this is considered to be particularly suitable for use with crates of the type of concern in the present application. Although the description has included specific examples of crates, those skilled in the art will understand that various aspects of the present invention may find application with a wide variety of crates and not just P1567.spec those limited to the stack/nest type crates employing bail arms to facilitate stacking and nesting.</p>

<p>The visual identification system of the type described in the relationto use with crates as configured in accordance with the present invention offers a number of benefits over a radio frequency based identification system. In particular a large number of crates may be imaged and identified and therefore tracked at a single time. In this way the present invention provides advantages over prior art crates and associated identification systems in that crate tracking is greatly enhanced and crate loss is thereby significantly reduced.</p>

<p>I *1** * I * ** * I * ** *1</p>

<p>S ***</p>

<p>S *** * S S S. S S. S * SS S *S</p>

<p>P1567.spec</p>

Claims (11)

  1. <p>Claims: 1. A stack-nest storage and transportation container
    comprising: a main body comprising side walls connected to a base, said main body having a plurality of air ventilation orifices and an access aperture located substantially opposite said base, said walls comprising an upper strengthened rim portion comprising an internal face facing the inside of said container and an external face; and : * stack-nesting means in the form of at least one bail arm; said container charactensed in that said rim comprises at least one portion comprising an externally facing surface region configured to affix a visual identification means for use in identifying said container, said at least one portion comprising rim strengthening means located on the S..</p>
    <p>:::. internally facing side of said portion.</p>
    <p>
  2. 2. A container as claimed in claim I wherein said strengthened rim portion comprises ribbing.</p>
    <p>
  3. 3. A container as claimed in claim 1 or 2 wherein said external face of said portion is substantially flat.</p>
    <p>
  4. 4. A container as claimed in claim 1, 2 or 3 wherein said external face of said portion is recessed relative to the outwardly facing surface of said rim.</p>
    <p>
  5. 5. A container as claimed in claim 4 wherein said recess has a depth of 3mm or less.</p>
    <p>P1 567.spec
  6. 6. A container as claimed in any preceding claim wherein said internal face of said portion comprises at least one rib.</p>
    <p>
  7. 7. A container as claimed in any preceding claim wherein said s container is configured with a said visual identification means affixed thereto.</p>
    <p>
  8. 8. A container as claimed in any preceding claim wherein said visual identification means comprises a two-dimensional identification label.</p>
    <p>*
  9. 9. A container as claimed in claim 8 wherein said two-dimensional label is used in conjunction with a bar-code device. *.* * * ****</p>
    <p>: *. 15
  10. 10. A container as claimed in any of claims 7, 8 or 9 wherein said identification means is affixed to said identification portion by use of an adhesive. S.. * . . S. *</p>
    <p>* : .
  11. 11. A container as claimed in any preceding claim wherein said container is substantially rectangular in shape by virtue of having four walls and comprises first and second bail arms located on opposite sides of said container.</p>
    <p>12. A container as claimed in claim 11 wherein said container comprises two of said visual identification portions each said portion being located on opposite walls of said container.</p>
    <p>13. A container as claimed in any preceding claim wherein said container is a moulded plastics-based container comprising air vents for ventilating food carried in the container.</p>
    <p>P1567.spec 14. A container as claimed in any preceding claim wherein said container comprises a substantially rectangularly shaped aperture of at least 30cm in length by 20 cm in width.</p>
    <p>15. A container as claimed in any preceding claim wherein said container comprises a substantially rectangularly shaped aperture of approximately 60cm in length by 40cm in width.</p>
    <p>16. A container as claimed in any preceding claim wherein said container is not collapsible.</p>
    <p>: * 17. A container as claimed in any preceding claim wherein said container is reusable. 0*** * * *.*</p>
    <p>::::. 15 18. A system for identifying and tracking a plurality of storage *. and transportation containers, said system comprising: : a plurality of containers of the type claimed in claim I each having at least one visual identification means affixed thereto; and an image recognition system comprising: at least one image capture device for capturing an image comprising said visual identification means; a computer processor coupled to said image capture device for performing image processing of said captured image in order to identify said visual identification means and thereby track said container to which said visual identifier is attached; and output means configured to provide container identification/tracking information to a user of said system.</p>
    <p>P1 567.spec 19. The tracking system as claimed in claim 18 wherein said processed data is stored in an electronic memory.</p>
    <p>20. The tracking system as claimed in claim 18 wherein said output means is configured to display said information on a screen to a user of said system.</p>
    <p>21. The tracking system as claimed in any of claims 18 to 20 wherein said image capture device comprises a camera utilising visible electromagnetic radiation.</p>
    <p>::::: 22. The tracking system as claimed in claim 21 wherein said camera is a video-based camera.</p>
    <p>*. . 15 S...</p>
    <p>23. The tracking system as claimed in any of claims 18 to 20 wherein said image capture device uses an infrared beam to capture said S..</p>
    <p>S SS</p>
    <p>visual identification means. S. *</p>
    <p>S * SS</p>
    <p>24. The tracking system as claimed in any of claims 18 to 23 wherein said visual identification means comprises a two-dimensional identification label..</p>
    <p>25. A stack-nest storage and transportation container comprising: a main body comprising side walls connected to a base, said main body having a plurality of air ventilation orifices and an access aperture located substantially opposite said base, said walls comprising an upper strengthened rim portion comprising an internal face facing the inside of said container and an external face; and P1567.spec stack-nesting means in the form of at least one bail arm; said container characterised in that said rim comprises at least one portion comprising an externally facing surface region configured to affix a visual identification means for use in identifying said container. * *. * * . *** * ** * * U **St</p>
    <p>S *5</p>
    <p>S Is. * * I S. I S. I S 5 I **</p>
    <p>P1567.spec</p>
GB0612807A 2006-06-28 2006-06-28 Stack-nest container with visual identification and management/ tracking system Withdrawn GB2439539A (en)

Priority Applications (1)

Application Number Priority Date Filing Date Title
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Applications Claiming Priority (1)

Application Number Priority Date Filing Date Title
GB0612807A GB2439539A (en) 2006-06-28 2006-06-28 Stack-nest container with visual identification and management/ tracking system

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GB2439539A true GB2439539A (en) 2008-01-02

Family

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Family Applications (1)

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Cited By (1)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
EP3549436A1 (en) * 2018-04-04 2019-10-09 Royal Bel Leerdammer B.V. Crate for the ripening of a cheese

Citations (7)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
GB1203246A (en) * 1966-09-22 1970-08-26 Mid West Metallic Prod Inc Receptacle, particularly for tiering and nesting
GB2274373A (en) * 1993-01-13 1994-07-20 Multilop Ltd System for detecting stacked objects
EP0953509A1 (en) * 1998-04-29 1999-11-03 Allibert Equipement Stackable and nestable container having two nesting heights
US20030230510A1 (en) * 2002-06-04 2003-12-18 Aiken Cynthia R. Portable storage container
JP2004091207A (en) * 2001-12-27 2004-03-25 Gifu Plast Ind Co Ltd Container for collecting separated garbage
US20040245142A1 (en) * 2001-01-15 2004-12-09 Narayan Raghunathan Multi-level stacking container
WO2005005273A1 (en) * 2003-07-15 2005-01-20 BAZHUNI MAIA, Fabíola A box for packaging a voting machine

Patent Citations (7)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
GB1203246A (en) * 1966-09-22 1970-08-26 Mid West Metallic Prod Inc Receptacle, particularly for tiering and nesting
GB2274373A (en) * 1993-01-13 1994-07-20 Multilop Ltd System for detecting stacked objects
EP0953509A1 (en) * 1998-04-29 1999-11-03 Allibert Equipement Stackable and nestable container having two nesting heights
US20040245142A1 (en) * 2001-01-15 2004-12-09 Narayan Raghunathan Multi-level stacking container
JP2004091207A (en) * 2001-12-27 2004-03-25 Gifu Plast Ind Co Ltd Container for collecting separated garbage
US20030230510A1 (en) * 2002-06-04 2003-12-18 Aiken Cynthia R. Portable storage container
WO2005005273A1 (en) * 2003-07-15 2005-01-20 BAZHUNI MAIA, Fabíola A box for packaging a voting machine

Cited By (2)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
EP3549436A1 (en) * 2018-04-04 2019-10-09 Royal Bel Leerdammer B.V. Crate for the ripening of a cheese
WO2019193114A1 (en) * 2018-04-04 2019-10-10 Royal Bel Leerdammer B.V. Crate for the ripening of a cheese

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