Case Study: Automotive Parts Distribution Center

Compass Engineering was asked to completely renew an existing conveyor control system in an auto parts retailer’s distribution facility to address problems negatively impacting production costs and efficiency in fulfillment.


An auto parts retailer asked Compass Engineering to provide a comprehensive modernization and upgrade of its distribution center’s existing conveyor control system. Based on Compass Engineering’s expertise in software and control solutions, the company asked specifically for the solution to address some potentially serious problems with the system operation. These deficiencies included:

  • Many computer critical components were obsolete and difficult (or impossible) to purchase
  • Unsupported operating system software and hardware components increased the risk of extended down time
  • Little communication to the plant network via standard reporting tools such as Access or Excel


To address the challenges, Compass Engineering developed a plan to remove the obsolete PC hardware and communications system from the controls system. Doing so enabled Compass Engineering to improve the operation of the sortation system by implementing its proprietary controls design and software package.


Compass Engineering first replaced the existing control system with a new supervisory system for providing sort destinations, sorter statistics, diagnostics, and interfaces to the operation’s warehouse management system (WMS). Then, to keep all systems up-to-date, a standard Microsoft Server was deployed to improve system maintainability. Finally, the DH+ interface from the programmable logic controllers (PLCs) was replaced with an Ethernet connection to establish efficient communications across networks.

As the old systems aged, the above issues contributed to a reduction in reliability and an increase in maintenance costs. The proposed control system solutions offered by Compass Engineering eliminated the obsolete PC hardware and communications and improved the overall functionality of the system. Highlights of the solution included:

  • New PC server hardware
  • Advantages of using Microsoft Server
  • Added Compass Order Routing System (CORS) client to allow for greater visibility to conveyor systems operation
  • Simplified design to allow customer self-sufficiency
  • Better connectivity to the plant network
  • Additional production report capability (export to Excel, etc.) with plant network connection
  • Flexible design to allow future enhancements and expansion
  • Remote support available through VPN for PLC and PC monitoring and diagnostics
  • Training in use of RSLogix 500 as well as SLC PLC application training
  • Continued system support from Compass


Upon project completion, the retailer’s automotive parts distribution center had a modernized and sophisticated control system solution that could be far more easily maintained and upgraded. This enhanced technology established a more reliable communication architecture and aided in increasing production and decrease downtime.

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