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IDC's Low Cost Wireless Bar Code Solution for Conveyor Control Cuts Maintenance Costs & Boosts Operating Flexibilty

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IDC’s low power ZigBee wireless technology is providing a simple, low cost solution for reducing maintenance costs and improving operating flexibility in plants with large conveyor control schemes, where a central PLC controls a line of several conveyors in sequence. With these multiple systems it is often a problem to run a single conveyor drive motor independently for maintenance purposes, such as tensioning the conveyor belt. However, with IDC’s new ZB111 bar code reader, with integrated keypad and screen, independent running of individual conveyors can be achieved simply and quickly with high levels of safety compliance.

IDC’s ZigBee system is a low cost wireless network that has minimal power requirements. It is easy to install and extend using a Gateway and routers. The wireless gateway connects to PLCs using standard Modbus TCP/IP protocol, and to PCs via a standard OPC connection.

The mechanics of IDC’s system involve the fitting of a simple unique barcode to each conveyor drive motor. The ZB111 is then used to scan the barcodes and show the drive details on its integrated LCD display. The Maintenance Engineer confirms details using keypad and selects maintenance mode. This operation can be integrated with normal/maintenance key-switch arrangements on electrical control cabinets for added safety. When the maintenance mode is confirmed, the engineer is able to stop and start the conveyor drive independently to perform maintenance.

Importantly, the ZB111- based system is easily configured for variable speed drives and increased safety applications, using a wireless heartbeat update that stops the drive automatically in case of wireless network failure. The device can also be integrated with wireless beacons and push buttons for a wider range of operations.

As part of these wider operations, the ZB111 can be used to improve operations in the manufacturing/materials handling facilities, by enabling system alarms to be received by specific operators during normal day- to- day operations.

For example, maintenance operatives can receive alarms generated by the control system for motor overload or low air pressure and take immediate action. Similarly a supervisor can receive an alarm or warning condition for potential delays, such as conveyor jams and chute full conditions.

About the ZB111

Designed for wireless mesh operation with licence-free IEEE 802.15.4/ZigBee wireless sensor networks, the ZB111 wireless bar code reader reads all commonly used barcodes and can be used for a variety of industrial, logistics and maintenance applications. The unit offers the operational benefit of being highly ruggedised, and the cost saving advantages of not requiring cabling, power supplies, or installation. It has low power requirements and is rechargeable from a standard 5vDC/ mains charger.

Easy to use, the ZB111 is provided with a keypad featuring ten keys – which can be individually customised if required – and a graphical display, enabling barcode and interactive messages, commands and prompts to be sent to central Warehouse Management and Manufacturing Execution server- based systems.


Intelligent Distributed Controls (IDC Ltd) is based in Derby. The company has a highly skilled team of dedicated hardware and software design, development and application engineers. These personnel have specialist application knowledge of control systems applied to logistics, warehouse distribution and manufacturing. This applications experience has IDC enabled to develop key skills in real time control, RFID and wireless technology, and to develop niche products for these industries and related OEMs. IDC’s customer base includes Toys R Us, Boots, GE Aviation, Toyota and BAE Systems.


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