Innovation during COVID-19: Digi-Key’s ultraviolet sanitisation tunnel

May 22, 2020 //By Ian Wallace
Every employee at Digi-Key is familiar with the phrase “a thousand little things done right every day.” This is a guiding principle in our company – from the warehouse to our offices throughout Europe and around the world. While this is an unprecedented time in history, the phrase still rings true for us.

Now, more than ever, we’re committed to doing a thousand things right – and developing innovations and protocols designed to protect those who matter most - our employees, our customers and our community. One of those innovations is an ultraviolet sanitisation tunnel invention. As COVID-19 uneasiness moved to the forefront of everyone’s minds, we identified an opportunity to sanitise the 8,000 plus totes that travel through our intelligent conveyor system each day.

To ensure warehouse employees were kept as safe as possible, Digi-Key quickly assembled a six-person team dedicated to solving this uniquely COVID era problem. At first, the team looked into machines that spray sanitising chemicals. These are typically found in schools, medical settings, etc. With schools being closed, the team was able to borrow the machine from a local school.

The team quickly discovered they would need more machines for all of the totes to be properly sanitised, but unfortunately, these machines were all on backorder. That didn’t hinder them from quickly developing a brand-new design – one that effectively sanitised the totes, while also having the portability needed for the warehouse environment.

In addition to spraying a sanitising chemical, the team wanted to incorporate the added security of Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) – a technique used by many businesses to kill and deactivate microorganisms by destroying nucleic acids and disrupting their DNA. The team began discussing the UV tunnel concept on 26 March. After several Digi-Key employees spent the weekend double-checking the math and design concept, they were ordering parts by the following Monday.

The result was a 4.5-metre ultraviolet sanitisation tunnel built into the curve of the conveyor belt in record time. By using UV light, the invention sanitises the 8,000 plus totes that travel throughout our warehouse every day – drastically reducing potential virus contact for our employees.

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