Palletizing options

The first step in choosing your palletizing equipment is analyzing the full range of products and packaging types running on your line.

12/14/2011


Photo courtesy: IntelligratedThe first step in choosing your palletizing equipment is analyzing the full range of products and packaging types running on your line. Take some time to determine how each item should be handled. For example, can the packaging support its own weight during transfer? Or, will it need to be supported from underneath? How stable is the pallet load?

Here are some important factors to consider:

  • Size, shape, and weight of product
  • Stability and construction of load
  • Secondary packaging
  • Pattern-forming capabilities.

Robotic arm palletizers are a legitimate solution for high-SKU, lower-speed operations as well as applications where the product shape demands the precision of a robotic arm, such as bags and pails. Robots pick and place the product, while conventional palletizers convey the product into position. For items such as pails and bags, the ability of a robotic arm to precisely place the product is very important. Pails must “nest” together on the lid of the pail below when stacked on a pallet, and bags must be gently placed straight and square without disturbing contents. Additionally, robots have the ability to work in confined spaces and dusty environments, adding to their appeal for the bag palletizing applications.

Because they never have to pick up the product, conventional palletizers are more tolerant of packaging changes. Cases, trays, film bundles, poly sacks, etc., can all be handled on the same conventional palletizer. Additionally, conventional palletizers can also be more flexible than robots in regards to product packaging and stacking patterns, handling each case individually so that pattern changes have a relatively small impact on rate.

Evaluate the rates required on your packaging line

The throughput capabilities of your material handling system can vary greatly depending on which tool you use and the product you are palletizing. A good starting point is to determine an acceptable range of line speeds (cases per minute), which can help you better evaluate your equipment options.

Robots are intermittent motion machines, and it would take many of them working together to achieve these speeds. Conventional automatic palletizers are capable of very high speeds, upwards of 200 cases per minute; and inline, continuous-motion palletizers are capable of handling 20 layers per minute. For high-speed manufacturing operations, there is simply no other alternative that can get the job done.

So, robots can handle difficult-to-handle loads, but conventional palletizers can handle higher speeds. Conventional machines can make pattern forming a breeze, but robots can create more retail-friendly loads. What if you need both? The good news is that you might not have to choose. New “hybrid” machines that integrate robotic arms for pattern forming with a conventional palletizer for layer forming bring together “the best of both worlds.” This concept seems to combine the best of both technologies for higher-rate applications. Robots are used to precisely turn and position the cases, while conventional technology is used to square and deposit the layers.

The chart below is a quick reference highlighting the ideal applications for robotic vs. conventional palletizing technologies:

Evaluate staff and maintenance

Now that you have evaluated your product mix and your throughput requirements, you must also consider your staffing and maintenance capacity. Robotic palletizers and conventional machines are quite different in terms of their maintenance needs and staff requirements.

Some considerations for your staff and maintenance include:

  • The learning curve for robotic applications vs. conventional applications
  • The operation platform—PC, PLC, etc.
  • Inventory of parts
  • Floor space considerations.

The conventional palletizer is the clear choice for all of the above considerations. For many on your staff, the conventional palletizer is just another piece of machinery operating on the same control platform as hundreds of other pieces of equipment in the facility.

Robotics, on the other hand, have been intimidating creatures on the facility floor. Some maintenance crews may hesitate when asked to perform routine or emergency maintenance on a robotic arm, especially in regards to their control platform.

However, with the recent innovation of the PLC-controlled robotic arm, this automaton becomes less of a "black box" or foreign concept and is suddenly a more familiar piece of machinery. This PLC-based control system enables your staff to deploy new robotic palletizing solutions while maintaining your standard control platform, streamlining complex control communication, reducing critical response time, and minimizing changeover delays.

Clark is director of international operations for Intelligrated.



No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Leaders Under 40 program features outstanding young people who are making a difference in manufacturing. View the 2013 Leaders here.
The new control room: It's got all the bells and whistles - and alarms, too; Remote maintenance; Specifying VFDs
2014 forecast issue: To serve and to manufacture - Veterans will bring skill and discipline to the plant floor if we can find a way to get them there.
2013 Top Plant: Lincoln Electric Company, Cleveland, Ohio
Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Plant Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.

Bring focus to PLC programming: 5 things to avoid in putting your system together; Managing the DCS upgrade; PLM upgrade: a step-by-step approach
Balancing the bagging triangle; PID tuning improves process efficiency; Standardizing control room HMIs
Commissioning electrical systems in mission critical facilities; Anticipating the Smart Grid; Mitigating arc flash hazards in medium-voltage switchgear; Comparing generator sizing software

Annual Salary Survey

Participate in the 2013 Salary Survey

In a year when manufacturing continued to lead the economic rebound, it makes sense that plant manager bonuses rebounded. Plant Engineering’s annual Salary Survey shows both wages and bonuses rose in 2012 after a retreat the year before.

Average salary across all job titles for plant floor management rose 3.5% to $95,446, and bonus compensation jumped to $15,162, a 4.2% increase from the 2010 level and double the 2011 total, which showed a sharp drop in bonus.

2012 Salary Survey Analysis

2012 Salary Survey Results

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.