Robotic Packaging and Palletizing Blog

When More Is Better: Flexible Palletizing Solution for Large Food Manufacturer

A large manufacturer of sauces and food toppings needed to automate palletization for 6 production lines in their Canadian facility. A centralized palletizing system seemed like the best solution because they could use one robot on multiple lines; however, the lines were not near enough to each other for this to be practical.

2 in 2 out Palletizing Cell

2-in-2-out Palletizer

To keep the footprint relatively small, Flexicell suggested an alternative method, which would also reduce the cost by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Rather than install one palletizer for all 6 of the manufacturer’s lines, Flexicell implemented multiple smaller systems. These systems would also be simpler and easier to use. Another benefit of this method would become apparent in the future.

System Requirements:

  • Palletize 6 separate production lines
  • Handle cases of varying heights
  • Max. rate 8 cases per minute for each line
  • Comply with Ontario Hydro Electrical Specification
  • Small system footprint
  • Ability to release partial pallets

Multiple Robotic Palletizers as a Solution

One 2-in-2-out was implemented for two of the production lines located close together. The other 4 lines had 1-in-1-out robotic cells installed. Installation of each of these simple systems caused little respective downtime for the facility, because while one system was being installed the other lines were still performing normally. Downtime can be very costly for food manufacturers, so this was an important feature of the solution. This method also allowed the facility to utilize their existing wrapping stations.

1 in 1 out Palletizing Cell

One of the 1-in-1-out Palletizers

Each system is of a standard design, which makes maintenance easier and ensures full performance. Hytrol EZ Logic conveyors bring the cases to the robotic cells; the cases are collated so they can be picked two at a time. Each of the 1-in-1-out palletizing cells uses a FANUC M-420iA robot, and the 2-in-2-out uses a FANUC M-410iC/160 for its greater reach when palletizing both lines simultaneously. Each robot’s innovative end of arm tool (EOAT) is capable of easy changeovers: their independent vacuum zones can adjust to size changes with a simple command from the operator via the human-machine interface (HMI). New case sizes and pallet patterns can be added to the system, resulting in greater flexibility than legacy palletizers can provide. Slip sheets are placed between layers by the robot, which takes them from a slip sheet magazine within the cell.

Pallet Dispenser

Pallet Dispenser

In each cell, pallets are stored in a pallet magazine with attached conveyor, which is capable of holding up to 20 pallets at once. When the pallet is fully loaded, a heavy duty drag-chain conveyor transports it to a fork-lift truck (FLT) pick-up position. As the pallet load is being driven out of the cell, the robot will pick a pallet from the top of the stack by means of mechanical fingers on the EOAT and place it in the loading position.

2-in-2-out Palletizer Design

2-in-2-out Design

1-in-1-out Palletizer Design

1-in-1-out Design

Flexibility Now and In the Future

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Another benefit this food manufacturer gained with multiple robotic palletizing systems was the ability to re-deploy the simpler systems. This was an advantage for this manufacturer when their needs changed in the future.

Two years after the palletizing systems were installed, the sauce manufacturer was adding a new production line to their facility. They opted to install a robotic palletizers on this lines as well as another line that was being palletized by hand. Their repeat business is a testament to Flexicell’s ability to design and build a full-featured solution with a small footprint and at a lower costs.

Palletizing cases

Palletizing cases with FANUC robots

A 2-in-2-out palletizing system was added to handle both the new line and an existing line that already had a 1-in-1-out. The 1-in-1-out system was re-installed on another production line still using manual labor. This cost less in comparison to buying two new palletizing cells, and it also saved floor space. The new 2-in-2-out is similar to the one already in place, so staff is familiar with its operation and did not need further training.

Due to Flexicell’s expertise and dedication to offering the best value, the sauce manufacturer has become one of many repeat customers.

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