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For automation and robot palletizer first timers, it can be hard to know where to start.
So, you’ve taken the decision to implement automated palletizing. You’ve created the business case, got buy-in from your teams, carried out a thorough risk assessment and approved funding. The next step is actually starting to put your new processes and workflows in place and training your existing staff. For automation and robot palletizer first timers, it can be hard to know where to start. Our expert team is always here to help, so here is our guide to getting started with palletizing automation.
For business owners in the manufacturing industry, there are several challenges that impact the ability to scale up operations, increase throughput and put growth on an upward trajectory. Supply chain issues, rising prices, labor shortages and changing customer expectations are all combining to create a scenario that make finding solutions that can increase productivity while reducing cost a strategic necessity for businesses.
Automated palletization using collaborative robots (cobots) offers a way to increase the speed and accuracy of your operations while also controlling costs. Manual palletizing is tough for human workers, requiring them to bend, lift heavy objects and twist for hours on end. Doing so for too long massively increases the risk of injury, health and safety incidents and creates even more labor-related headaches for production managers.
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To get the most from your robot palletizers, it is essential that you take the time to make sure your solution is optimized for your working environment, including a safety risk assessment before anything is switched on.
Here is the Universal Robots guide to getting your first cobot-based automated palletizer up and running.
Cobots can contribute to a safer working environment by automating some of your manual tasks, with a big part of their benefits to businesses coming from their versatility. They can be used for a wide range of tasks and palletizing operations. But no two workspaces are ever identical, so you need to make sure your cobots are going to fit in.
When it comes to choosing your cobot model, payload is a key consideration. You need to consider not only the weight of the cases that will be moved and the gripper being used, but also the throughput of the conveyor and whether your cobot will be handling multiple items at a time. The cobot model you choose will impact this. The UR10e for example, can handle a maximum weight of 12.5kg.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
Choosing the right stacking pattern is key to your productivity. Luckily, there are a range of software solutions and specialized application kits that can allow workers to set, edit and alter stacking patterns without the need for any coding experience. This includes being able to define different layers in your pallet.
Palletizing represents a certain degree of risk – even when it is automated. With heavy products and boxes moving at head height and at potentially high speeds, you may need to implement some additional features such as guarding. Our e-Series family, however, is specially designed to work in close proximity to human workers and has 17 customizable built-in features. For example, the force limiting function will automatically stop the cobot if an employee steps into its working area.
Often, one of the principal factors that curtails limit a company’s ability to scale up production is limited floorspace. Using cobots to automate palletization helps you maximize this precious resource. In fact, this ability to quickly help companies increase their output means they can typically achieve ROI in months rather than years.
Most companies operate a dual-pallet setup, meaning that the smallest available footprint is just a bit bigger than the size of two pallets. If your safety assessment makes it clear you do not need any additional guarding, your cobot will allow you to make the most efficient use of your floorspace.
The way you set up your automated palletizer will obviously have an impact on your space requirements too. A fixed pedestal setup is economical and suited to low-volume, low-output palletizing applications, but it does place limitations on the size of the pallet that can be built.
Most of the time, you will need to complement your cobot arm with additional pieces of kit to make sure it is best suited to the palletizing task you want to automate.
End-of-arm tooling is an important decision you need to consider carefully. Of course, the Universal Robots team is on hand to help you make the right choice for your business. If your facility has compressed air, a pneumatic gripper could be an option. If you are handling fragile or delicate items, electric grippers would be a way to go, as many of them include "detect grip" functionality, which indicates whether the item has been successfully picked. Some grippers will also require an additional external power source.
A range of specialized palletizing software packages, application kits and end effectors are available through our UR+ ecosystem. For example, Vention’s Cobot Palletizer platform allows users to design, execute and monitor an entire palletizing system from an internet-connected device.
Download our ebook and read how cobots can help solve many of your high-stakes operating issues.
Cobots are an effective solution for companies of all shapes and sizes. Increasingly, automation is no longer something nice to have, but an integral part of remaining competitive. While cobots take out a lot of the complexity associated with traditional industrial robots, they still require some preparation and optimization.
We are always on hand to help you get the most value from your investment, so just get in touch to talk about anything related to automated palletization.
We believe that collaborative robotic technology can be used to benefit all aspects of task-based businesses – no matter what their size.
We believe that the latest collaborative robot technology should be available to all businesses. The nominal investment cost is quickly recovered as our robotic arms have an average payback period of just six months.