The industrial applications of cobot palletizers
- Why do companies need to think about automating their palletizing? Customer preferences, regulatory requirements and shortening product lifecycles all mean that companies need their palletizing operations to be as efficient, productive, and safe as possible. Automating the process with a cobot can help them do this.
- What palletizing tasks can cobots help with? Cobots can perform most of the tasks associated with palletizing and can easily be customized to meet the needs of individual companies. With the right payload, end effector and vision solutions, cobots can handle objects as delicate as glass or accurately pick items from a moving conveyer belt.
The process of palletizing, or stacking, packing, and securing large quantities of items ready for shipping, is one of the best examples of the kind of repetitive, dangerous and dull manual tasks that cobot automation can get rid of. For human workers, doing this work for long stretches of time while maintaining the right levels of safety, productivity, and accuracy is physically and mentally demanding. It is also simply unnecessary.
Cobot palletizers are making industrial packaging and palletizing operations simpler, faster, and more efficient. As well as doing the heavy lifting, they can also perform a range of tasks that require accuracy, speed, and relatively complex movements too. We find that while a lot of companies know that automation can help them be more competitive, there is still a lack of awareness about the many ways a cobot can add value to their operations.
So, let’s take a quick look at the different industrial applications of cobot palletizers.
The importance of palletizing
Automation isn’t just about making your company more profitable. It is also increasingly necessary to ensure you can adapt to meet changing customer preferences and regulatory requirements. Keeping up with the rapid pace of change across the industrial sector is a strategic priority for every company, and cobots are a cost-effective and flexible tool to help you do it.
Let’s look at two examples. Firstly, the cost of product packaging is rising, due primarily to continued disruption from socioeconomic changes as well as the inflationary pressure impacting all industries. Other factors like higher freight rates, port congestion and a shortage of containers and labor all mean that manufacturers are feeling a squeeze when it comes to packing and shipping their products.
Secondly, in our experience, product life cycles are shortening. We see now that lots of companies generate most of their revenue from new products and it seems that long-term products that sit in a portfolio relatively unchanged for years are increasingly rare. Consumers and clients want innovation and new features, meaning that production speed, agility and productivity have never been more important.
Cobot palletizers are an effective way of managing these risks and rising costs. Just as suited to small volume productions environment and high quantity, repetitive tasks, a cobot can help you adapt to a changing commercial landscape, overcome labor shortages, and reduce your operational costs.
One tool with many applications
Cobots are a flexible and versatile automation solution. Compared to traditional industrial robots, they are quicker to install, simpler to operate, and suited for automating a wide range of processes commonly found in industrial and manufacturing environments.
Here are a few examples:
Case erecting and packing
Singapore-based Clearpack is a leading provider of packaging automation solutions in Southeast Asia, China, India, Middle East and Africa. It has created a compact palletizing solution that uses a UR10 cobot along with the LIFT KIT by Ewellix. The solution has helped multiple Clearpack customers optimize their warehouse space and remove the need for human workers to spend hours lifting heavy payloads.
It’s a case erecting and packing solution that works in a huge variety of industrial and manufacturing environments. It doesn’t take up much space, can be moved quickly around the production area using castor wheels, and the open platform means customers can modify it themselves after minimal training.
Get more information here.
Picking items from a moving conveyor belt
Norwegian meat producer Nortura didn’t have the space for a traditional industrial robot and the safety cages required to operate it safely. Using a UR10, an IFM 02D222 vision camera and a vacuum gripper, the company is able to achieve the same results with about 20% of the space requirements.
The system automatically detects when a pallet has been placed in front of it and then begins picking boxes off a moving conveyor belt and palletizing on its own. It is also able to vary the packing pattern for different products. One robot can process around 1,700 boxes, or 20 pallets, a day.
Read more about our work with Nortura here.
Applying labels with accuracy
Prysm industries has been supplying containers to Australia’s largest retailers for over 40 years. It uses a cobot to accurately apply adhesive labels to its products, a task which had previously been performed by its skilled operators. The cobot not only provides more accuracy – but is also saving the company around $500 a day and employees are given training so that they can operate machines and engage in more valuable activities.
Find out more here.
Integrating into existing networks
The ability to integrate cobots effectively into existing workflows and networks is a key benefit for food company Orkla Foods. One of the company’s products is vanilla cream that is packed in bags that are then stored in cartons. This requires a cobot that combines a light touch with the ability to handle a wide variety of payloads as too much pressure could puncture the bag.
The company’s UR10 works independently, packing bags into cartons. But it forms part of an automation network alongside a dedicated carton erector, carton sealer, and filling machine. Importantly, a full preliminary risk assessment at the facility showed that this network does not require constant supervision and the cobot’s safety features mean it doesn’t require any safety guarding.
You can read more here.
Processing delicate items
For Italian food company Cascina Italia, the UR5 cobot works alongside employees on the production line. It prepares boxes, each containing 144 cartons of 10 eggs each. Each day the cobot handles over a million eggs.
You can read more here.
Contributing to safer working environments
Palletizing is a demanding, repetitive, and high-volume job, which makes it perfect for cobots. Companies all over the world are already benefiting from freeing their employees from these tasks and redeploying them elsewhere. With some training and integration support, any employee can become an expert at deploying and supervising multiple machines at once. And when significant cost savings and productivity gains become a distinct possibility, your company’s commercial performance could benefit too.