UR20 Frees Up Employees from Unergonomic Palletizing Tasks at Ornua

In Short

Irish dairy cooperative Ornua has deployed the UR20 cobot in palletizing applications, handling a variety of products weighing up to 12 kg (26.5 lbs). The increased payload and extended reach of the new, larger UR20 cobot has enabled the company to automate a task that posed a real risk of repetitive strain injuries to employees. Ornua chose a UR20-powered palletizing solution from Robotiq, the PE20, due to its ease of use and ability to operate seamlessly alongside workers while handling diverse dairy products.

The Manual Palletizing Challenge

One of Ornua's most labor-intensive operations was end-of-line palletizing. This essential but physically demanding task involved handling a variety of dairy products, from six to 12 kg (13.2 to 26.5 lbs) packages and hefty 10 kg (22 lbs) blocks of cheese.

Manually loading and unloading these products posed a real risk of repetitive strain injuries to their dedicated employees. The job required constant bending, reaching, and lifting – a grueling and unergonomic process that could result in health issues over time. It became evident that automation could not only alleviate the strain on their workforce but also allow their employees’ transition to more value-added roles.


Industry Food and beverage
Country England
Number of Employees 3000
Cobot used UR20
Components Used PE20 Palletizing Solution from Robotiq
Components Used Material Handling Copilot from Robotiq
Components Used FXCB vacuum gripper set from Schmalz

We looked at palletizing as the first area to explore automation due to the number of human resources needed. If we can automate that task, then those resources can be used elsewhere. There's the health and safety aspect as well

Jack Cotton, Continuous Improvement Lead at Ornua
Watch how UR20 Frees Up Employees from Ergonomic Palletizing Tasks at Ornua

Finding the Right Solution

Ornua set out to find a solution that could efficiently handle the challenge of palletizing their diverse dairy products. Their search initially led them to several suppliers offering robotic systems, but these systems would have completely isolated the human element from the process, which wasn't suitable for their needs. Given the nature of dairy products and the need for flexibility in their operations, they required a solution that allowed for human interaction and oversight.

This is when Ornua got in touch with RARUK and Robotiq and were introduced to Universal Robots’ collaborative robots, which are designed to work seamlessly alongside workers. Ornua saw promise in Universal Robots' UR20 robot, a powerful cobot with 20 kilograms (44.1 lbs) payload capability and reach of 1750 mm (68.9 in), making it ideal for their palletizing needs.

In Jack Cotton’s words, “When I found out about the UR20, we were quite excited due to its capability of lifting up to 20 kg”.

How They Did It

How They Did It

The solution that Robotiq provided for Ornua – PE20 – was built entirely around the UR20 cobot. It is performing a simple pick and place task, picking the dairy products or the boxed dairy products from the conveyor and putting them onto a pallet in the correct pattern.

Robotiq’s dedicated software for palletizing applications – Material Handling Copilot – helps make the setup quick and straightforward. Unlike traditional robots that require extensive programming, Robotiq offers a user-friendly interface.

Étienne Samson, Robotics Applications Director at Robotiq, explains “Having a solution like we have, it means having a visual set up, so you don't need to program lines of code. You will just open the palletizing interface, enter your box dimension and weight and the pattern, and then you just press start, and the robot will do everything automatically”.

The Results and Future Prospects

The Results and Future Prospects

The response from Ornua's employees and management was very positive. The UR20 proved to be a user-friendly, adaptable, and efficient solution. In fact, when speaking to customers’ feedback on UR cobots, Andrew Mason, Automation Sales Manager at RARUK, said “the feedback of customers using Universal Robots is that they're user friendly. We have many customers who are repeat customers; They buy multiples”.

Moments after the installation, a small applause broke out when the UR20 completed its first pallet. It was a fitting celebration for a cooperative committed to innovation, efficiency, and the well-being of its workforce. With the UR20 by their side, Ornua is well-prepared to continue leading the way in the Irish dairy industry, one pallet at a time.

With the successful deployment of the UR20, Ornua now looks ahead to a future where automation plays an even more significant role in their operations. As Jack Cotton explains, “I'm hoping after the installation of this cobot that the business will be a lot more open to adding more automation”.

The possibilities are exciting, with the potential for automation extending to other areas within the dairy industry.

The need for automation in industry is clear, and it's only going to grow. The future of automation is bright.

Étienne Samson, Robotics Applications Director at Robotiq

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