„We considered many solutions, but finally we decided to test robots by Universal Robots,” says Dawid Mroczek, Automation Specialist at Unilever, detailing how a UR distributor contacted Unilever and showed his team the capabilities of collaborative robots while demonstrating the way they work and how to program them.
The UR10 cobot, with a reach of 1300 mm and payload of 10 kg, was comprehensively tested in the Unilever plant in Katowice. While performing the task of tea packaging, a vacuum gripper was used. The tests went very fine, to such extent that the company decided to deploy UR10 cobots. Implementation of the first cobot was done by a Biuro Inżynierskie IEC company and took around 3 weeks. The basic training for the automation team of Unilever related to programming of robots was given by distributor of UR cobots, Encon-Koester (rebranded to ProCobot).
Unilever fully automated two production lines in Katowice where six UR10 robots now handle tasks related to packing of the tea. Before implementing automation, all these tasks had been performed by a human. Operators spent around 70% of the time packaging and 30% palletizing. With the palletizing now entirely automated by the cobots, the operators have been freed up from 30% of the tasks. Cobots perform the most tiresome works and are also very efficient, palletizing around 1100 boxes during an eight hour shift. In the process of palletizing, each box is placed on the pallet by the UR10 according to a predefined pattern.
„Implementation of the first UR cobot took about 3 weeks,” recalls Dawid Mroczek. “Now it can be deployed in just a few hours. The programmer’s task is to define the boxes’ picking points and boxes’ sizes.”
At the Unilever factory, the robots’ programming depends on the shape and size of cardboard packaging. However, in all cases this process is similar. After reaching the specified number of boxes on the pallet, the UR10 starts the next layer. The pallet usually contains six to ten layers and has ten to twenty one boxes in each layer. When the packaging process on one layer is completed, the cobot calculates the new height and marks the starting point for the next one. When the operator notices that the UR10 begins to stack cartons on the next pallet, he departs with the already loaded pallet. Completing the pallet takes cobot about 20 to 30 minutes.