Robotic Palletise, Wrap, AGV Automated Forklift Tending & Deliveries

End-of-Line automation
Above: RA’s unique RAGV automated dual forklift halves the number of trips that a vehicle needs to take when tending each palletising cell. Here, the vehicle is about to place an empty pallet while picking up a full one – in one simultaneous motion!
Fork Accident

CHALLENGE : The end of the production line has traditionally been a challenge for manufacturers who find many equipment options but find few equipment suppliers that take a “holistic” approach to include the processes before and after their core production equipment. The result sees a mish-mash of high-end technology interfaced with manual handling. The lines of our client, here in food packaging, included high-speed printing, folding, gluing and packing machines which were suddenly “bottle-necked” by manual staff-handling of the boxed product.

These end-of-line processes began to accumulate a number of concerns :

  • The manual palletising and pallet wrapping tasks are highly repetitive and can be physically very demanding, with strain & injuries in occurrence and associated costs in management, labour, claims and lost production time.
  • Manually driven forklifts operating around manual-loading staff also presents very significant OH&S hazards/costs.
  • Some products are tightly packed in lidless boxes and required to be palletised this way – spills can occur easily with lengthy clean-up delays.
  • With the inherent variability of manual operations, and low personal commitment in menial tasks, staff performance in loading and wrapping varies and presentation of the product to the customer can suffer.
  • Significant numbers of manual staff were needed to keep up with the six high-speed lines. During lengthy set-up for product changes on the lines, there is little for many of the staff to do.

SOLUTION : Our client proactively sought a solution to these concerns which could also fill the gaps between their existing islands of high-speed production. They partnered with RA to develop this End-of-Line solution combining Robotic Palletising, RAGV Automated Forklift for Machine Tending & Delivery, plus fully-automatic Stretch Wrapping systems. RA’s design, integration, testing and turnkey delivery included extra-value innovations such as:

RA patented light-weight gripper
Above: RA’s patented lightweight / high-torque servo paddle gripper for handling boxes (even lidless boxes). Detail view at right shows the pneumatic mechanism ready to flip down for lifting sheets and layer caps.
  • RA’s patented, lightweight/high-torque servo paddlegripper on each palletising robot which minimises the contribution to payload – allowing smaller robots to be used in smaller cells for an overall optimised footprint -saving valuable factory space! The gripper also allows the robot to handle lidless boxes of product – a clients’ requirement – gripping from the box sides. The clever gripper design even includes retractable pneumatic arms for top-lifting & positioning of interlayer pallet slip-sheets & layer-caps.
  • RA’s “RAGV” solution (Robotic Automation’s Guided Vehicles) replaced the need for great lengths of pallet conveyors, floor-space, plus additional pallet-dispensers needed throughout the solution. Amcor retains staff & servicing access around all equipment as safety features allow shared routes with pedestrians, and lasernavigation means zero floor modification and greater flexibility to rearrange equipment layouts in the future. An additional advantage is the inherent easily-scalability of the solution allowing the client to efficiently invest in the full solution in workable stages, adding extra vehicles to the fleet as the solution is proven.
  • In a unique development of the RA team to maximise productivity and reduce the number & cost in vehicles, design of the RAGV automated forklift include a twin-set of independently articulated fork-tines which allows a vehicle to simultaneously make a delivery AND a pick-up, doubling its productivity! (halving the number of trips it needs to make (refer to photo above).
  • Consumables. The team utilised a powered, pre-stretch film carriage on the ROBOPAC Helix HS30 wrapping machine. This technology delivers up to 350% filmstretch and taken with the machine’s accurate & consistent wrapping motion, the system improves presentation while halving the amount of film previously used to wrap each pallet manually – delivering an incredible saving on consumable costs!
Yaskawa Motoman MPL80 robotic arm. A six-strong team of these specialised 5-axis palletising robots used. Each with 80kg payload capacity.

Benefits include :

  • Increased productivity by 235%!
  • Increase of up to 350% more efficient use of stretch film consumables
  • Increased staff safety
  • Increased product consistency & presentation
  • Optimised floor-space & layout flexibility
  • Eliminated manual forklift damage to finished product & site infrastructure
  • Redeployment of manual handling staff
  • Reduction in staff injuries & associated costs
  • Reduced production time lost.
  • Increased product consistency
  • Reduced waste