What Does The Manufacturing PMI Mean For You?

Have you heard of the Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) before? Do you know what it means for you?

The Manufacturing PMI is a diffusion index that includes responses to questionnaires that have been collected from approximately 650 manufacturing firms throughout the UK, and results are published monthly. A PMI reading above fifty suggests that the manufacturing sector is expanding whereas a reading below fifty suggest that the manufacturing sector is in contraction. The purpose of the Manufacturing PMI is to provide information regarding the current and future business conditions to decision makers, analysis and investors.

Since January, the PMI index has been on the rise, and the results for May showed new orders had risen at the quickest pace in about three decades.  According to Trading Economics, the results of the May survey also showed that business sentiment has risen to its highest level on record amid improved optimism. Below is a snapshot from the Trading Economics PMI graph for the last 25 years which shows that May was the highest recorded PMI figure in the last 25 years!

So what does this mean for the manufacturing sector?  The manufacturing PMI is a good indicator of the buoyancy of the UK manufacturing sector.

A high manufacturing PMI is a prediction that there will be a requirement for more manufacturing to be completed in the UK. As a result this is likely to lead to an improved output for many manufacturing companies.

In a buoyant manufacturing market, the demand for production staff usually rises, and this is then reflected in the fact that it becomes difficult to find additional production staff to employ to help you meet your production requirements.  When there is a shortage of production labour, this also often leads to a rise in wage requirements as there are not enough candidates to fill the job vacancies and they can then demand a higher wage. Recently we have found that several of our customers have been struggling to recruit production staff and have turned to automating their processes to remove the requirement for additional staff.

One of the key production activities that can be automated to remove manual labour requirements is palletising of products. One palletiser can be used to palletise off multiple lines and often removes the need for several production workers, allowing you to redeploy your current staff elsewhere in your production process.

To find out more about the GA15 palletiser series and how it could be of benefit to your business, contact us on 01223 499488 or helpline@granta-automation.co.uk.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Automated Container Unloading Systems

As you would know if you have anything to do with manually unloading containers, it is hot, dirty, back breaking work.  So it’s only natural to consider automating to remove this time consuming process and its associated health & safety risks from your process.

However, before investing in an automated system it is important to consider both the advantages and disadvantages of automating this process.

Disadvantages of Automated Container Unloading and Palletising

  1. Capital Expenditure
    Automated container unloading systems usually yield a positive ROI very quickly as they significantly reduce the head count needed to unload a container. However there is still always the need for an initial capital outlay. Before making a decision to purchase a system we recommend you consider both the investment needed and also the ROI you expect to achieve. When calculating ROI it is important to calculate the value of both the tangible and intangible benefits before deciding whether there is a business case for investment. Our free downloadable robotics and automation resource pack includes both an ROI calculator and an intangible benefits calculator. Click here to download. Another alternative is to look at hiring or leasing the system rather than making an outright purchase. Often the hire or leasing cost is less per month than the saving you will make.
  2. Gets Rid of Jobs
    Loss of jobs is something that is often a concern, and there will indeed be less staff needed with an automated container unloading and palletising system. However, statistics have shown that many companies have been able to re-train their staff to enable them to work in other areas of the business. Many companies have also found that after introducing automation, their sales have risen, thus creating more jobs in different parts of the business. Staff morale is usually higher after implementing automation as you have less staff in mundane jobs. It is also worth considering the fact that many manufacturing companies across the country are struggling to recruit staff for manual labour jobs in the current environment.
  3. Some Automated Systems Take Too Long
    With container unloading it is often a battle against time to get the container unloaded during the allocated time slot. This can be an issue with some automated systems as they are not able to unload the container as quickly as manual labour.

    Automation of the process can also be a problem where there are multiple SKUs within the container. However, there are automated systems available that remove the speed issue by using row gripping or layer forming palletising to increase the speed that the product is palletised at.  There are also systems available that can palletise multiple SKUs from a container without slowing the process down at all.


Advantages of Automated Container Unloading and Palletising

  1. Removes Manual Labour and Health & Safety Issues
    One of the key benefits from an automated container unloading and palletising system is that it removes the main element of manual labour. This can be a key factor in the payback time of your investment, as an automated system not only removes a large element of manual labour, but also significantly decreases the risk of health & safety issues occurring along with their associated costs.
  2. No Labour Crisis
    Recruiting for manual jobs such as container unloading and palletising can be very difficult in the current environment. Installation of an automated container unloading and palletising system eliminates the need to recruit for this role.
  3. Some Systems Are Effective Across Multiple SKUs
    It is well worth doing your research before purchasing an automated container unloading and palletising system as you want to ensure that the system you purchase will meet your needs both now and in the future.

    A modern system will allow your staff to reprogram the system to palletise different size products that are coming off the container in just a few minutes. A fully automated system will remove the need for your staff to program the palletiser at all, as it will all be done automatically.  This is very useful if you usually have a large number of different SKUs within a container. With the right system, and using vision/barcode systems, all the products can be automatically checked, scanned into the stock system and labelled if required. This removes the scope for human error and the issue of products being mixed or stacked on the wrong pallets due to labels not being read correctly. Using an automated method for unloading containers will also help to force takt time, creates a quick change over time between pallets, and it doesn’t stop for breaks etc.

    The Granta GA15 system is currently the most advanced container unloading and palletising system and is effective for a wide range of products including boxes, bags, trays, buckets, crates, etc. Multiple gripping technologies are available, with bespoke options for irregular shaped items, or row gripping and layer forming/gripping available for high speed applications.

If you would like and further help or information on the advantages and disadvantages of automated container unloading and palletising then please contact us on 01223 499488 or helpline@granta-automation.co.uk.


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3 Ways To Improve Production Productivity In Manufacturing

Having got here, you’re now only 3 steps away from improved OEE!

All too often it’s easy to over think things when it comes to improving OEE in production. A lot of time is often spent analysing the current process and then you can end up with so much data that it’s difficult to know where to start!

To improve OEE effectively, it’s best to analyse small parts of your production process at a time. You may wish to concentrate on just one machine, or you may wish to analyse a complete process for a particular product.  Trying to analyse your complete manufacturing process in one hit typically ends up creating more action points than you can execute, so very little gets executed.  Analysing the process in small chunks allows you to track progress more easily and create meaningful action points that can be executed and monitored.


Step 1 – Measure Current OEE

Before you begin making improvements it’s important to measure the current OEE of the particular process you are going to work on first. This gives you a benchmark from which to measure the success of the improvements you make. It’s worth taking several OEE measurements at different times of day and on different days of the week, as this will show you any fluctuations in efficiency and may well point up the bottleneck that you need to eliminate. Information on how to measure and calculate OEE, along with a downloadable OEE calculator is available here.


Step 2 – Identify & Eliminate Bottleneck

Having calculated the current OEE, you can now begin work on identifying the bottleneck in the process you are analysing.

Bottleneck machines or processes are often easily identified as they have a build-up of parts waiting to be processed by them. If your bottleneck is not so obvious, then it is best to create a flow chart showing the step by step processes that are involved in producing the particular product or part you are analysing. Having completed a flow chart, you will then have an idea as to where in the process the bottleneck may be occurring, and you will be able to investigate this area further to see exactly where the bottleneck is.

Think broad, for example it may not be the speed of the machine when it is actually running, it may be the changeover time that drags a machine’s overall throughput down.

Having identified the bottleneck, the next step is to exploit the bottleneck. Do you need to increase the capacity of the bottleneck, or check parts before they enter the bottleneck so that there is no work being processed by the bottleneck that will be rejected further down the process?  More information on identifying and eliminating bottlenecks is available here.


Step 3 – Identify & Remove Overprocessing

Overprocessing is something that often gets overlooked when trying to improve OEE.  Creating a flow chart of the process that you’re analysing and then asking the ‘5 Whys’ for each part of the process should help you to identify any overprocessing of the product. eg.

  1. Why does this part take 30 seconds to package? Because we use a 3 part packaging process; a locator cut out card is placed inside the box, the box is then closed and passed through a shrink wrap machine.
  2. Why do we use this 3 part packing process? To make sure the part isn’t damaged when it arrives at the customer.
  3. Why does it need all 3 parts of the packing process? The locator card is to hold it still in the box and the plastic wrap is to stop the cardboard going soggy if it gets damp.
  4. Why does the part need to be held still? Because it is smaller than the box and will get damaged if it rattles around inside the box during transit.
  5. Why can’t we use a smaller box or box net that includes the locator as part of it? We could try using a smaller box or easily modify the box net to include the locator in it. This would save time when packing.

From this example, you can see how asking the 5 Whys will lead you through the process of analysing why you are doing what you are doing.  All too often processes can evolve over time and just become ‘the way things are done’ and nobody questions it. Over time certain processes may actually become unnecessary, or may be able to be done in a more efficient way.


Having carried out these 3 steps, it is now important to return to step one and measure your OEE again as this will give you a measure of the improvements that have been made. If you have been analysing a process, you may want to re-analyse the same process again to eliminate further bottlenecks, or you may then wish to move on to another area of your manufacturing process.


If you find from your analysis that palletising is one of your bottlenecks then feel free to get in touch and we’ll be happy to help, contact us on 01223 499488 or helpline@granta-automation.co.uk


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UK Gov Plant & Machinery Super-deduction Scheme

Are you looking to take advantage of the UK Government’s Plant & Machinery Super Deduction Scheme?

In brief the scheme means that:
• For expenditure incurred from 1 April 2021 until the end of March 2023, companies can
claim 130% capital allowances on qualifying plant and machinery investments.
• Under the super-deduction, for every pound a company invests, their taxes are cut by up to 25p.
• This change makes the UK’s capital allowance regime more internationally competitive,
lifting the net present value of our plant and machinery allowances from 30th in the OECD
to 1st.

This government fact sheet will give you more detailed information on the scheme https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/967202/Super_deduction_factsheet.pdf


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Palletiser Leasing


Businesses lease equipment everyday; water dispensers, printers, vehicles. Why not palletisers?

To give you an example; over our last few projects, with a 3 year lease scheme, our customers would make an average production cost saving of £63,063.60 per year after making the lease payments.

These savings do not include the value of any production increase, which with a palletiser is typically at least 15%, and more commonly around 40%.  They also don’t include any of the other benefits such as; reduced H&S claims, reduced HR, and boosted staff morale.

With leasing you start making savings from the day the palletiser is installed. At the end of the lease period we can sell you the palletiser for a small nominal fee (1%), and it will continue to work well for you for many years to come; giving you even greater savings without the lease payments.

Download our automation project payback calculator to calculate what leasing a palletiser is likely to cost you and what savings you could make on your production.

Contact us on 01223 499488 if you would like more information on palletiser leasing…

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Downloadable Palletiser URS Template

A User Requirement Specification (URS) document is essential to ensuring that the system you are looking to purchase is going to meet your requirements.  However, when you get into the realms of automation, it can be difficult to know exactly what you need to specify within your document to ensure you get a system that is as adaptive and flexible as you need it to be.

With this in mind, we have created a downloadable palletiser URS template that can be used as a base product from which to create your own unique URS document, that specifically meets your requirements.

Download Palletiser URS Template

Whilst we have created a quick and easy downloadable template for you to use, we have also explained each of the key areas that need to be considered when writing a palletiser URS in more detail below.

  1. Purpose & Scope of Palletiser
    What does the palletiser need to achieve? Typically a palletiser system would take the product from an infeed conveyor and orientate it for palletising. It would then place the product on the pallet in the defined stack pattern until the specified number of layers had been achieved, using slip sheets if required. The finished stacked pallet would then be ready for a forklift to remove from the cell or fed out of the system via a conveyor system.
  2. Project Contact Details
    Ensure all stakeholders are listed here as this will ensure that you cover all of their requirements whilst writing the URS. Also, if there are any questions during the quoting process, the relevant contact can be easily contacted, speeding up the quoting process.
  3. Description of Product and Packaging
    What is the product that needs to be palletised? Standard applications would often be the palletising of bags, boxes, trays, tins, barrels, etc. Within this section of the URS it is important to specify the type of product that needs to be palletised, along with the max/min weights and dimensions. Is the box/bag suitable for vacuum picking or will it need to be gripped from underneath due to lack of strength of the box/bag, or a very porous/uneven top surface? Max and min stack heights, pallet overhang etc. should be specified here.
  4. Process Information
    How will the product arrive at the palletising cell?  Will it arrive in multiples or as single items? It is important to specify here what the maximum deviation will be from the reference line (see template for more detail). If you require the product to be automatically aligned, measured, and tolerance checked then specify so in this section.
  5. Installation Environment
    What hygiene level area will this be installed in? Most production processes are typically a medium hygiene level area. In this section the room conditions should be specified such as temperature and humidity, and any other conditions such as dusty atmosphere should be listed. Available dimension for the palletiser to be installed in should be mentioned and available access to the area should also be specified. It should also be specified here if access is needed to the current machinery. Utilities available should be listed, and for a palletiser install, the standard electricity supply and compressed air requirements are listed on the downloadable template. Floor specification should also be included, mentioning any sloped floors, floor type, and the load capacity of the floor.
  6. Project Specifications
    This section should cover details on how many lines will be coming into the palletising cell, and what downstream equipment there will be. Typically with a palletiser cell the only downstream equipment would be pallet trucks or counterbalanced fork lift trucks. Pallet types being used and slip sheet specification type and dimensions should be specified. The scope of supply should be included here and the following items would normally be included here subject to your requirements; change over time with 1 operator of <5 mins, infeed conveyor/unloading boom, automatic pallet supply, automatic slip sheet distribution, automatic distribution of interlayer, automatic distribution of pallet top cover, outfeed conveyor (with quantity of full pallet wait specified), training program, and any other specific requirements.
  7. Equipment Specifications
    Specifications details for a palletising cell are mainly focussed around the HMI requirements. Typically for a palletiser, you would normally specify that the HMI touch screen interface would provide all necessary information for the operator to operate the machine and deal with minor stoppages without the need for the maintenance team. The HMI should provide palletising visualisation software which is preferable to be in 3D. For flexibility, you will probably want to include here that access to machine parameters (speeds, counters, timers, etc) should be accessible from the HMI and not through PLC programming. Other key things that you will probably want to include here are: alarm identification, re-startup assistance with confirmation of palletiser configuration, pallet pattern adjustment, and new stacking program set up within 10 minutes with no limit on number of set ups that can be saved. Another specification that you would most likely want to include is that the HMI should have an easy and intuitive pattern generation software with drag and drop programming so that the system can be programmed without supplier intervention. It should also be specified that an uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) should be present where deemed necessary for HMI operating system safe shutdown and/or sensitive electrical components that ensure correct machine restart in case of unforeseen lack of power.
  8. Safety, Health and Environment
    The current safety standards for this type of equipment should be stated here, and it should be specified that the machinery should comply with them. The standards that apply for an automated palletising system are detailed on the downloadable template. Some of the more common safety requirements that should be specified in this section include: emergency stop/e-stop functionality, safety devices to ensure that no accidental product falling will hit someone in the safety zone, maximum acceptable noise level, robot safety rated defined working zones, and energy isolation. The system should be marked with the relevant information and a complete list of these requirements is on the downloadable URS document.
  9. General Design Requirements
    Component requirements should be written here, and typically for a palletiser system you would specify items such as conveyor height, infeed product and conveying system, pallet pattern etc.
  10. Quality and Performance
    Specifications for Factory Acceptance Test (FAT) and Site Acceptance Test (SAT) should be listed here. This would typically include details on pallet alignment, slip sheet/interlayer alignment, throughput speed, restart time (in case of a minor stoppage), changeover time, CIL time and frequency, time needed for start-up from no power to stable production. Ideally you would specify that the equipment should be designed for quick change over and <10 minutes set up. Production speeds should be included giving both minimum and ideal speed requirements. Often a palletiser can become a lot cheaper by meeting a slightly lower spec than the contingency maximum. Potentially you could specify in this section that you want the ability to increase the speed in the future if required and this may significantly reduce your short term costs.
  11. Equipment Electrical and Automation Specifications
    Connectivity requirements should be listed here and would include information on whether the system will be linked to the factory network, confirmation that the site has 4G access or the system can be connected to a network. Whether or not the palletiser will need to be networked with other equipment. If the system needs to be networked with other equipment, the inputs/outputs required for this should also be specified here.
  12. Documentation
    All required documentation should be entered here, and for a palletiser URS it would usually include the following: preliminary layout, detailed layout, certificate of conformance, pneumatic drawings, recommended spares list, operating manual, safety instructions, detailed description of the equipment, operating procedure, detailed description of operating screens, troubleshooting list, and online project update reports for project duration. Installation and commissioning requirements should also be included and would typically include details on who will install, commission, and perform FAT and SAT.
  13. Training
    Typically training on the system should be provided by the supplier and for UK installations the trainer should be fluent in English. The training should include at least, but not be limited to all the details required for operating the equipment appropriately, covering at least the following items: safety instructions, detailed description of the equipment, operating procedure, detailed description of the operating screens, predictive and preventative maintenance.
  14. Pallet Specification
    Details on the types of pallets that will be used in the system should be included here. This should include information such as; pallet length, pallet width, pallet height, and empty pallet weight.

Whilst each business application for a palletiser is unique, there are many specific features of a palletiser system that are of benefit to all companies.  This downloadable URS has sought to include all of the most beneficial automation developments that are currently available in the automated palletiser market to ensure you will end up with a final product that is as future proof as possible.

Download Palletiser URS Template

If you would like any further help or information then please do contact us on 01223 499488 and we will be very happy to help.


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What Are The Benefits of Automated Palletising?

Automated palletising holds many different benefits, some commonly known, and others not so commonly known.  Some of the more important benefits are explained in detail below.


Improved Productivity/Cost Savings

This is often one of the most overlooked benefits of automated palletising.

Manual palletising has many drawbacks when it comes to productivity.  There can be many different reasons for this, but the two key reasons are:

  • Staff not able to keep up with palletising when the production process is running at full capacity, and as a result the production process is not run at full capacity.
  • Production stops when staff stop for breaks, forklift movements, to fill our paperwork etc.

Automated palletising systems not only remove these issues and enable your production process to function at full capacity, but also have additional benefits as well. Below are some stats we have received from some of our most recent palletiser installations:

  • Distribution Centre – automated container unloading and box palletising system installed at a leading supermarket brand. This is saving them a minimum of 119 man hours per week.
  • Chemical Factory – 25kg bag palletising system installed which has resulted in improved efficiencies and improved stack quality, resulting in a reduction in the number of pallets required.
  • Food Factory – palletising system for 25Kg sacks installed which has resulted in an increased production throughput of 150%. It has also reduced labour requirements by 1 person.
  • Refractory Specialist – bag palletising system installed which has resulted in operator requirements being reduced from 2 persons to 1 person. Production throughput is up by 45% and all manual handling elements have been removed.


Removes Risk of RSI

Manually stacking pallets carries a high risk of RSI occurring, this is due to the high level of repetitive activity that is carried out when stacking a pallet. Download this simple RSI calculator to see what risk your current manual stacking process carries.

Automation of your pallet stacking process completely eliminates the need for any manual input at all, thus removing the risk of RSI. The recent introduction of automated palletising systems that can be quickly and easily re-programmed for different sized items, has also meant that automated palletising can now be used in a far larger variety of situations than it could before.


Improved Product Quality

When pallets are manually stacked, this can often result in inconsistent and unstable pallet stacks.  Storing and shipping of unstable pallet stacks can ultimately result in pallets breaking down and causing damage to goods.  This clearly has implications and can result in unhappy customers, returns and refunds and additional admin time having to be spent in resolving these issues.

However, when a pallet is stacked using an automated system, product is consistently placed in the correct place, according to the chosen stack pattern, which results in stable and consistently palletised stacks.  This not only helps prevent damage during storage and transit, but can also help with stock control as you know your pallets will all be consistently stacked with the same quantity of product.


Removes Labour Crisis

It is becoming increasingly difficult to source staff that are happy to stack pallets. This is no doubt due to the repetitive and labour intensive nature of the job. Using manual labour to stack pallets also mean that you have to find alternative labour if your staff are off sick or on holiday, which carries with it additional costs.

An automated system will remove this requirement altogether as the system will continue to function through lunches, breaks and holidays!


Eliminates Bottlenecks

The palletising part of a production process can sometimes be the bottleneck of your whole production process. If those palletising are not able to palletise at the maximum speed that your production process can run, then you have no option but to run your production process slower than its optimum speed.  This effectively equates to lost production time. If you are unsure where the bottleneck is in your production process, this article should help you in identifying it.

Chosen wisely, an automated palletising system will have the capacity to palletise product coming off your production line, with the line running at maximum capacity.  In some instances, an automated system will in fact be able to palletise off two production lines at the same time, whilst they are both running at maximum capacity.


These are just some of the many different benefits that automated palletising can bring. To find out more about palletising for your production process, or to book a free trial, contact us on 01223 499488 and we will be very happy to help.


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Automation in Transit Packaging

As a business you are no doubt familiar with the issues that arise from goods being damaged in transit; unhappy customers, returns and refunds, admin work in sorting out the issues, etc.  All of these are no doubt areas that you wish to spend less time in!

If you are experiencing these sort of issues, one of the key areas to investigate is your pallet stacking and wrapping process.  If goods are stacked and wrapped securely, it makes for better pallet stability and minimises the risk of transit damage.

In this article we are going to look briefly at the role of automation in transit packaging.


Automated Palletising

Manual palletising can often result in inconsistent and unstable pallet stacks, which in turn can lead to goods being damaged in transit. It carries a high risk of repetitive strain injuries occurring, and the subsequent implications of staff having to be off work for long periods of time plus the cost of any resulting claims can quickly add up. Manual palletising can also limit throughput capacity and become a bottleneck in your production process.

Automated palletising results in neater, more consistently stacked pallets, with better pallet stability. This is due to the accuracy of the palletising system in consistently placing product in the right place on the pallet. An automated system will not stop for breaks and therefore increases your throughput, and improves production efficiency, typically increasing throughput to at least 140%.

There are many automated palletising systems available, so it is important to ensure that the system you choose will not only provide the immediate benefit of better pallet stacks, but will also service your future requirements. It is important ensure the system has an integrated stack builder that creates the optimum stack pattern for your product. Choosing a system with easy programming software will also allow you to quickly and easily re-program the system to palletise different box sixes.


Automated Pallet Wrapping

Wrapping pallets by hand can result in pallets that are not wrapped tightly or securely enough. This in turn can lead to shift during transit and result in transit damage.

Automating this process ensures pallets are securely and consistently wrapped which reduces the risk of shift during transit and therefore minimises transit damage. It also reduces wastage, resulting in lower costs.  Automated pallet wrapping can either be installed as a standalone cell, or integrated into the palletising process.

There are many automated pallet wrapping solutions available, so it is important to ensure that the solution you choose meets your requirements.  Chosen wisely, you will be able to reduce your pallet wrap costs, reduce downtime due to pallet wrap changes, and reduce waste by using less wrap per pallet.


Automation ROI

Payback on installing an automated palletising system can be less than one year. As a rule of thumb, if you have one person at the end of a line palletising product for one shift per day, payback is approximately three years. However, if you are running three shifts, the payback time then becomes less than a year. If you then include the intangible benefits, such as reduced risk of RSI, less transit damage claims, etc. the payback time becomes quicker still. Granta have an automation payback calculator and intangible benefits calculator that you can download to help you accurately forecast the ROI of investing in automation. https://www.granta-automation.co.uk/resources


Other Automation

Another example where automation plays a part in reducing transit damage is the automation of container unloading and palletising.  If containers are unloaded and palletised consistently and securely, this results in better pallet stability for storage and onward transport. Not only this, but it also improves efficiency as it reduces manual labour requirements and improves throughput.  Granta have recently installed one of these systems for a leading supermarket brand and as a result they are saving a minimum of 119 man hours per week.



In summary, automation of pallet stacking and wrapping processes play a key part in increasing pallet stability and reducing the risk of transit damage. The payback on installing an automated system is often less than one year.


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Automated Container Unloading and Palletising – Watch the Video

Have you watched this automated container unloading and palletising video?

More information is available here https://www.granta-automation.co.uk/automated-container-unloading-palletiser 

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How To Ensure CapEx Plans Will Yield The Best ROI

Ensuring your CapEx plans will yield the best return on investment is key to any successful business.  However, the first step is not necessarily one that would usually spring to mind!

What Are The Core KPIs Of Your Company?
Identifying and subjecting your CapEx decisions to the core KPIs of your company is key to ensuring the best ROI for your capital expenditure. All too often, when evaluating and allocating CapEx budgets it can be easy to lose focus of the core company goals, and become diverted by projects that aren’t necessarily going to bring the best ROI to the company. Having identified the core KPIs of your company, you can then move on to;

What Is The Bottleneck That Is Stopping You From Achieving Those KPIs
Having a clear understanding of what is stopping you from achieving those KPIs is the first step to knowing what area you need to focus on. A bottleneck occurs when part of a process has a lower throughput capacity than the rest of the process. Identifying your main bottleneck can often be a very straightforward process, and may even be something you are already aware of.  However, sometimes it can be a lot harder to identify, and you may need to create a flowchart of the process where you believe the bottleneck may be, and then work through this flowchart until you find the bottleneck.  Bottlenecks can occur due to anything from a lack of capacity to process at the necessary speed, to breakdowns and breaks slowing the process down. Further details on identifying and exploiting bottlenecks are available here. Having identified the bottleneck you can then move on to the next process;

What Needs To Be Done To Exploit The Bottleneck?
Identifying the reason for the bottleneck and finding the best solution to it is often achieved by a team brainstorm session. Involving those that are closely acquainted with the current process is often the best way of clearly establishing what the weaknesses of the current systems are, and what solutions could be used to resolve these issues. With a clear idea of why the bottleneck is occurring, and some suggested solutions, it is then possible to gain an understanding of what needs to be done to exploit the bottleneck. This may be something as simple as streamlining your process, staggering staff breaks, or running a regular maintenance schedule.  However, it may mean that you need to automate part of your process or purchase another machine so that you can produce parts faster.  This then leads on to:

How Do I Calculate The ROI Of My CapEx Investment?
Calculating the ROI of your CapEx Investment to enable you to compare the ROI on different solutions is the next step. Once of the best ways to do this is to use a comprehensive ROI Payback calculator as this will take into consideration many different factors such as; current machine downtime, staff breaks, defect percentages and costs, etc. You will then be able to establish the payback period for each investment. It is also important to investigate the value of intangible benefits for your proposed investments as this will also play a significant part in the overall ROI that you can expect to achieve. Having calculated these figures for the different solution, you then have meaningful data that you can compare to enable you to see which solution is going to provide the best ROI for the company in the long run. Next step:

Find The Next Bottleneck!
Having found a solution to your bottleneck, you can then go through this process again to establish where the next bottleneck is that is stopping you from achieving your company KPIs.

Whilst this process may not be the most commonly used for identifying and allocating capital expenditure, it is one of the best methods of keeping your CapEx focussed on yielding the best return on investment for the company. Keeping you CapEx aligned with your company’s core KPIs ensures that you receive a direct return on investment that is in the best interests of the company. Using the same evaluation criteria across the company for your CapEx budget setting procedure will also give you meaningful, comparable data that allows you to quickly see what the best investments are going to be for your company.

More useful resources are available for download in our Robotics & Automation Resources Pack.

If manual palletising is one of your production throughput bottlenecks, you may wish to consider the Granta GA15 robotic palletiser.

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