Well, the short answer to this is yes! With the right gripper head, palletising of open top boxes and crates can easily be automated.
Below is a short video showing an underneath gripper palletising open top plastic trays.
As it is not possible to lift open top crates or boxes with a vacuum gripper, an underneath gripper will typically be used. However, bespoke grippers can also be made to lift the product should an underneath gripper not be appropriate. An underneath gripper has tines that slides underneath the open top crate or box, and an arm that goes across the top of the item and clamps down onto it to hold it in place. Once the product has been placed in the desired location on the pallet, the top clamp is released and the gripper tines are withdrawn from under the product.
An underneath gripper also has an integrated vacuum gripper that is used to pick and place pallets onto the conveyor, and also to pick and place slip sheets.
With the GA15 palletising system, stack patterns are automatically optimised in the software, and you can then select the stack pattern that best suits your requirements. The easy programming software also allows your factory staff to reprogram the palletiser for different sizes of crate of box within minutes.
An automated palletiser can also often be used to palletise two types of product off two different production lines. This helps to minimise capital outlay requirements and helps to keep the floor space requirements to a minimum.
If you would like a budget quote on an automated palletising system, then simply give us a call on 01223 499488 or if you prefer, simply enter your project details into our project builder and we will send you a budget quote.
This is a question that is well worth answering before you commit to investing capital in an automated palletising solution.
Here are some of the efficiency increases that some of our customers have experienced after installation of an automated palletising system:
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.
However, as each application is different, the efficiency increases you may achieve will likely be different to someone else, so we have outlined some of the more common efficiency increases below.
Production Throughput Increase With an automated palletising system, your palletising process will not have to stop when staff have breaks, fill out paperwork, move goods, etc. Therefore, if your production process is automated and can run without any manual input, your production output will increase with an automated palletising system. Ie, if during an 8 hour shift your production stops for an average of 1 hour due to breaks, forklift movements, etc, your production output will increase by 14% with an automated palletising system.
Improved OEE In some production processes, the main production line is not able to be run at full capacity as those palletising the product are not able to keep up with these speeds. An automated palletising system can be designed to pick and palletise layers, or rows of product, onto the pallet to improve the palletising speeds. This then allows you to run your production process at full capacity and thus increase your output and OEE.
Reduction in Labour Requirements With an automated palletising system, it is possible for one system to simultaneously palletise different types of product off multiple lines. This can increase you efficiencies dramatically, especially if you currently have more than one member of staff palletising the product off the various lines. Personnel that are no longer required in the palletising department can be redeployed elsewhere within the company.
Reduction In Downtime With a manual palletising system you always run the risk of downtime due to staff being off sick or on holiday etc. With an automated system this risk is removed, and makes your production process far more predictable and controllable, thus reducing your downtime and increasing your efficiencies.
Reduction In Defects Resolving issues related to goods damaged in transit can be costly and time consuming. An automated palletising system will consistently palletise product to the same standard, and therefore reduce the risk of goods being damaged in transit. This will not only remove the need to spend time sorting damaged goods issues, but will also help with customer retention.
Improved Working Conditions Automating the palletising process improves working conditions and removes the risk of your workers suffering from repetitive strain injuries. This helps to create a safer working environment for your workers and can improve staff morale as they are redeployed to work in other areas of the company.
These are just some of the efficiency increase that you may experience with an automated palletising system. However, depending on your production process, there will likely be other efficiency increase that you will see as a result of installing an automated palletising system.
To help with giving a value to these predicted efficiency increases, we have created a couple of free downloadable calculators:
With space being at a premium in many manufacturing facilities, automated palletising systems have often been unviable in the past due to space constraints. This has meant that goods have had to continue to be palletised manually, along with all the associated manual handling risks.
However, with the introduction of Cobot palletisers, smaller automated palletising systems are now becoming more viable for production facilities with limited space. These systems have their place where you are palletising lightweight products at modest speeds. Typically they will be able to palletise boxes or bags onto two pallet positions, and some, but not all Cobot palletising systems will also be able to handle euro and standard pallet sizes.
Whilst the compactness of a Cobot palletising system allows for automated palletising in areas of limited space, they do still have their constraints. If the system can’t run as fast as your production process can run, then introducing a Cobot palletiser will become a bottleneck to your production throughput. Cobot palletisers are also unable to palletise products when an underneath gripper is required due to the fact that the weight of an underneath gripper is usually more than the weight the Cobot can lift. Also, slipsheets cannot be used with a Cobot palletiser cell as the system is unable to pick and place them.
To meet this need, Granta have developed a small footprint palletising cell that is capable of running at faster speeds and higher payloads. The Granta small footprint robotic palletising cell is typically a KUKA 5 axis palletising robot with 120kg payload. This enables it to palletise higher payloads, and at faster speeds. The cell is customised to suit your requirements, but would usually have two pallet stack positions and an input conveyor. As the cell is modular if allows for flexibility in the layout and shape of the cell, it also enables to you change the modules, or add to the system should your requirements change in the future. This helps to ensure that your investment is future proof as well as meeting your current production and space needs.
With the Granta palletising system a wider variety of products can be palletised as an underneath gripper, bag gripper or vacuum gripper can be specified. This variety of gripper options enables the system to palletise boxes, display boxes, bags, trays, bottles, sacks, drums, open top crates, shrink wrapped items, cans, etc. If a standard gripper design will not work for your product, a bespoke gripper can be manufactured to suit your requirements.
The cell has easy programming software which makes it very simple for anyone to reprogram in minutes. Operators can use the easy-to-use visual software to program the system for different product sizes, pallet sizes and stack patterns. Stack patterns are optimised and you can then choose the stack pattern that suits your requirements. This video shows how quick and easy it is to reprogram the palletiser for different product sizes.
The system can also be used to simultaneously palletise different types of product off multiple production lines. This reduces any capital expenditure requirements, as instead of having to purchase multiple palletising systems, only one system will be required.
One of the best ways to ensure that the robotic palletising system you choose is able to meet your requirements is to trial your product on the proposed solution. This will enable you to see if the system is indeed able to handle your product successfully and at the speeds required. You will also be able to see how neatly the finished pallet is stacked.
We currently offer a free, no obligation palletiser trial service. If you would like to take advantage of this, Click here to book, or contact us on 01223 499488.
Put simply, robotic palletisers pick and place product from your production line onto a pallet. Depending on the product and the speeds required, product may be; picked as individual items, as a row of product, or as a complete pallet layer. Whilst robotic palletisers are typically used for stacking pallets, they can also be used to de-palletise product as well.
Robotic palletising systems are able to handle many different types of product such as: bags, boxes, trays, crates, bottles, cans, drums, etc. Depending on the type of product being picked, the robot gripper may be a vacuum gripper, bag gripper, row gripper, underneath gripper, or specialist gripper.
Some of the key benefits of a robotic palletising system versus a conventional layer forming palletising system are outlined below.
A robotic palletising system will typically take up less floor space than a conventional layer forming system as they don’t usually require the large amounts of conveyoring to orientate product that is often needed with a conventional system. One of the smallest robotic palletising systems available on the market is approximately 3 meters x 3 meters. Using a robotic palletising system rather than a conventional layer forming system will therefore free up valuable floor space in your factory that can be utilized for other more beneficial purposes.
Robotic palletisers have the ability to be more flexible than a conventional layer forming palletising system as they can be reprogrammed by factory staff to suit different box sizes and stack patterns. The flexibility of a robotic palletiser makes it viable to automate palletising on production lines where a conventional system wouldn’t have been feasible due to regular changes in product sizes and stack pattern requirements. It also gives you the certainty that your palletiser will still work should your product size/shape change in the future.
Flexibility of Layout Due to the flexibility of robotic palletisers, a robotic palletising system can be installed to suit your current factory layout, whereas a conventional layer forming palletising system is typically a standard layout that you need to alter your production process to suit. Robotic palletising systems can also have different modules added such as automatic pallet dispensing, pallet wrapping, etc., to suit your production speeds and requirements.
Scalability is a huge plus point for robotic palletising systems, particularly if you purchase a modular system. A modular palletising system will only have 4 bolts into the floor for the robot, and the rest of the system will be fixed to this. This makes the system very moveable and scalable as it is possible to move the system to another area in your factory or a new site, leaving very little residual damage. This modularity also enables you to add different modules to the system as your production grows, or your requirements change.
Effective Across Multiple Production Lines
A robotic palletising system can be used to simultaneously palletise different types of product off multiple production lines. This reduces the capital expenditure required, as with a conventional layer forming system, you would need to purchase two palletising systems if you have two production lines with different product types on that you wish to automate.
These are just a few of the benefits of a robotic palletising system vs a conventional layer forming system, and depending on your specific application there are very likely other benefits to take into account.
With staff shortages predicted to last up to 2 years and affecting many different industries, many manufacturers are looking for ways to overcome the issue. Supply chains have been disrupted, and whilst there is demand for product, many business are struggling to find the labour to enable them to fulfil demand.
This has led to companies trying many different and innovative ways to overcome the labour shortage and minimise disruption to their business. Below are some examples of methods used and how these methods may help in overcoming the nationwide labour shortage.
Cutting Production, Reducing Product Range Cutting production and reducing product range are two ways in which you can reduce the amount of labour required to produce product. In doing this it is important to ensure you focus specifically on your core products and eliminate products that make less money or are less competitive. In doing this, you can be sure that your labour input is going to yield the highest ROI for the company.
Increasing Wages To Retain and Attract New Staff Retaining staff is one of the best ways to ensure you don’t suffer from a labour shortage. This may involve increasing wages for your existing staff. There are also many other ways to increase staff retention such as offering bonus schemes, providing training to help staff reach their goals, etc. With the current labour shortage, attracting new staff can also mean having to increase your pay offer as those looking for jobs often have a variety of job offers to choose from.
Raising Prices If you are having to pay higher wages and spend more on training your staff to retain them, one of the best ways to minimise this extra expenditure is to raise your selling prices. Often a small percentage increase in selling price will yield good returns on your bottom line profits.
Training/Upskilling Existing Workforce Upskilling your existing workforce to enable them to fulfil a different job role within your organisation is often a good way of filling positons within the company. It also give your staff the opportunity for career progression within the company whilst removing the need to recruit.
Analyse/Simplify Current Job Roles Take a step back and analyse current job roles within the company; asking questions such as what does the role involve, what is the reason for this process, how can the job be simplified, etc. You may find that there are some processes that are being done within your company that no longer serve a purpose and can be eliminated. You may also find some processes that can be simplified. Working through existing job roles and removing/simplifying processes can enable you to free up staff time for other activities that need to be done.
Cultivate A Culture To Retain Staff With the current labour shortage existing staff are often being head hunted by others, so it is very important to ensure that you have a good culture to ensure you retain your current staff. A culture of recognition and reward goes a long way to making staff feel valued and therefore less likely to consider changing jobs.
Automate Repetitive Tasks Automating the more repetitive tasks in your production process enables you to redeploy your exisiting staff into other roles within the organisation, thereby reducing the need to employ additional staff. There are many different tasks that can be automated, with one of the key tasks being pallet stacking. Stacking pallets by hand is not only a labour intensive activity, but can also reduce the efficiency of your production process as staff stop for breaks, have holidays, and may be unexpectedly off sick at short notice. An automated palletising system will free up your staff to do other jobs within the organisation whilst improving your OEE at the same time.
There are no doubt many other methods for reducing the impact of the current labour shortage, but these are just a few examples that may help.
With the many advances there have been in the field of automation in recent years, there are now very few products that can’t be palletised automatically. However knowing which type of robotic palletiser is going to be best for your application can often be difficult to determine.
To ensure that the robotic palletising system will cover your current and future requirements, it is very important to ensure that the following key criteria is met:
Can the system palletise as fast as, or faster than, the speed the production process can run at?
Will the gripper head handle the product appropriately without damaging or dropping the product?
If you are using slip sheets, can it place them?
Is the system able to be quickly and easily reprogrammed for different product sizes by your staff?
Along with this criteria, one of the key elements of any robotic palletising system is the gripper as this is the part that is used to pick and place the product when palletising. Below we have explained in more detail as to the different gripper methods that can be used and which type of application they are most suited to.
Foam Vacuum Gripper
There are several different styles of vacuum gripper available, but the most commonly used one for palletising product is a flat foam head vacuum gripper.
A foam vacuum gripper is typically used where the top of the product is flat the item can be vacuum picked from the top. This would usually be items such as boxes, display boxes or cartons. However some types of vacuum packed products and bags can also be palletised using a vacuum gripper.
A vacuum gripper can also be used to pick and place pallets onto the conveyor, and to pick and place cardboard slip sheets.
Vacuum Row Gripper
Vacuum row gripping works on the same principle as a foam vacuum gripper but is able to pick and place multiple items at once. This increases the cycle speed and is a good choice for high speed production lines. A bump turn conveyor may be needed to orientate the product as it come off the production line.
A good vacuum row gripper palletising system will be able to palletise different types of product off more than one line. The row gripper can also be used to pick and place pallets onto the conveyor, and to pick and place cardboard slip sheets.
A bag gripper has positioning pins, lifting pins and a centre clamp which provides extra support as the product is moved.
Typically when a bag gripper is used, the robot will need to pick off a purpose manufactured sack pick conveyor to allow the pins to wrap round under the bag before lifting. The gripper closes the positioning pins and lifting pins around the product and clamps the centre clamp as it lifts the product off the conveyor. Once the robot has moved the bag to the correct position for stacking, the lifting pins release and the positioning pins guide the bag into place.
Due to the unique way in which the gripper works this results in a very neatly stacked pallet. The gripper also often has functionality included to pick and place the pallets onto the conveyor.
A bag gripper is usually only used for bags and sacks.
An underneath gripper has tines that slides underneath the product, and an arm that goes across the top of the item and clamps down onto it to hold it in place. Once the product has been placed in the desired location on the pallet, the top clamp is released and the gripper tines are withdrawn from under the product. An underneath gripper also has an integrated vacuum gripper that is used to pick and place pallets onto the conveyor, and also to pick and place slip sheets.
Underneath grippers are used for a variety of different applications such as open top plastic or cardboard crates, open top boxes, boxes that are not strong enough to be lifted with a vacuum gripper, shrink wrapped items such as packs of bottles, etc.
A parallel gripper has two side plates that close parallel to each other onto the two sides of the product and then lift it. This type of gripper is therefore most suited to boxes and is only used where the product is a regular shape, but vacuum gripping is not possible.
Sometimes a standard gripper will not lift product due to its size or shape in which case a bespoke gripper may need to be manufactured to meet your exact requirements. Products that would potentially require a bespoke gripper would include; drums, cans, bottles, irregular shaped items, etc.
A bespoke gripper would also typically be designed to be able to pick and place pallets and slip sheets as well.
One of the best ways to ensure that the robotic palletising system you choose is able to meet your requirement is to trial your product on the proposed solution. This will enable you to see if the system is indeed able to handle your product successfully and at the speeds required. In the case of sack palletising, you will also be able to see how neatly the finished pallet is stacked.
We currently offer a free, no obligation palletiser trial service. If you would like to take advantage of this, Click here to book, or contact us on 01223 499488.
When making your CapEx plans it is always useful to know the ROI of any proposed expenditure. However, this can sometimes be difficult to calculate as there are often several different factors that need to be taken into account to ensure that you have a realistic figure to work with.
What is the current production efficiency and what percentage increase in production output am I likely to achieve by installing an automated system?
How long does existing machinery remain idle whilst staff stop for breaks? How much extra production throughput will there be if the machinery doesn’t have to stop?
How many extra shifts could be accomplished with an automated system? What is the value of this extra production?
Given the benefits the system will bring, what is the payback period of this investment likely to be?
Then there are the many intangible aspects that also need to be taken into account. These include:
What is the value of having less health & safety issues by using an automated system?
Will automation allow me to reduce my production costs and thus secure more market share? What is the value of this extra market share likely to be?
Might my competition automate ahead of me instead, and what impact is this likely to have on our market? What value of market share may I potentially lose to competition if I don’t automate?
Are staff struggling/getting bored of the manual labour aspect of their job? Is staff turnover going to be an issue and what is the cost of this likely to be? Is it becoming more difficult to recruit staff for manual job roles?
Having calculated the value of both the tangible and intangible benefits for the project, you will have a better understanding of the implications for the company of automating vs not automating the process. Using this process to evaluate all of the CapEx projects you are considering will give you comparable figures you can use when comparing potential projects as you will have a standardised set of data from which to compare the merits of the different projects. This will enable you to make an informed decision as to the order in which to prioritise your projects based on their ROI value to the company.
To help with calculating the ROI of any proposed automation CapEx plans we have created a couple of useful downloadable calculators:
These calculators will enable you to quickly calculate both the tangible and intangible benefits of any proposed CapEx projects.
If you are looking to introduce any automated palletising systems into your process then you may find our project builder tool very useful for getting a quick budget quote on an automated palletising system. https://www.granta-automation.co.uk/project-builder
One of the most advanced, market leading brands of robotic palletisers on the market is the Granta GA15 palletising system. This system is typically used for end of line palletising, and container unloading and palletising applications.
One of the key advantages of the GA15 palletiser system that sets it apart from the rest is its easy programme software; this allows your factory staff to reprogram the palletiser for different sized products in minutes. The system is also modular which makes it quick to install, and should your production requirements change, it can be quickly and easily reconfigured.
With many different options of robotic palletiser available on the market, how do you know which palletising system is right for you? The key things to consider when looking to purchase an automated palletising system include:
Futureproof of throughput capacity – will the system be able to cope with increased production throughput in the future, or will it become a bottleneck in the production process?
Stack neatness – neatly stacked pallets are key to your product reaching its final destination in the best condition. Can the system stack the products neatly and efficiently?
Ease of use – can the system be quickly and easily reprogrammed by your staff, or will you have to spend money on an expensive engineer visit each time you want a new stack pattern created?
Product trial – have you tried your product on the palletiser you intend to purchase before committing to buy? This will give you peace of mind that what you are being offered will truly do what it says it will!
Integration with existing processes – ensure that the company you are buying from has experience in integrating their product with existing production processes. This will ensure you have minimal downtime at the time of the palletiser install.
Choose a modular system – opting for a modular palletiser system will ensure that the install runs smoothly and quickly which will mean you will experience minimum production downtime. A modular system will also future proof the system as it can easily be moved or reconfigured as you production requirements change.
Ask for 3D CAD simulations of the project – a 3D CAD simulation of the proposed palletising solution will enable you to visualise how the palletiser will integrate with your existing processes. It will also enable you to identify any potential pitfalls and eliminate these prior to the install process.
More information on the GA15 palletiser system is available here.
If you would like to discuss this palletiser in more detail, or would like further information on the Granta GA15 Palletising system, then please do get in touch on 01223 499488 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 email@example.com.