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


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