Ways To Overcome The UK’s Nationwide Labour Shortage

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.

If you would like further information on automated palletising systems, then feel free to get in touch with us on 01223 499488 or helpline@granta-automation.co.uk and we will be very happy to help.

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What Palletiser Is Best For Your Application?

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.

Bag Gripper

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.

Underneath Gripper

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.

Parallel Gripper

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.

Bespoke Gripper

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.

If you would like to discuss your palletising application, then feel free to get in touch with us on 01223 499488 or helpline@granta-automation.co.uk and we will be very happy to help.

 

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How To Calculate Automation CapEx ROI

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.

Firstly there are the tangible aspects that need to be calculated such as:

  • 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?

More information on how to define the value of intangible benefits is available here https://www.granta-automation.co.uk/news/how-to-define-the-value-of-intangible-benefits/

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

If you have any questions or difficulties filling it the calculators then feel free to
If you have any questions or difficulties filling it the calculators then feel free to
contact us on 01223 499488 or helpline@granta-automation.co.uk and we’ll be happy to help.

 

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Market Leading Palletiser Brand

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 helpline@granta-automation.co.uk.

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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 Scheme

 

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

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