California Winery Experiences Speed and Ease of Use Since Installation.
Submitted By: Schneider Packaging Equipment
Traditionally, pallet pattern programming has been a set-it-and-forget-it standard that operators rarely update or upgrade. Typically, the native software is plenty reliable, but resistant to change. Creating a new pattern could require a technician, a laptop and, most importantly, time. On-site assistance or training could be costly. Schneider Packaging Equipment knew the process could be better.
“This is a solution to the problem,” says Andrew Buyck, Schneider’s Controls Designer and Lead Developer of the company’s proprietary OptiStak software. “You have someone digging out a laptop they haven’t touched since they bought the machine, hoping it still works and the software licenses haven’t expired.”
Adding Ease of Use to The Machinery
The initial idea was to create a program that could skip a step between building a pattern in the virtual space and loading it onto the machine. The on-machine, HMI-based technology would also include more robust capabilities than the standard-issue software that came with palletizers.
OptiStak eliminated the need for a laptop, but it also turned pattern changes into a remarkably easy and far less painful process. Not only is the 3-D interface exceptionally intuitive, it also automatically optimizes palletizing based on the inputs. Those configurations can then be customized – directly from the HMI – in any way the operator sees fit, including labels-out presentation or alternative stacking patterns.
“It’s the most user-friendly interface I’ve ever seen on any kind of equipment,” says Troy Stelmack, Project Engineer for a rapidly growing California winery. “I can go on the floor and put in the dimensions and quantities and that little machine just makes it happen.”
In this particular case, that little machine is Schneider’s Robox paired with OptiStak software. Its fluidity is an especially important feature for the winery, which currently produces a wide variety of bag-in-box products. Stelmack and his team can change the patterns on the fly without downtime and with game-changing speed.
“Because we’re a small company and growing, we have to be able to change a lot and adapt to the market very quickly,” Stelmack says. “Package sizes change and package configurations change, so the ability to change the palletizer easily is awesome.”
He said what used to take as much as an hour now takes less than half that. It allows the company to keep up with the explosive growth of its production.
“Nowadays companies in various industries are offering more SKUs than ever, so it is very important for a machine to have a fast changeover in between runs,” says Mike Brewster, Director of Sales & Marketing at Schneider Packaging Equipment.
Improving Packaging Operations
Up until the recent past, most bag-in-box palletizing at the fourth-generation, family-owned winery was still done by hand or an older conventional palletizer, prone to frequent break-downs. That process became extremely difficult for an operation that has seen double-digit growth of its boxed wine product lines in each of the past 10 years. The Robox and OptiStak were the company’s first step into robotics.
“I thought their solutions were pretty simple and this software definitely was a big part of our decision to work with Schneider,” Stelmack says.
The winery produced about 1 million cases annually when Stelmack came on board as a maintenance manager six years ago. Today, operations palletize more than 5 million cases annually. Stelmack plans on adding several more robotic palletizers as they near completion of a 300,000-square-foot addition that will be dedicated to filling and packaging operations.
In recent years, Schneider has been adapting its more than 45 years of experience building better machines to create smarter technology behind those products. Buyck takes a lot of pride in Schneider’s legacy and progressive approach to the future embodied in products like OptiStak.
“We’re constantly on the leading edge and constantly trying to make things better,” Buyck says. “We’re never going to lose that spirit of doing what needs to be done and evolving.”
Schneider manufactures a complete line of robotic palletizing, case packers, tray packers, high-performance random case sealers, specialty cartoning systems and integrated packaging solutions. Schneider offers a variety of ancillary equipment such as case erectors, cartoners, conveyors, pallet dispensers, shuttle cars, automatic guided carts and elevators that can be easily integrated with coding/labeling equipment, RFID/bar code scanners, weight checking and stretch or shrink wrapping equipment to provide a complete turnkey system solution. Schneider is the first packaging equipment company to concurrently hold the titles RIA Certified Robot Integrator, FANUC Robotics Certified Servicing Integrator and Authorized Systems Integrator and Machine Builder partner in the Rockwell Automation Partner Network™ program. For more information, visit schneiderpackaging.com.