The Emergence of Robotic Palletizing
Robotic palletizing is efficient, fast and a viable solution for the labor shortage
By Ryan Womble, Director of Sales at Quest
Robotic automation has become the go-to engineering design for gaining efficiency, speed and addressing the ongoing labor shortage within the packaging industry. Whether it’s forming cases, packing cases or building pallets for shipping, robotics are everywhere within the industry.
Ryan Womble from Quest explains how robotics lends a helping arm to palletizing operations:
Why are more companies looking at robotics to palletize products?
As companies explore new ways to become more efficient, adding automation to their end-of-line packaging operations often is an ideal way to achieve that. And one area of the end-of-line that makes sense is palletizing. Robotic palletizing greatly increases a company’s packaging speed, while also providing newfound flexibility in being able to create customer-specific pack patterns.
It also helps from a labor standpoint. Trying to hire and retain staff to manually build pallets all day is extremely difficult. Robots don’t call in sick; they reliably operate around the clock. A well-designed robotic palletizer can be operated by just one person, and offers great opportunities to maximize efficiencies to an end-of-line system.
Are robotic palletizers difficult to program or operate?
The intelligence behind robotics has come a long way in recent years to the point today where they are extremely easy to operate. Many robotic packaging OEMs are going to great lengths to engineer and design their systems to be intuitive and easy to operate.
This point is very important to companies who may not have a seasoned staff to operate packaging machinery or that have staff from a range of backgrounds. The workforce is changing. Baby boomers are retiring and taking with them years of tribal knowledge that’s not easily replaced. The workforce is more diverse, and operators don’t necessarily speak the same language, which can create training challenges.
How can robotics improve end-of-line packaging?
On the end-of-line, creating specific pallet patterns is a fundamental element of robotic palletizing. To make this task easier, suppliers are designing machine operator interfaces that are visually and technologically intuitive.
Users can modify box dimensions, drag-and-drop cases to form desired pack patterns, or let the program automatically calculate the most efficient pattern structure to optimize product density on the pallet. The ability to build your own patterns saves time and money by eliminating the need to have a service programmer onsite to perform the task.
Robotic design has increased functionality while simplifying operation – both of which are opening up new opportunities in palletizing and other packaging functions.
Which applications make sense for robotic palletizing?
Its versatility and overall consistent performance position robotic palletizers to work well in many packaging applications. Robotic palletizers operate in a footprint as small as 8’x10’, and come with long-reach Fanuc robots to build higher stack patterns, which better maximize tractor-trailer loading for more efficient shipping.
While robotic palletizers are designed to work in many industries and applications, it performs particularly well where line speeds average up to 40 units per minute on applications involving repeated changeovers. A Venturi-style vacuum gripper with foam pad is a popular, reliable style to lift corrugate cases, slip sheets, pallets, regular slotted cartons (RSC); half slotted containers (HSC); bags; blocks; pails and dunnage each weighing up to 60 pounds.
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