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For many years manual labour and conventional systems have been the method of choice for palletising goods, but modern manufacturing is causing a shift. With the growing demand for faster, more efficient and cost effective production lines, manufacturers are shifting away from conventional palletising methods, turning instead to robotic palletising solutions.
In this article, our plastic pallet experts at Goplasticpallets.com explain the many benefits of automating palletising with industrial robots and plastic pallets and illustrate the process in this neat video, courtesy of RARUK Automation.
Accurate and consistent handling
All palletising systems, whether conventional or automated, require the use of a pallet, which acts as a loading platform for goods to be picked and placed onto. The two most common types of pallets used are wooden pallets or plastic pallets.
Wooden pallets can pose several problems for palletising systems. As conventional palletising relies on manual labour to perform tasks, there is greater risk of injury to operatives using wooden pallets from loose nails and splinters. These too can potentially jam and stall an automated palletiser, causing costly damage and disruption to operations.
Plastic pallets are increasingly becoming the pallet of choice for palletising systems as they are injection moulded in one piece offering 100% size and strength consistency. When used in a robotic palletising system – as illustrated in the video using our IPS Hygienic 1210 5R plastic pallet – this allows for accurate location of the pallet and more accurate loading of goods on the pallet deck.
Whilst the video shows a plastic pallet being loaded, this is just the start of its journey. An empty plastic pallet is firstly fed into the robotic palletiser and boxes are then moved into the palletising cell. In RARUK’s Robotiq palletising solution, retro reflective sensors detect the boxes which the robot picks up and starts stacking them onto the pallet. Once full, the plastic pallet will most likely be fed onto an automated conveyor, where it travels through the system ready for dispatch. For automated applications like this, our durable plastic pool pallets – for example our APB 1210 Pool Pallet 5R – offer the ideal solution. With a dynamic loading capacity of 2500kg and racking capacity of 1250kg, this plastic pallet is exceptionally strong and works seamlessly in automated systems with minimal deflection under load.
Flexibility for manufacturing
Conventional palletising systems – often referred to as hard automation – traditionally only operate with one type of product, making them inflexible and often impossible for a manufacturer to adapt for other product types. Modern manufacturing is increasingly demanding more flexibility, which conventional palletising systems are simply unable to accommodate.
Robotic palletisers are designed with flexibility in mind. Quick and easy to install, set up and configure they are capable of handling frequent changes of task, as well as different box and pallet sizes. Cobots from Universal Robots, like the one in the video, can pick a wide range of boxes and handle payloads of up to 16kg. It can also cover extensive heights and different pallet dimensions and has a small footprint, meaning it can easily fit into an existing floor plan.
Eliminates risk of injury
According to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) of the 693,000 non-fatal workplace injuries reported from the Labour Force Survey in 2019/20, 19 per cent were a result of handling, lifting or carrying.
Integrating a robotic palletising system into a manufacturing operation removes the need for workers to perform any repetitive or strenuous tasks such as bending, lifting and twisting therefore eliminating the risk of injury to operatives.
The quickening growth of ecommerce is putting constant pressure on manufacturers to increase productivity and deliver faster than ever before; in the case of many retailers, where next day delivery was once admired, same-day delivery is now on the rise.
It’s unfeasible for any worker to commit to a 24-hour shift but robotic palletisers, in contrast, are designed for endurance. A robotic palletising system is able to process more cases in less time than any other palletising method, increasing throughput. For instance, the Robotiq palletising solution can load at a speed of up to 13 boxes per minute – and if you multiply the number of palletising robots you use, it can dramatically boost throughput.
Cost savings and ROI
Although there is an initial outlay when using robotic palletising systems, as they offer a completely flexible automation solution – in terms of the different pallet sizes and product types they can adapt to – they offer a much more cost-effective alternative to conventional systems.
Another cost benefit with using robotic palletisers with plastic pallets is that manufacturers can generate a quick return on investment as a result of increased productivity and throughput. And these robotic systems are built to last – just like our plastic pallets which have an expected life span of up to, and often exceeding 10 years.