NEW INSTALLATION REDEFINES PRODUCTIVITY LEVELS AT FOOD PACKHOUSE
A new automated palletising solution from Pacepacker Services is delivering significant productivity, efficiency and throughput gains at Nottingham-based food packaging company, The Sherwood Group.
Replacing a manual operation, the new end-of-line packaging technology has been installed as part of an ongoing modernisation and automation programme. The installation utilises a FANUC M410iC/185 robot to accurately, neatly and efficiently pack a huge variety of different case sizes.
The Sherwood Group is a major supplier of direct-contact trays and cartons for the food industry, such as high-end Easter egg cartons and on-the-go food cartons for high-street food outlets. They are also recognised as the leading greeting card printer in the UK. Due to their wide variety of packaging formats and their broad secondary packaging requirements this has driven the need for an automated palletising solution.
Coupled with Pacepacker Services’ new Pallet+ packaging software and technology, the new packing cell can call upon various pre-programmed recipes to stack two pallets at a time with different products arriving from two different gluing lines. Indeed, the solution has proved so efficient that The Sherwood Group is now looking to invest in new automated pre-feeders to keep pace with the capacity and throughput of the palletiser.
The robot – FANUC’s new M410iC/185 – is the first of a new generation of palletising robots that combines the company’s proven reliability record with tangible improvements in performance. Capable of 1,700 cycles per minute – and a 185 kg payload – the robot delivers heightened productivity and more efficient palletising of heavy payloads. By harnessing the latest advances in servo technology, the robot delivers best-in-class performance on every front: speed, payload, energy-efficiency and reach. Ideal for dual-cell installations, its 3.143m reach – higher than any other robot in the same class – allows it to service two cells effortlessly.
“Our food packaging segment is growing 25% per annum,” explains Graham Garrod, Operations Director at The Sherwood Group. “As a result of this we have been examining our production and packaging capabilities, looking to invest in technology that will not only handle the increased throughput, but also offer the agility we need for increased order variations.”
The previous manual packaging system was incredibly labour intensive. Graham explains: “It was never constant, which meant we often had operators waiting around for the next run… but they had to be there. Since the new solution was installed, we have been able to relocate our staff to other areas in the company.”
“We undertake all the robot programming ourselves,” Graham elaborates. “We also deploy specialist packaging software that calculates the product size and tells how many packs we can get into a particular size of carton without it getting too heavy. Our staff defines the optimum size of carton and optimum number of cartons per pallet and then program robot to place them on the pallet. We use what we call SP numbers, which identify a particular outer carton for a certain product. Once this is fed into the robot’s controller we programme the robot to efficiently stack the cartons, before saving the routine a packaging recipe.”
Graham was impressed with the speed of delivery and set up. “We placed the order in January 2017 and took delivery in March. There was a bit of learning curve regarding programming and set up, but this was seamless thanks to our deployment of ‘champions’ who were trained on the system, took control and were able to train others.”
“We are actually looking at a second Pacepacker system,” Graham elaborates. “We currently have three gluing lines, which our current palletiser could handle, but the advantages would be watered down a little. By deploying a second palletising cell, not only do we gain the same advantages as we have seen from the first one, but we will also have scope to add a fourth line, knowing that we have adequate end-of-line packaging capacity.”
Graham is under no illusion that this is the end of their automation journey. “New technology simply moves the bottleneck to somewhere else on the line, which is why our improvement process is ongoing. This new Pacepacker solution has certainly made us review some of our upstream process, as we now need to keep pace with what’s further down the line.
“The Pacepacker solution with the FANUC robot certainly does what it says on the tin,” Graham concludes. “It has performed to our expectation, without any disappointment or dissatisfaction. Everything we were told it would do… it does. And we certainly need to look at other areas of our line, as we have not yet run it to its maximum capabilities!”