Beverage Industry

Package Handling Made Easy

December 1, 2007
Package Handling Made Easy

By ELIZABETH FUHRMAN

New palletizers speed packaging with more accuracy
From 12-packs to cases, boxes to squares, and two to 200 SKUs, all beverage palletizing situations are unique. Material handling solution providers understand the specific needs of the industry and have created automatic, robotic and high-speed options for every packaging necessity.
Beverage manufacturers require specific features depending upon their operations. Large manufacturers with few SKUs will look for high-speed (200-plus cases per minute), with high efficiency and little downtime. Additionally, smaller bottlers will focus on flexibility. For example, craft brewers with relatively high SKU mixes will focus more on quick changeovers.
“The essential characteristics for palletizing and depalletizing equipment are robustness, reliability, high precision and low-cost maintenance,” says Silvio Manzani, Sidel product manager for palletizing and depalletizing equipment.
The need for flexibility and the possibility to treat products in bottling lines is moving the industry toward robotic palletizers. “With robots, we can handle different products, with an automatic changeover, which results in downtime and personnel cost reduction,” Manzani says.
Sidel offers a single-column palletizer/depalletizer, an automated machine with programmable movements to carry out high-speed palletizing and depalletizing operations. The orientation of the units, the wide working area and combined operations make the machine flexible and suitable for several applications. The palletizer/depalletizer offers easy access on all sides and requires minimum floor space for the main structure.
Its main column is mounted on a motorized rotating table that is able to precisely orient the machine in the desired direction. The palletizer/ depalletizer’s lifting arm is based on one side of the column, and is worked by a system of belts and pulleys equipped with counterweights. At the end of each arm is a motorized wrist to which the gripper is attached.
Need for speed
In addition to flexibility, beverage companies can look to robotic palletizing systems for high speed. FKI Logistex now offers a high-speed robotic palletizing solution, which uses multiple robotic arms to achieve palletizing rates higher than those reached by typical robotic palletizers, the company says. FKI Logistex’s robots use servo wrists to rotate packages for faster, gentler product handling, it says.
The FKI Logistex high-speed robotic palletizing cell enables four-way orientation of cases, which is suited for an industry trend of moving toward smaller packages and full pallet displays in big-box and club stores. With control of package label positioning, customers can display the same graphics on all four sides of the pallet, or orient barcodes to streamline scanning operations.
FKI Logistex’s multiple-robot palletizing cell also is another alternative to traditional palletizing in facilities where floor space is at a premium. FKI Logistex designs and manufacturers the robotic cell components in its high-speed robotic palletizing systems, which offers a customizable solution to handle a variety of product and layout requirements.
Smaller footprint
An advantage of some robot palletizers is smaller footprints. Schneider Packaging Equipment Co., Brewerton, N.Y., developed the Robox, a robotic palletizing system. The line now includes a Robox capable of palletizing two pallets from a single infeed in a smaller footprint than previously available.
After Robox fills the first pallet, the robotic arm automatically rotates to the opposite station, loads a second pallet and notifies the operator to remove the full pallets. The Robox comes pre-programmed to palletize each SKU pallet configuration. Speeds can reach 15 cases per minute, and can include an auto pallet height verification option that ensures exact pallet height in each pallet, further protecting product, the company says.
Schneider’s entry-level palletizing system can be integrated into a more heavily automated line. For example, by integrating a discharge system, it can be used with automatically guided vehicles.
The demand for compact palletizers that also can be integrated into existing production lines in the entry and medium performance range is what inspired Germany-based KHS AG to create the Innopal LH. The Innopal LH is able to process up to 1,500 packs or up to 150 layers per hour, and is capable of processing all types of cartons, including wrap-around, trays and multi-packs. The Innopal LH also offers an elevated-pack infeed.
The row pusher of the Innopal LH acts as a layer pusher to set up layer formations and palletize simultaneously. The system uses a lift trolley to supply the pallets individually to the integrated pallet lift — with a fully automatic option from a pallet magazine.
In addition to a pallet magazine and automatic pallet supply and removal, the system is equipped with the following integrated options: a slip-sheet inserter and magazine, as well as a pack-turning facility installed upstream of the palletizer to create interlocked layer formations. Additionally, the Innopal LH operates using servo motors, which provide short cycle times with exact adherence to position accurately, the company says.
Low-level design
ABC Packaging also introduced a high-speed palletizer with a low-level construction that gives packagers the convenience and economy of floor-level operation with the performance most often associated with high-level machines. The palletizer features an automatic grouping module that allows layer transfer during product accumulation, staging and stacking layers every 15 seconds. Products are repositioned to any required orientation during high-speed operation with the servo-operated overhead orienter.
ABC Packaging’s palletizer runs cases, trays or totes. It offers flexibility with changeover to pre-programmed pallet configurations completed at the intelligent control station, which features an industrial-grade 8-inch color touchscreen display. The palletizer can accept product from low-level or high-level infeed to allow easier installation in existing line layouts. Its compact footprint and modular design also provides reduced installation costs.