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Understanding Trends that Enhance Flexibility in Palletizing

By Adam Torkildson. Originally published at ValueWalk.

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Apart from being dependable solutions, automated palletizing processes are getting more adaptable in integrating different tasks and SKUs (stock-keeping units. Today, vendors are emphasizing ease of use and software capabilities. What are the two standard types of automated palletizers? What about palletizing trends that boost robot flexibility? Read on to find out.

Types of Automated Palletizers

Conventional and robotic automated palletizers are the two primary types of palletizers.

Conventional palletizers move cases from the conveyor to form mixed and single SKU pallets. A conventional palletizing robot can manage a certain level of package variability. However, they are not as adaptable in handling assorted cases as robotic palletizers do.

  • Palletizing Solutions have Benefits and Downsides

Both conventional and robotic palletizing solutions come with pros and cons. Whether you choose the robotic or conventional palletizers depends on various factors like package variability and SKU integration. Other factors to consider include; the infrastructure requirements of the conveyor and the available space.

Worth mentioning is that palletizing solutions can accelerate and deliver steady output in a physically challenging process. As a result, automated palletizing solutions provide enhanced flexibility. Here are some of the trends that make automated palletizing robots more flexible.

Robotic Palletizing units are Software Driven

Automated palletizers are designed to communicate with warehouse control systems (WCS) and conveyor controls. However, modern-day palletizing is rapidly becoming more integrated with warehouse execution systems (WES) and WCS. WES is a software tier that facilitates workflow and order release.

Palletizing solution providers offer WCS/WES capabilities and ensure users understand how to incorporate them with the WCS. Some vendors include tools that enable the visual configuration of pallet designs in their palletizing solutions.

Palletizing robot vendors also use vision technology, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to boost flexibility in robotic arms. Experts in the robotic sector opine that artificial intelligence and vision are vital for innovation today. Palletizing robot manufacturers are considering using vision and AI in the development of mixed SKU pallets in the future.

Robotic Palletizers are Ultra-Modern

Robotic palletizers often fall under the Industry 4.0 trend that combines intelligent machinery and sensors to create more connected and flexible systems. These units provide performance insights and reports while facilitating maintenance and predictive analytics to guarantee high uptime.

Conventional palletizers are also effective and can execute redundant and dangerous tasks, protecting staff from harm.

  • Semi-Automated Options

Assembling pallets manually can be a daunting task. However, you can ease it using a semi-automated solution. According to experts, some semi-automated solutions available use an ergonomic platform delivered by conveyors, allowing cases to penetrate the palletizing center ergonomically. Such palletizing solutions feature visual instructions while the ergonomic platform and center facilitate rapid pallet formation without the manual lifting process.

Operators can merge semi-automated palletizing locations with robotics to make them fully automated. However, when using the semi-automated mode, operators can process more than 500 cases hourly, making the unit faster than manual palletizing units.

  • Reducing Labor Needs

Employers can leverage semi-automated units to cut down labor needs by half. Further, the system provides a safe and ergonomic platform for workers. A semi-automated palletizing center comes with a stretch automated wrapper feature that covers each load for stability before transportation. The wrapper feature helps protect your products from damage.

Automated conventional palletizers are ideal for various operations. However, robotic palletizing offers more flexibility in assembling pallets containing assorted products. Automated conventional palletizers can shelter some varied cases, but robotic units arrange products of varying sizes and shapes inside a stable pallet before wrapping them for transportation. Conventional palletizers are ideal for operations that involve constant carton heights.

  • What you should know when using Fully Automated Palletizing Solutions for Multiple Shift Tasks

Fully automated palletizing units come in handy for multi-shift functions because they save on labor. When using fully automated solutions, you must determine the product’s weight, dimension, and fragility. This explains why some tasks use weighing and dimensioning units to understand package features always.

Robotic Flexibility

Conventional palletizers are ideal for single-lane input environments and low SKUs. However, robotic palletizers are designed to be flexible in terms of space and the materials they handle. Many multi-line and multi-SKU conventional units require more conveyors than automated systems because they are usually stationary, while automated systems can be placed in different places.

  • Some Tools Required can be Costly

To incorporate multiple lines in the conventional palletizer, users may need an accumulation conveyor which takes up more space and can be expensive. Experts say multi-line robotic palletizers and SKUs can be deployed in the production line. In this case, they will require less floor space and conveyors while reducing operational expenses and capital.

Robotic units come with a friendly TCO (total cost of ownership) due to various factors like increased reliability, reduced energy consumption, and reduced need for buffering. Robotic arms can operate for long hours without failing, unlike conventional units. Robot users can also integrate predictive maintenance and sensor capabilities to enhance their performance.

Ease of Integration

Automated palletizing solutions facilitate easy integration with equipment in the end-of-line system. This includes the conveyor and shuttle systems or automated storage and retrieval systems that supply and restore cases and pallets.

Other systems like the automatic or conveyor-guided vehicle, automated stretch wrappers, and automated mobile robots that may distribute enclosed and palletized products are also part of the end-of-line system.

  • Testing APIs (Application Programming Interfaces)

In the integrated end-of-line systems environment, vendors will need to test application programming interfaces to determine whether different systems are compatible. Some organizations can combine automated palletizers with their appliances like stretch wrappers and case packers, using the controls layer and application programming interfaces to reinforce an incorporated end-of-line system.

Today, many customers are searching for integrated turnkey solutions, and some companies can easily combine palletizing solutions with their existing systems to meet customer needs. Some companies are deploying pallet wrapping, case packing, automated storage, and retrieval system solutions.

To support integration, some organizations use software and standardize their human-machine interfaces and control packages. Doing so ensures that the general solution is easy to maintain for their service personnel. They also train their customer support representatives to understand how to operate and maintain the system.

Finally

As technology evolves and the palletizing industry advances, more trends will emerge. Robotic manufacturers and vendors must be on the lookout for these trends to stay ahead of their competitors.

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