In the past, manufacturers employ manual hand stacking when organizing products and packages into pallet loads for warehouse storage and distribution. While this method is slow and demands massive staffing, pallet handling is a critical logistics process for the past decades. However, the way pallets are handled nowadays are much different, more efficient, and with higher throughput to meet the heavier loads, faster pace, and bigger warehousing needs.
The progressive requirements made the traditional manual stacking no longer feasible, paving the way to system automation as a viable solution to the increasing stacking and storage demands. In the late seventies, conventional in-line palletizers were introduced to provide the solution for an automated stacking system. Later on, robotic palletizing came to the scene and tremendously changed the product handling landscape.
What Are Robotic Palletizers?
Robotic palletizers were first introduced in the early 1980s. These machines have robotic arms with a product gripper, also called an end effector, that picks up the packages from the layer table where they are positioned into the pallet. The automated material handling machine is capable of orienting and stacking several products or packages into a single load, thereby automating product stacking onto pallets. You can also program the palletizers to depalletize, which is an important part of some production lines.
Today, robotic palletizers have become a standard in many warehouses and storage facilities due to their importance in product handling. They can solve many problems where the conventional method could not provide. There are also processes that are now being integrated into the more advanced palletizers, such as sorting, counting, labeling, wrapping, metal detection, weighing, and more. These features give companies huge savings while streamlining the process for more efficient operations with high productivity.
Advantages of Robotic Palletizers Over Conventional Palletizers
Robotic palletizers are not a one-stop solution that solves all problems in stacking and product handling. As with most technologies, if there are pros, there are cons, as well. In some applications, robotics is not feasible. Instead, the situation favors the conventional in-line palletizer as the viable option. So, let’s find out when to consider robotic palletizers as the best solution for your business.
Ideal for Bag and Pail Palletizing
Robotic palletizers are dominating the bag and pail palletizing business. This is due to the perfect square and straight loading of products. The robotic arm of the machine can accurately pick the bags from the roller conveyor onto the load without any disturbance on the contents of the bags. Automated systems employing the use of robots also have a better throughput, usually above 20 cycles per minute. Plus, the ability to work in the dusty and rugged environment and confined or limited spaces further add to their appeal. Conventional palletizers are suitable for single SKUs, such as boxes and bags. Robotic systems can do more than bags and boxes but also other packaging forms like bottles, bails, bundles, drums, boxes, and almost anything. They can handle multiple SKUs.
If you are offering only one product type, the conventional palletizing system will do. But if you have multiple products in different packaging with varying dimensions, you should consider a more versatile system that can adapt to different scenarios. In this case, the robotic system is the ideal one to use.
When you’re looking at productivity, you should not look at just the palletizer but also the productivity of the whole system. The conventional machines are fast in building pallets, but they are prone to bottlenecks. On the other hand, a jointed-arm robot can perform much faster, with the ability to build four pallet loads simultaneously within its cell.
Simplifies the Multi-line Palletizing at Lower Speed
A robotic palletizer is capable of simplifying the multi-line palletizing of products by getting rid of the upstream conveyor system. This is the ideal setup as opposed to the conventional palletizers that require more loads of similar products on the upstream conveyor before they feed them into the palletizing machine. Moreover, the robotic arm can work on multiple loads while simultaneously storing the partial load at the floor level. However, the concept is effective for lines that require a lower speed.
If floor space is a premium, then robotics come to the rescue. In-line palletizers with conveyor systems will take up a considerable amount of space. If you are renting the place, you will be paying for higher monthly rentals. A robotic palletizer is a compact system that won’t take too much space, giving enough legroom to work safely around the area, on top of the cost-saving benefits.
Easy and Cheaper to Maintain
Fewer parts mean lesser maintenance works and fewer downtimes. This makes the robotic system easy to maintain at lower maintenance costs. Conventional palletizers, on the other, have more parts and more downtimes, making them more expensive to maintain.
Speed is a critical factor when deciding between a robotic or a conventional palletizer. This is also the area where the favor goes to the latter over the former. A high-level conventional palletizing system can form products into layers at a higher speed. The output for bags may range from 10 to 40 bags per minute. But for cases, they can go as high as 150 cases per minute. Robotics can handle a broader range of SKUs in different pallet patterns and shapes but at a slower speed. They can have par output for bags, but for cases, the output is lower at about 50 cases per minute on average.
Which Palletizer System is Best for Your Business
Robotic palletizers may be the game-changer in the industry with multiple advantages over the previous methods. But they won’t put the conventional palletizing system completely out of the game. If you are looking for a faster throughout, the conventional type still prevails. The robotic system can work on multiple lines, eliminates several tasks, and requires lesser space, on top of their versatility and productivity advantage. If cost is a major factor, robotic palletizers are the cost-effective choice. But the best choice you’ve got if you have multiple products with different packaging, not just bags and boxes but also bottles, drums, and more.