Automated jar palletising in the production of jams and preserves
Fine Swiss jams and preserves on fresh bakery items make for a good start to the day. Whether it be at the breakfast table, at home, or at a sophisticated hotel buffet in the morning – the food manufacturer Hero AG in the Swiss town of Lenzburg, provides its customers with fresh fruit preserves daily.
Several feats of logistics are required before the jam is on the customer's table, ready to be consumed in an aluminium tin or a small jar. The automation specialist Robotec, based in the Swiss town of Seon, plays a key role in this supply chain. Because after filling, the units of jam first have to be packaged according to type in boxes, and these have to be stacked for further transport on pallets.
For the last step of this logistical process, FANUC robots, with specially adapted gripping technology from Robotec, come into play. A palletising cell installed at Hero and a six-axis robot with special gripping technology, enables palletising glass jars around-the-clock – the system is fast, reliable, accident- and failure-proof.
Local challenges for palletising glass cell
What looks like such an easy and smooth process, took quite a lot of development work. Although the palletising glass cell was set up and tested by Robotec at the customer's plant, there were in fact some unforeseen challenges and new requirements. For example, the palletising pattern had to be adapted due to the conditions of the pallets, and the hand operation device had to be redesigned.
Because the design was to forgo a visual inspection through camera technology on the grippers, the stainless steel grippers had to be designed in such a way that they worked reliably through a clever movement technique and that no conversion of the gripper equipment would be necessary for production changes.
An intuitive control scheme adapted to customer needs
The operator does not select any program on the robot. Via the control panel, he can select the desired number of layers, as well as the type of pallet – euro pallet or smaller. He acknowledges and starts the program.
In addition, the intuitive control scheme was chosen, using the internationally understood colour codes. Red means "Stop", green stands for "Start". "What often looks very easy and works accordingly, is often the greatest challenge", says Bärtschi. But for the Robotec team, this is their daily bread, because they are solution providers, and their job is to implement customer needs.
In addition: The pallets packed by Robotec according to type at Hero are taken to an additional service provider, unpacked there and recombined. Also for these pick-and-place tasks, Robotec has successfully developed and installed several systems.