The exacting precision of JMP Engineering’s palletizing machine with vacuum gripper caught our attention at foodpro. I caught up with Bill Saylev, their Engineering Manager, afterwards to find out what are companies looking for in a robotic palletising system, and what the top factors are to consider when investing in one.
A New Zealand company, JMP Engineering has been designing and manufacturing palletizing and conveyor systems since it started out in 1972. It has four factories in NZ, with one dedicated to servicing PepsiCo alone. Demand for palletizing systems is high, and the company currently sends two robots to the United States every week. This all adds up — there are now around 600 JMP robotic palletizing and conveyor systems operating worldwide. So it’s no wonder they’re known as the “innovators in palletizing solutions”.
Here are Bill Saylav’s tips for choosing the right palletizing system.
1. Design to fit your pallet
To begin, there are some basic, yet essential, details we always ask our customers when they come to us for a palletizing solution:
- what’s your product type?
- how many product types do you have?
- what are your product’s dimensions and weights?
- what are the product rates?
- what’s the pallet pattern?
On a basic level, this helps us advise the best palletizing solution for their production line.
2. Variety of pack sizes
More and more, we’re finding that one production line has a variety of different pack sizes, particularly with an explosion in SKUs resulting in frequent production-line changeovers. As a result, a company may need to pallet large packages one day and then smaller, lighter packs the next. Today, palletizing equipment is being designed to satisfy this requirement.
3. Weigh up total cost of ownership (TCO) and future needs
Speed is important to manufacturers and distributors. Today, factories need to work faster than ever to fill the supermarket shelves and meet demand. Every piece of machinery, including palletizing equipment, needs to work at optimal speed.
But beyond speed and costs, you also need to consider how you’ll be using the palletizer. For example, one of our customers needed to pallet packs of mushrooms. This delicate produce required extremely gentle handling so the mushrooms weren’t bruised. We helped them choose and implement a solution that was suited to their packaging — and wouldn’t end up costing them more in the long run through damaged produce.
4. Maximum flexibility
To optimise their production line, companies are being prompted to implement automated solutions that can quickly adapt to changing packaging requirements and handle delicate products of varying sizes. With a hybrid robotic palletizer, they get the dual benefits of equipment that can both arrange cases and secure to a pallet. While they provide maximum flexibility, they don’t compromise on control. For example, our vacuum gripper can have up to 90 zoned suction cups, allowing you to control exactly what is picked up. The head then rotates to fit the packs precisely into the pallet, just like a jigsaw puzzle.
5. Long reach, high capacity
At the same time, this constant push to do more with less means customers want their systems to have a long reach without losing capacity. For example, our robotic palletizer has a weight capacity of 150kg and reaches 3m, without losing capacity. This is a huge advantage for production lines.
6. Slip sheets and stretch wrapping
Slip sheets are a great way of ensuring pallet stability. To configure the palletizing system, we ask our customers the type of slip sheet they use – between layers, top cover or bottom sheet. And also whether it’s cardboard or plastic.
Bags and shrink-wrapped loads require different handling methods within the machinery, compared with corrugated cases or paperboard packages. Customers have the option to add a stretch-wrapping capability at the same time as their palletizer or to add it later.
7. Room to move
This is an obvious one – how much real estate do you have for the palletizer? You need to be sure the machine will safely fit into your environment.
8. Ease of use
Another major consideration is ease of use. The factory manager wants to know that if the system is interrupted for some reason, they won’t have to waste valuable time reprogramming the machine. This is something we’ve built into our current palletizing models. Once the machine starts up again, it finds its own way from where the exact spot it stopped.
9. Ease of maintenance
In the same vein, companies need ease of maintenance. As with all automated machinery, regular maintenance is critical to keep it functioning at optimal performance. So the palletizer needs to be easy to access for regular servicing.
For more information on palletizing solutions, visit www.jmpaust.com.au.