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Victoria-Based Fruit & Vegetable Packing Company Embraces Robotics to Overcome Production Bottleneck

3 Robot cells with 12 pick-off points
Robotic Palletising, Carton Sorting, Pallet Handling Solution

Fibre King's extensive experience in delivering robotic palletising projects has culminated in our recent successful implementation at a fresh produce packing warehouse in Victoria. This latest project has truly set a new standard in flexibility, as our innovative solution was able to seamlessly handle 26 different SKU's of varying box types, sizes, and weights onto multiple pallet types. Our commitment to customised solutions and cutting-edge technology allowed us to provide the ideal solution to this complex challenge, and we are proud to have exceeded our client's expectations.

Not only a Palletising System, the end of line equipment solution also included a Carton Handling, Carton Sorting and Pallet Handling System. Our solution begins with a main trunk conveyor which utilises the interlocks double acting roller belt which is typically called a ‘DARB’. In this instance we're using the DARB to sort the products through to the pickoff conveyors. As the cartons enter into the system, they are scanned through the barcode on the front of the box where they are then allocated to a certain pickoff position for the Robot Palletiser. As the product approaches its particular pickoff conveyor, a gate drops down and will side shift the box into that pickoff conveyor.

conveying and barcode reading
Carton Sorting and Conveying

The Robot Palletising system utilises three (3) robot cells to palletise at twelve (12) different pick-off locations enabling the client to run twelve (12) different stockkeeping units at any one time. The requirements for this project meant that the equipment had to handle a very wide variety of different products; crates (RPC’s), trays, cartons and half slotted cartons (tray and a hood) all in varying sizes from 300 millimetres through to 580 millimetres long. To negate this challenge, we designed and built our own Robotic Gipper Head which employs a servo side grip system that automatically adjusts on the fly to suit the product length. For this application the robot is picking up multiple zones enabling us to pick up four cartons at a time and place two, or in some instances pick three and place three.

Palletising solutions for the food and beverage industry
Robot Gripper Head

Our system allows for seamless customisation by assigning each palletising position to a particular product with a specific pallet pattern on a selectable pallet type, all adjustable through our HMI screen. However, if an unassigned product or a product with a bad barcode read comes down the sorting conveyor, it will be directed to a reject conveyor on the outfeed. The main challenge here was selecting a conveying solution that could handle crates with a non-flat bottom, as well as cartons and trays.

“The main system challenge involved handling a wide range of SKUs and product formats, including trays, crates, and cartons of various sizes, along with five different pallet types. From small Aldi half-size pallets to larger CHEP pallets measuring 1165 by 1160 pi, our solution effectively addresses this challenge. The key lies in the smart design of our Gripper Head on the robot, enabling flexible handling and automatic adjustment to accommodate different product types. Moreover, the system ensures proper alignment and interlocking of each stack when required.” says James Windsor, CEO of Fibre King.

User friendly HMI setup for end of line solutions
HMI, Reject Conveyor

Controlled by an Allen Bradley PLC, this system coordinates everything within the robot movements. The robot controllers themselves have the basic process that the robot needs to take and the PLC will tell it what to do within its routine. We've done it this way to make it simple for the operators to use and allows the operator to go in and make changes to the pallet patterns, selecting which products get placed at which location and all manner of different adjustments that they can make through the PLC.

End of line pallet handling equipment
Pallet handling

Another aspect of the robot palletising solution is the pallet handling system. Pallets can either be placed on the floor, they can be a centralised pallet dispensing unit which distributes pallets to each cell. And in the instance that we have here, we're using an over under conveyor. So empty pallets come in at a low level, products are palletised onto those pallets and that pallet is lifted and then driven out as a full pallet. “In this instance, space was a constraint and forklift operators will dispense one empty pallet as they come in to take away a full pallet. In the future we may be able to upgrade this to a shuttle system, delivering and taking away pallets or even utilise AGV's automatic guided vehicles.” says James.

Our team of experts takes a collaborative approach with our clients, working closely to gain a comprehensive understanding of their specific needs and requirements. We take great pride in developing customised solutions that cater to their unique demands, always striving to exceed expectations. Occasionally, a client presents us with a challenge that requires pushing the boundaries of what is possible. In such instances, we relish the opportunity to rise to the occasion and develop an innovative solution that meets their needs time after time. At Fibre King, we believe that every challenge is an opportunity for growth, and we approach each project with creativity, dedication, and a commitment to excellence.

Contact us today if you're considering implementing a palletising solution that can enhance employee safety, streamline product flow, and increase production line throughput. As Australia's sole manufacturer offering both mechanical and robotic solutions, we can provide an impartial recommendation tailored to your unique requirements.


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