Robots are often used to build things, whether it’s assembling products or end of line palletizing. But that is not the only function for which they are well suited. In many production and processing environments, raw materials, components and unit loads are received by pallet and need to be introduced into the manufacturing process. This is known as depalletizing. Here are a few application attributes to look for when considering robots for depalletizing.
Heavy Loads – Automation should always be considered when the product weight exceeds 10 lbs. That does not mean that it will always be the right solution, but employee health and well-being should be a top priority at any company today, and with good cause. Good employees are hard to find and can usually be moved to a job that adds more value to the business than labor-intensive, repetitive movement work, which presents ergonomic concerns.
Steady Volume – A constant workflow is helpful when operating a robot, but there are many ways to help smooth out the choppy flow to a robotic work cell. Sophisticated controls are available to cause the robot to act only when the pallet is in place and ready to be unloaded.
Awkward Sizes – To pick bulky products from a pallet, more than one person may be required. End-of-arm tooling can be customized to pick up a wide variety of sizes and shapes, and can even adjust automatically to pick up more than one configuration.
Moderate Elevation Differentials – Lightweight products on a pallet might come stacked up to 84 inches high; a less than ideal height for a person to safely or easily reach. Processes with moderate height differentials between the pickup point and the drop off point lend themselves well to robotic solutions.
Fragile Product – Many products are fragile or delicate, such as eggs. Current robot technology allows for very precise movement. Picking up and putting down products can be controlled so that product damage is kept to a minimum.
High Volume – Let’s face it, employees get distracted and fatigued. Automated solutions are quick and designed to run 24/7- with no breaks or sick days. Routine maintenance can be planned to take place when it is convenient for your operation.
Multiple Shifts – Automation requires an initial investment and, in most cases, labor savings is a key component to justifying the cost. The elimination or avoidance of a second or third shift can pay for such an automated robotic solution.
Robotic solutions can be designed for a wide variety of manufacturing and palletizing system processes, especially those with repetitive tasks, providing high throughput and accuracy. So it’s not surprising that industrial robot sales jumped 12 percent in 2013 from the previous year, according to the IFR, and the trend will continue to rise.
Have you considered a more flexible, reliable and efficient solution to keep your goods moving? What are your concerns? Leave a comment below.