Guide To End-Of-Line Robotics: Packaging & Palletizing Robotic Automation

When it comes to end-of-line operations, the goal should be to offer the best pallet of products to the customers in the shortest amount of time for the least amount of money. In the past, you did this with manual labor. Today that is changing.

Robots can help significantly improve end-of-line packaging, increasing efficiency by a significant amount.

Food processing companies are increasingly using robots to replace manual labor in collaborative work. It aids businesses in maintaining profitability, increasing efficiency, and reducing employee workload.

When it comes to social distancing and worker protection, robotics has proved to be a critical component. Early robotics integration may be the determining factor that keeps your business open. 

Robotics has been used primarily for end-of-line manufacturing tasks, including palletizing, case packaging, and stacking. End-of-line packaging operations typically involve secondary packaging machines such as sleevers, tray loaders, case packers, and palletizing and depalletizing transport packaging machines. 

These components operate in sync to perform a variety of tasks. Their most common uses are: 

  • Picking and placing 
  • Making variety and multi-packs
  • Loading or unloading items and finished packages

These tasks are typically performed at the end of packaging lines, indicating an increase in robotic case packaging and automated palletizing to keep up with the growing number of SKUs and the labor costs and scarcity of skilled workforce.

According to the Robotics: Innovation 2 Implementation research by PMMI Business Intelligence, a branch of PMMI, the Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, packaging has seen the most substantial development in robotics over the last five years. 

It comes second only to robotics in processing operations, with 70% of the companies polled for the study using robotics in secondary packaging. 

Robotics in End-of-Line Packaging

Robots are becoming more intelligent and versatile than ever before, thanks to sensor technology and data analytics advancements, allowing for greater integration and extension of robotics into more manufacturing processes. 

Robotic case packers can now perform more delicate tasks, such as placing variety packs of candy or potato chips into cartons or retail-ready packaging, thanks to sensor technology. 

Several consumer packaged goods companies cited in the study used 100% robotics in their secondary operations, and 59 percent anticipate a rise in robotic use in secondary packaging operations. 

Benefits of Using Robotics in End-of-Line Packaging

With a growing consumer emphasis on sustainability, robotic case packing can help. The higher precision allows for uniform handling of less durable packaging materials without breaking them, saving time and money. 

Although collaborative robots (cobots) have yet to impact case packaging significantly, many organizations in the study see them as game-changers. Cobots are simple to train and use to handle boring, tedious, dirty, or risky tasks.

Using robotics can reduce the cost of a workstation where unique case packaging is needed. That will help workers perform more complicated and varied tasks in the workstation as the robots can do tedious tasks.

In such cases, force-sensitive sensors safeguard the workers. That has the added benefit of improving worker skillsets by requiring them to collaborate with robots, helping them learn things they usually wouldn’t.

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are particularly vulnerable to labor shortages and rising production demands. Doing more with less by combining manual operations with optimized robotics will minimize human idle time by up to 85 percent for SMEs.

Robotics in End-of-Line Palletizing 

Robotics was launched within the packaging line in most packaging operations through transport and case packaging. Robots continue to raise and stack cases onto pallets in preparation for transport, with almost two-thirds of businesses planning to expand the number of palletizing robots.

 The three basic types of palletizing robots are:

  • Cartesian
  • Articulated arm robotic palletizers

Cartesian robots have joints across the three axes for linear motions (forwards and backward, up and down, and side to side). Since all three joints are prismatic, movement is linear.

SCARA (Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm) robots are comparable to Cartesian robots because they shift in three axes. However, they can also rotate. They are usually faster and more versatile than Cartesian robots but are less precise.

The movement and appearance of the articulated robot are like a human arm. There are six axes in a standard articulated arm. Each joint functions as an axis. The greater a robot's range of movement, the more joints it has. Because of its versatility and reprogrammable design, the articulated arm is the most common robotic device for palletizing.

Automated palletizing systems can integrate traditional and robotic processes for maximum accuracy and performance.

Benefits of Using Robotics in End-of-Line Palletizing 

Robotic palletizing is a great way to boost productivity without hiring more people, taking on more labor liability, or spending money on training. You can free up staff for more customer-focused tasks by using robotic palletizing, while the robot reliably delivers well-stacked pallet loads at a very rapid pace.

With fewer broken bags, packages, and stacks, as well as more secure pallet loads thanks to precise positioning, you will get more merchandise out the door. They drastically reduce material losses during inventory storage, on the shipping docks, and in transit.

The primary advantage of automated palletizing is the accuracy with which materials are mounted on the pallet, resulting in a tightly fitting stack with minimal movement during shipping.

Higher throughput and lower labor costs are also benefits of robotic palletizing.

They prevent excessive damage during shipping as a result of the palletized load's reliability. That saves money, and the limited space required for automated equipment frees up floor space for other operations.

To Sum Up

Many businesses are moving faster than ever toward end-of-line automation as property, labor, and space costs rise while automation costs remain unchanged or drop. 

Since what happens at the end of the line is so crucial from almost every angle, it's essential to understand how it can impact every aspect of your production process. Contact BluePrint Automation now to get expert advice on the best robotic case packaging and palletizing equipment for you. 

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