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? What composes end of production line automation?

An automatic installation at the end of a production line is essentially composed of:

  • Case packing and/or Shrink film machines
  • Automatic palletisation
  • Over wrapping machines (stretch-wrapping, strapping, hood wrapping)
  • Handling equipment (grouping and transfer of products and pallets)
  • Identification methods (marking, labelling, barcode reading)

Most equipment is driven by a supervision system that allows goods tracking and management of the flow between the machines.

? Why automate my end of production line?

End of production line operations are often done manually (case filling, palletisation, stretch wrapping of the finished pallet) implying physical and repetitive tasks, hence workstations with health and safety risks. Automating end of production improves greatly the working conditions of the operators and reduces the risks for repetitive strain injuries (RSI).

It also improves safety and reduces the potential for accidents at work, no more pallet manipulation, reduced number of industrial trucks, rationalised flow and better protection of the danger areas.

Automating end of production improves the quality of the production by reducing risks for identification errors, hence, improving throughput.

All of which noticeably improves productivity.

? What is the return on investment of automating the end of production line?

The return on investment for automating the end of production lines is achieved along three axes:

  • Automation of the workstation
  • Eliminating RSI (Repetitive Strain Injuries) and improving work conditions
  • Improving flow, hence reducing intermediate stock and stock space

The financial return on investment is generally realised in less than 3 years.

? Is it possible to automate all production line ends?

All types of products are concerned in areas as different as food & beverage, building, packaging, cosmetics, pharmaceutical, etc...

Products of very different sizes and weights can benefit from end of line automation without limits.

However these installations often involve high volume (generally working 16 hours per day) or installations involving difficult products to manipulate (heavy loads, or very large volumes).

? What solutions do I have to handle my products?

A wide range of technical solutions exists: roller conveyors, belt conveyors, flexible conveyors. The choice of using such or such a type of technology is decided by the types of products that need to be conveyed (cases, trays, bags, …) and the environment they need to work in (humidity, clean room, dust, Atex, …).

It is essential to make the right choice if you want to extend the life of your equipment and minimise its maintenance costs.

? What solutions do I have to convey my pallets?

By definition, the equipment used to convey pallets is taken from the heavy load range of products. Applications with the pallet skis perpendicular to the roller axis will find their solution in our range of motorised roller modules (conveyor, shuttle, turn table, pusher and pallet centring). However, when the pallet skis are parallel to the roller axis chain conveyor systems will be privileged to assure a better drive of the pallet.

The design of our roller conveyors is economic and maintenance costs are low, their use is therefore preferred except in specific applications such as refrigerated chambers, quick freezing type applications.

? What solutions do I have for automatic palletising?

Three types of palletising exist:

Robot palletising:

The last 10 years has seen the number of poly-articulated robots used in palletising application increase significantly. They offer great flexibility of use (change programme instantly, create new pallet patterns), better integration to the site environment, a palletising robot will often outlive the products it handles making the investment perpetuate.

Another advantage of the use of a robot is optimising the number of operations the robot can carry out (pallet gripping, interlayer, product handling …) hence reducing the number of peripherals. Today’s proven robot reliability increases considerably the equipment’s availability and reduces cost of maintenance.

Palletising gantry:

Technically more limited, the palletising gantry remains suitable for lower throughput applications. The investment level is generally lower than the palletising robot but it does not offer the multiple advantages the latter can in terms of flexibility, adaptability and maintainability.

Layer deposit palletising:

The layer deposit palletiser is generally dedicated to one production line. It is destined for production lines with high throughput requiring less flexibility and permitting an important original investment level.

? Is it possible to group more than one production line into one palletiser?

Palletising robots are ideal for grouping production lines into one palletiser, as they are flexible and allow for many pallet patterns.

The grouping of the production lines into one allows for optimising flow and integration of shrink wrapping machine, minimising the financial investment and making the best use of space.

? Are there different solutions for stretch wrapping palletised products?

Three types of stretch wrapping machines exist:

  • Turntable stretch wrapping machines
  • Rotating arm stretch wrapping machines
  • Rotating ring stretch wrapping machines

Production constraints, throughput, pallet size, stretch wrapping cycle, load stability, etc. define the choice of equipment.

Rotating stretch wrapping machines are particularly adapted to high throughput applications.

With less space taken up and low throughput, turntable stretch wrapping machines are favoured, but are not suited for unstable loads (pallet rotates).

Rotating arm stretch wrapping machines are a good technical and economic compromise for medium and low throughput applications.

All the above stretch wrapping methods can include the deposit of a cover.

? Are there different solutions for strapping palletised products?

Two families of strapping machines can be considered, horizontal strapping machines and vertical strapping machines. The first one keeps the palletised layers together, the second maintains the load on the pallet.

Strapping operations are often completed by stretch wrapping operations. Strapping operation maintains the loads and stretch wrapping will protect the palletised products as well as bringing extra support.

? How can I improve the availability of my automatic end of line installation?

The level of availability of the installation is a fundamental element of your return on investment.

The choices made at the project stages, the quality of the equipment, and the care taken during installation are the major influence factors. However it must not be neglected that other elements will affect the level of availability of the equipment, from the moment the installation is operational.

Training, preventive maintenance contracts, subscription to our hot-line are some of the tools that help improve the availability of your automatic end of production line installation as well as improving its life.

? Do solutions exist to improve the tracking of my products?

The different modules that compose the end of line equipment are often connected to computer supervision. This tool called WCS (Warehouse Control System) communicates with the installation and can itself be connected to the MPM (Manufacturing Process Management) or ERP systems. It is then possible to upload or download data permitting case labelling, pallet labelling, declaring start and/or end of operation, declaring the pallet finished, etc.

Different techniques allow product tracking, the most common is bar codes, but others, such as RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) or QR (Quick Response) codes can be alternative solutions.

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