Automation bridges transportation gaps
Following sizable facility expansions, American Packaging Corp. (APC) determined the length of simple A to B routes was not ergonomically ideal for human pallet truck operators. Facing a decision to add operators or automate, the company turned to robotic industrial pallet trucks to increase consistency and savings.
In 2011, APC completed an equipment and facility expansion, including an additional 100,000-square-foot operating and storage space. New robotic pallet trucks allowed the company to move printed material further distances with speed and safety.
“The robots are easy to work with and have taken very little effort to integrate into everyone’s work style,” says Jon Smick, finishing manager at APC. “Because the robots are so flexible, they fit into each machine operator’s work flow and are utilized as a tool.”
The trucks transport two 3,000-pound printed rolls of work-in-process from the presses to the slitters. Instead of wire, laser, tape or magnet guidance, the robots navigate by 3D vision-guided technology, allowing operators to re-train routes as often as needed. The robotic trucks allow the customer to run multiple presses 24 hours a day with no transportation cost internally. The alternative would be a minimum of three forklifts and drivers on each shift.
Smick also adds the consistent performance and behavior of the robots removes many of the safety challenges that come with operator decision-making or fatigue.
Read more from the 2013 Casebook.