Packaging: Robotic palletizers paint a picture of efficiency
Customized solutions address unique challenges while improving worker safety.
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Kelly-Moore Paints, the fifth-largest paint company in the United States, identified two important challenges at one of its manufacturing facilities: production flow inefficiencies and hand palletizing products that weigh up to 70 pounds. In an effort to improve employee safety and ergonomics, the company set out to automate its end-of-line process with robotic palletizers.
“We needed a partner that could work with us to engineer a solution that met our needs in a scalable way,” says Keith Hussinger, plant manager for Kelly-Moore Paints. “What the provider offered was exactly what we wanted: a complete, turnkey installation with an experienced team to support it.”
Two robotic arms meet the required palletizing rates while working within the limited space available at the facility. The 5-gallon pails posed a unique engineering challenge. A 2-inch diameter tinting port on each lid could not withstand a vacuum effector, so the provider custom-engineered end-of-arm tooling that prevented the flow of air from pulling out this port.
In addition, unwrapped trays of paint cans demand a tool that can pick up quart and gallon paint can patterns as well as loose cardboard trays. The provider designed an additional end-of-arm tool with a vacuum specifically for the cardboard tray.
The final design lifts the cans and secures the tray as product is moved to the pallet.
The system was installed and delivered on time and on budget during the off-peak season in 2009. Over the next year, the facility eliminated breaks required for heavy lifting with the old manual palletizing process, and increased worker comfort while decreasing lost-time accidents.
“In only one year, we have had a 76% ROI in our labor time,” says Hussinger. “Line changeovers take only 9 minutes, representing an 80% reduction in line changeover time. The transformation has been incredible.”
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About the AuthorJosh Bond, Contributing Editor Josh Bond is Senior Editor for Modern, and was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and associate editor. He has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce University.
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