Packaging Corner: Automated palletizers emphasize flexibility, safety
March 01, 2013 - MMH Editorial
Smaller packages. Club store packs with shelf-ready packaging. Sustainability. Packaging waste reduction.
All of these trends have pushed manufacturers and distributors to invest in automated palletizing systems, particularly hybrid models that feature a robotic arm to arrange cases that are then fed—layer by layer—to a conventional palletizer to secure them to a pallet.
“Companies are trying to do more with less,” says Ted Yeigh, sales director for Columbia Machine. “That’s prompting them to implement more automated solutions. With hybrid palletizers, companies get the flexibility of a robot that can quickly adapt to changing packaging requirements and handle very delicate products, including tall and tippy cases, labels-out layer forming and other challenging package types. They also benefit from the simplicity of a conventional palletizer to finish the load-building process.”
In the vein of doing more with less, notes Yeigh, there’s been a strong uptick in in-line, floor-level palletizer sales. “With the full machine on the floor, it’s easier to walk by and visually verify proper operation. Floor-level palletizers are also easier to access for regular maintenance.”
Of course, with all automated machinery, regular service is required to keep it functioning at peak performance.
To protect operators and service technicians, Columbia started including Category 3 electrical circuits as a standard feature on all of their palletizers (including hybrid models) more than three years ago. The redundant, fail-safe circuitry ensures that all integrated safety equipment—including interlocked door switches and light curtains in the discharge area—operate properly to protect personnel, even in the event of a circuit failure.
“We were seeing an increasing demand from multi-national corporations to mirror the safety standards set in place in Europe,” continues Yeigh. “It just made sense to make these safety enhancements a standard feature, rather than a custom-engineered solution.”