Supermarket distributor eliminates manual labor in mixed-case, pallet-building process
October 17, 2011 - MMH Editorial
When Associated Food Stores, a major wholesale supermarket distributor, embarked on a mission to automate a portion of one of its warehouses, it chose an automated case conveyor.
The company needed a solution that would allow a unit load automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) to feed single-SKU pallets to a robot that would de-layer full carton layers.
Associated Food Stores needed a descrambler that was extremely flexible—one that could quickly handle virtually any box pattern and almost any box size. After the layer was singulated, each carton needed to be labeled. In a very short space, the company needed to gap the cases and then know exactly where the leading edge of each case was in enough time for the tamp head to come down and apply the label.
The new descrambler is able handle a large number of cases per layer, a high rate of layers per minute, complex layer patterns, and a variety of product types. It allows for variable speed and is capable of handling the company’s current and future needs.
A registration conveyor is also used to space cartons mechanically without complex controls required with some servo solutions. The system provides a predictable location for the front edge of each carton to allow the labeler to do its job.
The new system allowed AFS to eliminate manual labor and product damage from depalletizing to the label application process. The descrambler allows for variable speed, which is a necessity for the company as the rate is determined by a downstream label applicator that can handle up to 40 cases per minute and a robot that can deliver up to four layers per minute.
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