End-of-line operations are hard. There are heavy loads, high-speed demands, and looming production goals. Then there’s the issue of repetitive, difficult movements for end-of-line workers, coupled with ongoing labor issues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and the harsh reality that worker availability can majorly impact supply chain. What’s the solution in today’s modern facility? It just may be the mobile palletizing robot.
What is a mobile palletizing robot?
Mobile palletizing simply refers to mobile robots that are deployed for palletizing operations. Mobile robots are robots that have the capability to move around in their environment and are not fixed to one physical location. Because these robots move around and do not use safety guarding, they must be able to work alongside human workers. These robots are known as collaborative robots, or cobots, as they can safely operate next to humans. How? Motion detecting sensors on the cobot minimize the chance of a robot ever injuring its human colleagues. Conventional industrial robots, on the other hand, require safety fences and other safety precautions.
Leveraging mobile robots and cobots for palletizing allows for ultimate production flexibility, which is a big deal as COVID-19 pushed manufacturers to become more nimble and more flexible to ensure resilience for the unexpected. For many brands, mobile robots used for end-of-line operations not only boost flexibility but offer many benefits over traditional palletizing to help packagers alleviate their biggest palletizing woes.
1. They’re easy to set up and use
One such benefit is that these mobile palletizing robots are much simpler and intuitive to set up than traditional systems. Because set up is fast and easy, even inexperienced users can add and modify pallet loads quickly and easily. These systems can also be used on various lines in the plant by simply moving the robot, which also allows for greater flexibility and faster changeover than traditional systems.
2. They free up space
The next major differentiator over other systems is that mobile systems free up facility space in various ways. The overall footprint is much smaller than traditional palletizers, thus saving on floor space -- a big deal especially in smaller facilities. Mobile palletizers can also be small and nimble, as they can be used anywhere in the facility and are not fixed to one spot, thereby freeing up space in locations as needed.
3. They are portable
Mobile palletizing robots are portable to go to various lines within the plant and can be moved about as needed. They can easily be moved by workers without risk of injury, such as via a pallet jack, due to their collaborative nature. This mobility provides increased ROI and flexibility of the asset, allowing users to utilize this approach on multiple lines.
4. They can be deployed on multiple lines
Mobile/portable palletizing systems can be easily deployed across many production lines, which can cover production needs when some lines are down for maintenance, changeover, cleaning, etc., and the palletizing equipment can be utilized on the lines that are in use. Conversely, fixed palletizing systems are inherently down when that production line is down. As such, the ROI on these mobile robots can be achieved by sharing uptime across multiple lines.
5. They ease labor constraints
And lastly, leveraging mobile robots for palletizing eases labor constraints as packagers require less workers to handle end-of-line operations, eliminating worker injuries that could arise doing the job. The reality is that labor issues have only worsened since the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in fewer available (or willing) workers. These robots may not outright replace humans on the line, but they can supplement and work alongside them, reducing the number of workers needed for these operations. In fact, the ongoing labor shortage is what is likely driving growth in this segment, which has been accelerating over the last few years. Companies want to remove human touch, improve safety and ergonomics for their workers, and experience fewer workers compensation claims.
Between the reduced space required to operate, the flexibility to move around the plant and work on various lines, and the reduced need for labor, mobile palletizing robots are only growing in popularity. They are being used to solve packagers’ biggest challenges, including freeing up facility space, taking repetitive movements off workers, and boosting flexibility on the line, all for improved throughput and ROI.
Photo courtesy of Sourcelink Solutions