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The Heavy Lifters of Packaging: Palletizers and Depalletizers in Focus

Feb 21, 2024
1 min read

How do boxes of our favorite products get loaded on pallets? And what exactly does a depalletizer do? 🤔 You’ve got questions and "Package This" has answers! 📦 Whether you're a packaging or logistics pro or just curious about these heavy-duty machines, our palletizing and depalletizing video breaks down the basics for you in less than 5 minutes. So take a quick break, hit play now and be prepared to stack up some packaging industry knowledge! 💡 #Palletizers #Depalletizers

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Hey there! Welcome back to "Package This".

If you could name one group of machines that do the “heavy lifting” in packaging, it would probably be palletizing and depalletizing systems. Palletizers stack cases, sacks, and other bulk packages neatly on pallets as they head off the packaging line, are stretch-wrapped, and are prepared for distribution. Depalletizers do the opposite: they remove items from containers at the beginning of filling lines. 

Today’s palletizers are divided into two main types: conventional palletizers (also called mechanical palletizers), which are large machines that use mechanical components like conveyors, lifts, and clamps to do the lifting and stacking, and robotic palletizers. 

High-Level Conventional Palletizers

High-level conventional palletizers operate at an elevated level, often on high-capacity production lines where speed and the ability to handle large volumes are paramount. High-level infeed conventional palletizers, like this one from Columbia, are generally faster and have a comparatively smaller footprint than mechanical floor-level palletizers, which we will see in a minute.

These machines are engineered to handle virtually any package type with modular layouts and gentle product handling. Another advantage: all of Columbia’s conventional palletizers come with advanced Product Manager graphic-based HMI for unlimited pattern-forming capabilities and zero time/zero tool changeovers.

Floor-Level Palletizers

Now let’s get back on eye level with floor-level conventional palletizers, also called low-level palletizers! Perfect for smaller operations or lower volume lines, floor-level palletizers keep the line moving constantly. The entire machine can be viewed from the facility floor. 

This floor-level machine from Columbia is designed for convenience, versatility, and rugged performance. Each floor-level palletizer from Columbia is designed to fit where space is at a premium using modular designs that are easily adapted to match space and product flow requirements. Columbia’s palletizers come standard with an industry-leading category 3 safety package to help ensure worker safety in the facility.

In-line Palletizers

Columbia's in-line mechanical palletizer machines, designed for medium to high-speed operations and multiline applications, use a flow divider for precise positioning of packages on the layer forming area, ensuring accurate placement until a layer is complete and transferred onto the pallet. 

Built for safety, flexibility, and performance, these easy-to-operate palletizers handle all package types at speeds up to 200 cases per minute and a guaranteed minimum uptime of 98%. This palletizer features zero time/tool-less changeover, industry-leading tools like the Product Manager HMI interface, and Smart Diagnostics with enhanced video playback. 

Robotic Palletizing

Automatic palletizing using robots is also an option for many brands. With robotic arms and machine vision technology, these automated machines efficiently and flexibly arrange products on pallets.

Pick-and-place robotic palletizers are our first type. These robots swing back and forth from a pick area to place them on a pallet, stacking row by row.

Layer-forming robotic palletizers take products fed into the palletizing area on conveyors and arrange them into layers with end-of-arm tools that turn and push boxes neatly and efficiently.

Row forming robotic palletizers group boxes or cases together and as they accumulate are formed into a single row unit that is lifted together onto a pallet.

Also on the robotic palletizing market, you may find hybrid robotic palletizers which combine any of the technologies we mention into a single, customized robotic palletizer.

Collaborative and mobile robots are always ready to assist their human counterparts in lifting and transporting sacks and cases. Cobots are small, highly mobile, and usually handle low-volume, floor-level palletizing jobs, and with built-in safety features, are helping many emerging brands eliminate lifting injuries and accidents. 


Finally, just as palletizers stack products onto pallets at the end of the line, there is a dedicated set of machines that does just the opposite.  Depalletizers are specialized robotic or mechanical machines that take empty containers such as plastic or glass bottles from pallets, transferring them directly onto a conveyor or another handling system for cleaning and preparation before filling.

And there you have it, an overview of what palletizing and depalletizing machines are all about. 

Thanks for watching "Package This" — your guide to packaging machinery and materials. For more videos on packaging machinery and materials, be sure to subscribe to our "Package This" series on YouTube. Please share the video with your colleagues on LinkedIn to help us get the word out!

And if you’re looking for palletizing systems for your facility, be sure to check out PMMI ProSource, a searchable directory of the top 1,000 packaging and processing suppliers in North America. Go to to find suppliers by package type, material, or features.

Until then, keep on packaging!