Robotic palletizers excel at precise product handling while loading pallets at much faster rates than manual packing. Integrating robotic technology can offer improved safety over manual methods while greatly reducing system downtime and product damage. The potential for labor savings from this automation is also impactful, whether eliminating these positions or redirecting them to more critical tasks on your line.
With all these advantages, one might think that the purchase and implementation of a robotic palletizer would be an easy decision for operations managers. But more often than not, this crucial step in the end-of-line process is the last to be automated.
Why is the robotic palletizing solution so often overlooked?
We have uncovered a few misperceptions:
1) The technology is too expensive right now.
2) The nature of the work justifies using manual labor versus automation.
3) The machine takes up too much space on the facility floor.
4) My production volume is too low for an automated solution.
5) This technology does not provide a justifiable competitive advantage.
What is the palletizing reality?
With over 30 years of experience creating automated packaging solutions around the globe, we at Endflex get it. We understand every company is unique. You do things in a slightly different ways than your competitors. Maybe you see your competitive advantage in the way your product is made or harvested. Maybe it is in the way you mix it, flavor it or combine it.
We would argue that packaging automation can also be a distinct competitive advantage. And while the most frequently automated processes like weighing, filling, wrapping and bagging may offer more visible packaging advantages, the automation of your end-of-line processes ensures your beautifully packaged product is undamaged, sorted accurately and properly protected for transport.
Volume & Floor Space
Improving your downstream automation with a robotic palletizer allows you to handle more capacity upstream with fewer resources, thus improving productivity regardless of the size of your production line. If you are packaging at a low volume or even if you are moving toward just-in-time production rates, you will realize cost savings when your palletizing is done more quickly, more safely and more accurately than your current solution. And if your goal is to ramp up production from low-volume rates to high-volume rates, the savings are realized even more quickly.
Most robotic palletizers allow for easy adaptability into your current end-of-line system and their small footprint means you can free up facility space for other uses. They also provide the flexibility and precise control you need to vary your throughput and palletize a variety of products in mixed-case configurations. You will be better prepared to adapt to future changes in your supply chain as a result.
Labor & Equipment Cost
Depending on where your company is based, you could actually be experiencing a labor shortage. This is happening across industries and is a challenge regardless of the desired skill level. And if you have a deep labor pool in your region, you must consider employee turnover. The turnover rate in this area of the packaging process can be unusually high, resulting in escalating costs to replace these employees and decreased productivity while you train them. The math is simple: higher human resources cost plus lost production equals less profit.
In addition, palletizing is one of the most difficult tasks your employees perform. It’s time-consuming and it’s tedious working with packages that are often cumbersome and heavy. And do we need to mention employee safety and losses incurred when an employee is hurt? The palletizing function exposes employees to repetitive lifting injuries such as sprains and strains, the number one nonfatal occupational injury.
Here is the good news. This technology is not cost prohibitive. While it is certainly more expensive than an all-manual process, the savings realized from increased efficiency and productivity puts it within financial reach. And if you compare the cost to that of conventional palletizers, they can be integrated into most packaging operations for about the same cost, but with the potential for more rapid return on investment.
Where do you go from here?
As with many other equipment decisions, your packaging automation purchase needs to make sense for your product. Some products require more conventional palletizers. If you are reading this post, then you have likely decided that robotic palletizers are at least worthy of consideration.
A modular addition like the Endflex Z Zag Robotic Palletizing Machine could be the right fit for your operation. And If you are prepared to move toward a fully automated end-of line system, we have a case erecting and packing system that includes the Z Zag robotic palletizer and is engineered to meet your specific product, facility and budget needs.
Watch our Z Zag palletizing machine in action and see how easily it integrates with our Boxxer Case Erector and EZ Tape Case Sealer. When you’re ready, we can help you find the right equipment combination.