Overcoming a palletising bottleneck

14 June 2024

By automating the palletising of its bottled salad dressing line, Swiss condiment producer, Brunos has alleviated production inefficiencies.

Brunos is a producer of cooled salad dressings and gourmet butters. Founded in 2001, today it produces four million products each year at its 3,500m2 production facility in Switzerland. 

Although its production line was already automated, until recently, its packaging and palletising function was still a manual process. This resulted in bottlenecks at the final stage of the process, as employees struggled to match the speed of the automated line. Unable to meet increased order levels and at the limit of its capabilities, the firm began to look for an alternative solution – but complex palletising patterns and limited space made their search a potential challenge.

Reaching its limits
“We had reached our limits,” explains Michael Arnold, Managing Director at Brunos. “By this point, we had two or three employees packing bottles manually into cardboard boxes, but they struggled to keep pace with the speed of the production line. We began thinking about an automated solution for the palletising process, but our space was rather tight. We needed to find a solution with a compact footprint that would tie in with our existing automated processes in terms of quality and productivity.”

Brunos turned to Robotec Solutions, a local provider of robot-assisted automation. Jörg Lanz, Head of Sales at Robotec Solutions AG, takes up the story: “Our most important task is always to find the best automation solution for an application. In this project, to palletise the bottled salad dressings, our main challenges were cycle time, space constraints and palletising patterns.”

Brunos’ production line fills bottles individually before placing them in groups of 6, 10 and 12. These groups then undergo shrink-wrapping in foil. “We needed to devise a palletising pattern based on the pre-grouping of bottle packs and involving part-rotation,” explained Jörg. “After completing each layer, the robot needed to place an additional intermediate layer on top. This operation would have to take place without changing the gripper to help minimise cycle time.”

Robotec regularly uses FANUC industrial robots and collaborative robots (cobots) to fulfil its customers’ requirements. In this application, the best robot for the task was identified as being the  strong, lightweight and compact FANUC M-710iC/50 6-axis industrial robot with 50kg payload and 2,050mm reach.

“The FANUC M-710iC/50 fits Brunos’ requirements perfectly. Capable of carrying heavy loads, its long reach allows optimal processing of the palletising pattern – and always at full speed. Further plus points include low energy consumption, a small footprint and good availability of spare parts,” said Jörg. 

Increasing capacity
For Brunos, automating its palletising function with the help of the 6-axis robot has allowed it to keep pace with the production line, enabling the company to fulfil its growing order book. Michael Arnold concluded: “We are happy with the results and success achieved following the introduction of the FANUC robot. It has fulfilled our expectations in terms of quality and productivity.”

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