Custom Conveyor & Wrapper Automation Project in Eastern NC
Industry: Food and Beverate Distribution in Eastern North Carolina
Challenge: Due to COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns and labor reduction, production lines were falling short of meeting demand.
Solution: Custom-Built Conveyor System and End-of Line Automation
Result: 33% Increased Productivity
Equipment: Hytrol Pallet Conveyor, Carotek Controls
Challenge: Let’s Turn Our Client into a Wrap Star
Our food and beverage distribution client in Eastern North Carolina needed to increase the capacity of their pallet-wrapping operation, which had been impacted in multiple ways by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Advanced Equipment Company’s material handling specialist Brad Dowless was brought in to help design a more efficient solution to meet their needs.
“Previously, they had three wrapper lines in their warehouse, and they were not getting the volume output that they needed,” says Dowless.
“These plants typically run five days a week, and lately they’ve been running six days a week due to the pandemic shutdowns. Labor shortages have been a main contributor to their production volume consistently falling short.”
In addition to the need for greater production capacity, the existing conveyor system had a tendency to back up.
“It could be 20 minutes before a pallet comes to the wrapper from when it entered the conveyor line,” says Dowless.
“And if a wrapper needed to be taken down for maintenance, you’d have other pallets backing up. It was creating a lot of problems for them.”
Solution: More Conveyors and Smart Automation
Working with the wrapper installation team, Dowless and his team of AEC installers added a fourth conveyor line to the process.
“We were working side by side, interfacing with one another to make sure everything lines up correctly,” says Dowless.
Pallets could now be loaded into four different lines, each coming from tilt tables that allow warehouse staff to prep the palleted boxes for wrapping.
That’s where part two of Dowless’ solution came in.
Smart Design with Automated Processes Improves Efficiency
“Previously, the decision on which wrapper the pallet would go to was made prior to the tilt tables,” says Dowless.
“So what we did to drastically improve efficiency was reprogrammed the process so the decision-making happens at the last intersection, eliminating problematic backups.”
Once pallets leave the tilt stations, where special separators used in the blast-freezing process are removed, loaded pallets are brought via Hytrol conveyors. The pallets move to intersections where, based upon workload, it’s determined which wrapper will receive the pallet.
If, for example, wrapper number four is beginning to back up, the program will send the pallet to wrapper three or two instead.
Totally Custom Built Solution
Due to the low height of the wrapping machines, the Hytrol conveyor systems had to be customized to sit close to the ground and use motors mounted to the side rather than underneath.
Always focused on safety, Dowless and the AEC team fabricated and installed special safety guards that sit over the motors to protect the machinery and workers.
2-Day Weekend Installation
Did we mention that all this was done over the course of a weekend – in a warehouse that sits at 28 degrees Fahrenheit?
“We did quite a bit of programming ahead of time to make sure we were as prepared as we could be,” says Dowless.
“The existing system stopped sometime on Saturday morning, and we had to have it back up and running Monday morning by 6 a.m. We worked all night to get the system functional, and then on Monday we fine-tuned the process.”
Result: 33% Increased Productivity
Thanks to the work of Dowless and his AEC installation team, our client now has an additional throughput capacity of 33%.
That increase in capacity also lends itself to heavily increased efficiency through reprogramming their entire system.
“We know it’s more effective. Backups are not an issue now with the automated process making efficient decisions.”
“Also, they can now temporarily shut down any of those four lines for maintenance and continue running at a good capacity,” says Dowless.
In the few weeks since the new conveyor line was integrated into their system, our client has already lined up another installation project in November, and Dowless is preparing yet another installation for another of the client’s facilities.
It’s a sign of the quality we provide and the trust our client’s put in AEC and our team.
“The wrapper and conveyor installers did a fantastic job working together,” says Dowless. “It looks and runs clean.”