Conveyor System Redesign with Robotic Palletizing in Kinston NC
Industry: Paper Goods Manufacturing and Distribution in Kinston, North Carolina
Challenge: Reconfigure distribution system and expand production capacity
Solution: Custom-Built Conveyor System with Robotic Palletizers
Result: 40% Increase in Production Capacity
Equipment: Hytrol Conveyor System, Carotek Controls
Challenge: Fully Utilize Existing Space
Our paper goods client in Kinston, North Carolina has been a loyal customer of Advanced Equipment Company for years. We have a wonderful working relationship, which is why they knew they could count on us.
Advanced Equipment Company’s material handling specialist Brad Dowless was brought in to help bring their business to the next level.
“They’ve been trying to take on new customers,” says Dowless.
“So having a larger-scale operation is a benefit to them. They’re going to get more business by showing that off.”
Current System Could Not Handle the Level of Output
Before Brad and his team got started, the client had six production lines that resulted in cases of product that were fed to a main trunk line. The main line led to a robotic palletizer which read a number on each case and used that to determine how it should be palletized.
And while this system worked, it could not handle the level of output they were looking for.
Solution: Reroute the Main Trunk Line, Add Additional Production Lines, and a Second Palletizer
The solution was intricate and demanding, but Dowless knew that he could pull it off.
“They wanted to increase the amount of production they had,” says Dowless.
“We ended up bringing in two new lines to improve production. And to keep the speed and demand of those new lines, we went from one robotic palletizer to two.”
2 Phase Planning Over 1 Year to Ensure Up-time and Consistent Production
Over the course of about a year, the project was planned and executed in two phases to ensure the least amount of production slow-down.
Phase 1 – Create Space by Rerouting the Main Line
In phase one, the main trunk line was rerouted around the entire facility to add in the first new production line.
This would not only provide the space needed for the second new production line to be integrated, but also moved the robotic palletizers to the other side of the facility. This also helped keep downtime to a minimum when it came time to install the new lines.
Phase 2 – Add New Production Lines and Robotic Arm Palletizers
In phase two, the new production lines were added along with the new robotic palletizers.
To ensure that cases went to the proper palletizer, a camera sensor was set up to read printed numbers on each box. For an accurate read, a circulation loop was added so any cases that were not read properly could be scanned a second time before moving over to a reject lane.
“That camera system was a little bit different because we didn’t know what we were going to be reading,” says Dowless.
“Most camera systems will look for a specific number, but we set it up where that number just had to match up or not match up with what the customer provided.”
“If the customer has a box marked ‘22’ off of a line this week but wants to use ‘44’ next week, they won’t have to call us. When the camera sees a 44 instead of a 22 it will automatically direct the product where it needs to go. That was quite a unique way to resolve this issue.”
In the end, the new system was a massive hit with the customer.
“We figured it out, implemented it, and it worked great! From what the customer tells me, it works better than the old camera ID system.”
“We set out to improve their system, so we’re feeling pretty good about the project outcome!”
Conveyor Swing Gate Added for Convenient Access to Production Area
In addition to the new lines and palletizer, some conveyor sections were fitted with casters to create a swing gate. This allows access to the production area with fork trucks without running the conveyor overhead.
Now, an operator opens the gate for forklifts and other material deliveries that would need to enter the area. Easy access for maintenance was a major factor with the conveyor design approach.
The Result: 40% Increase Production Capacity and a Great Show for Future Clients
Once installation was complete, our client had a 40% increased production capacity and an impressive new system to show off to prospective customers.
“Things are running smoothly,” says Dowless.
“We had no major hurdles. Now they have the added value of higher performing production levels delivering higher volume of products that they can ship faster to their customers. But I think the guy working the palletizer is probably the happiest because the location is in an area now with much less noise!”
Secret to Success? Face-to-Face and Hands-On Service
Dowless believes that the secret to his success is always being available to address issues face-to-face.
“You’ll hear about people that sell big jobs, hire contractors, show up the first or second day to get them going, and then disappear until right before startup.”
“But that’s not how I do things. I like to be involved on-site, managing the contractors throughout the entire process, to answer questions, handle any issues, and making sure that everything goes right day-to-day,” says Dowless.
“In fact, I was there so much that you would’ve thought I was an employee by the time the project was completed! But that’s what sets AEC and myself apart — you don’t have to worry about tracking us down – because we’re already there.”