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Brand is reaping rewards from robotic kit | Project Profile

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Brand is reaping rewards from robotic kit | Project Profile

November 09
10:31 2013

New equipment was needed for Nairn’s as it was faced with the latest shelf-ready packaging demands from the major supermarkets and health food stores. It opted for equipment from Endoline, writes Tony Corbin.

Who Nairn’s Oatcakes
Aim Automating a labour intensive operation, improving efficiency, and overcoming previous limitations to meet retailer expectations on shelf ready applications.
Spend Undisclosed
What Endoline Machinery’s fully automated case erecting and robotic loading solution
WhenFebruary 2013

Challenge

Edinburgh-based Nairn’s has been making oatcakes since 1888 and supplies major supermarket chains and health food shops across the country.  New criteria set out by supermarkets and food suppliers for design and performance of shelf ready cases has demanded more efficient handling and faster brand recognition to ensure easier access to products.

As supermarkets are looking to improve in-store shelf replenishment efficiencies – demanding ever-more shelf ready packaging – a fully automated system from Endoline, which supplies secondary packaging equipment to the food industry, ticked all the boxes.

As with most installations, fitting the case erecting and robotic loading kit brought its fair share of physical challenges. “One of the main challenges was to fit the units within the space available which meant the case erector and the robot cell was not close coupled,” says Endoline sales and marketing director Simon Taylor. “The other main challenge for Nairn’s was to ensure the product reached the robot correctly and consistently.”

Strategy

Throughout the project, Endoline, which showcased its new generation machinery at Total 2013 in May, worked closely with the engineers at Nairn’s and, Endoline’s long standing Scottish distributor, Murray Packaging. “Murray Packaging’s close proximity to the Nairn’s site enabled the three parties to all work closely together to devise an optimised solution which best met Nairns’ needs,” says Taylor.

Up until now, Nairn’s had used tuck-in bottom cases for ease of construction. The new kit would offer several advantages that could contribute to a smoother and more efficient operation.

Ian Murray, general manager of Murray Packaging which commissioned the installation at Nairn’s, explains: “The design of the tuck-in bottomed cases meant there was a lip which the customer had to reach over to lift the carton out – the new case design would simplify this operation and Nairn’s recognised the efficiency gains they would make by automating the packing process.”

Despite the new line being automated, some of the skills required to operate the previous manual line would remain useful, albeit in a different capacity.

“As the line was previously a hand pack line the operators could deal with variances in product presentation, where this needs to be consistent for the automated solution,” says Taylor. “When this was done the robot cell allowed at least two operators per shift to be redeployed.”

Implementation

Accepting the project as a systems integrator, Endoline installed the case erecting and robotic loading equipment to fully automate the packing line.  The case erector seamlessly forms 13 cases per minute with a hot-melt glue.

“In this instance a hot-melt glue application was recommended as it secures the base of the box without producing an overlap which can often be the case with tape applications – allowing Nairn’s to meet supermarket shelf ready expectations,” says Ian Murray.

The case erector is built and programmed into an Endoline conveyor system which feeds formed cases directly into an Endoline robot cell.

Packing up to 80 cartons of oatcakes per minute, the robot cell deploys with a six axis ABB robot arm, equipped with a specially designed gripper that is fitted with between six and 12 quick release suction cups so that the operator can select packing quantities from six to 12 cartons per case using a pre-programmed list of recipes via Endoline’s HMI.

“The installation was completed in February 2013 with machine siting having taken about a week and full commissioning having taken about three weeks,” explains Taylor.

Results

Automating a labour-intensive operation has improved the efficiency of the packing line while allowing Nairn’s to redeploy valuable labour elsewhere in the operation and overcoming previous limitations to meet retailer expectations.

Gavin Love, technical director at Nairn’s, says: “We were very impressed by the expertise shown by Murray Packaging and Endoline in translating our initial thoughts into a workable solution.

“We were especially impressed by the design, installation and commissioning of the equipment which enabled an efficient startup and transition.”

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