Palletizing 101: Welcome to the World of Automated Palletizing
If MODEX 2022 was any indication, companies large and small across a wide variety of industries are currently looking for automated palletizing solutions that can help optimize their warehouse fulfillment, distribution, and manufacturing operations. This Palletizing 101 series from the Carter blog is designed to be an introductory course into the world of automated palletizing. In the next few weeks, the series will cover:
- What robotic palletizing is and why it’s important.
- The key benefits of switching to robotic palletizing.
- Metrics to consider when planning for a robotic palletizing solution.
- The different types of robotic palletizers and their use cases.
- How to select the right end-of-arm-tool (EOAT).
- Steps for appropriately integrating a robotic palletizing solution into your existing operation.
That’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started.
What is a robotic palletizing solution and what does it do?
At its core, a robotic palletizing solution uses a robotic arm equipped with a specialized end-of-arm-tool (EOAT) to pick up product and place it on a pallet. This robot ultimately replaces the menial, labor-intensive, tedious, and injury-prone process of manual palletizing performed by humans.
While it may sound straightforward, this process varies greatly in complexity as the number of SKUs (unique items) in the warehouse and desired throughput (rate at which the robot completes pallets) increase. Think of it like this: building a pallet consisting only of shoe box sized packages shaped the same and weighing the same amount is simple... but building a pallet with three boxes of assorted chips, five boxes of soda, nine crates of oranges, and three large coolers is much more complicated.
The palletizing robot leverages several different software and hardware elements to complete this process. On the hardware front, most palletizing solutions also involve powered conveyor systems that utilize sorters, scanners, in-motion scales, and conveyor to ensure the product reaches the palletizing point in an optimized order. Think back to our complicated pallet example. We wouldn’t want to stack our five boxes of soda on top of our lighter boxes of chips, right?
The conveyor system upstream from the robotic palletizer’s job is to dimension, scan, and weight product to ensure that it is stacked properly on the pallet as to avoid damage to the items and ensure that the pallet is safely constructed (meaning it’s stable and not going to fall apart in transit or after unwrapping at its unpacking destination). This process is controlled most often by software that communicates with all these hardware pieces and the robot itself to determine how the pallet should be built and adjusts the product in the conveyor loop and tells the robot how to build the pallet accordingly.
Why is palletizing important?
Palletizing — and Depalletizing for that matter — are two of the most essential processes for how your operation manages product. Palletizing and depalletizing systems serve as gatekeepers that bookend the time that product spends in a warehouse. Finding ways to improve these creates a compounding efficiency boost felt throughout the warehouse, providing greater productivity for other systems throughout the supply chain.
On one hand, the way pallets are loaded can affect the speed and efficiency by which logistics teams get product to its destination. As such, a breakdown in the palletizing process backs up the entire supply chain. If product can’t get out the door efficiently and without error, more product can’t move through the system and a bottleneck is created. On the other, unloading pallets quickly and accurately starts the supply chain off on the right foot and keeps the system flush with product. A breakdown in the depalletizing process slows the whole operation down.
Carter Intralogistics has a history of helping companies take their first steps into robotic palletizing and we are happy to answer questions or concerns you may have about incorporating robotic palletizing into your operation. If you’re interested in our mixed-case palletizing solutions and software, read the data sheet. If you have a project in mind, contact email@example.com and someone from our team will get in touch with you.