Background: A major pharmaceutical company was utilizing a cart system that was labor intensive and needed large aisles in a manufacturing environment that required more room for new automated production equipment. The existing manufacturing lines fed cases onto a gravity conveyor where they were manually palletized onto a cart. A second cart was usually staged close by for the next unit load. This took up additional space on an already tight, closed environment production floor. An AGV (automatic guided vehicle) periodically passed through the area, pulling a series of carts, empty or with unit loads that were manually built. The operator manually pulled the full cart and hooked it onto the train while it was moving. Empty carts were also pulled off an empty car train to build future loads.
As the AGV train passed through the warehouse, an operator unhooked and pulled a section of full carts from the train. He then got on a clamp truck and removed a load to bring it to a stretch wrapper. The wrapped load was then manually removed; a label was applied and it was driven to a storage location.
Solution: Sealed cartons now travel from the manufacturing line to a vertical continuous lift to elevate product to one of two overhead collection conveyors, thereby keeping the valuable floor space in the production area clear. Cartons from production accumulate and merge to feed a shoe sorter to maintain carton alignment. The printed bar code is read by a laser scanner and cases are sorted into one of three robot cells, each having the ability to palletize four different products.
In the cell, a shuttle car system delivers slave pallets to build the unit load. Each robot selects two cartons at a time for increased rate. When the unit load is completed, the conveyor indexes it to a second shuttle car to feed the automatic stretch wrapper system. The wrapped load is removed to storage via a clamp truck.
With the new automated system there is no labor required until the wrapped load is brought to storage or directly to shipping. Another advantage of the automated system is that the robots can build a load up to 110", which is the clearance of a standard trailer. With the old manual system operators could not build a load that high so additional layers had to be added before shipping to utilize the full cube of the truck.
The new system cleaned up the manufacturing floor and allowed room for growth. Conveyco's solution reduced labor costs, decreased the number of injuries caused by repetitive lifting, and provided better control of the entire operation.