The success of its innovative products has led to a spike in demand. Today, Suzhou Capsugel handles the production of about 37 billion capsules a year, which is valued at 600 million yuan (USD 84.2 million). As market demand rose, so did the need for higher quality and more high mix/low volume production – conditions for which Suzhou Capsugel’s existing production process was unable to handle.
An evaluation revealed that the manual packaging operations at the internal warehouse were causing bottlenecks in the overall process. Suzhou Capsugel decided to elicit the help of ABB to upgrade its packaging facility.
Dull work is better done by robots
Palletizing, which involves the repeated lifting and moving of boxes, is an ideal task to be automated. Not only can the robot perform faster and with more precision to meet the growing capacity than its human counterparts, but automation also prevents long-term injuries that humans are prone to while performing such work.
Palletizing of the finished capsules is a crucial process of the whole packaging line of Suzhou Capsugel. After the capsules are produced, they will be packaged and put into the boxes which will be stored in the internal warehouse at first and then transferred to the external warehouse. Though the boxes are not very big, it‘s still a lot of trouble for human workers to move them.
“We have been constantly introducing automation equipment in the past few years, because the traditional manual processes cannot satisfy the increasing market demands.
This robot palletizing system is an important part of the automated packaging line that we recently introduced. It’s the core of our internal warehouse,” says Chenggang Yuan, Plant Director of Suzhou Capsugel.
Intelligent robot palletizing system
ABB worked closely with Suzhou Capsugel to develop an intelligent palletizing solution capable of palletizing billions of capsules every year.
On the packaging line, every 10th box completes an order. Once the 10 boxes are stacked, a single ABB IRB 6700 robot moves them onto the pallet to be sent to the loading port. If the robot detects that the order will be finished in 12 boxes, the system is intelligent enough to wait for the last two boxes to arrive before stacking all of them onto one pallet, instead of two.
"This robot palletizing system from ABB makes the whole process highly automated and frees our employees from heavy manual palletizing work,” says Yuan.
The intelligent robot also boosts product quality by reducing manual errors and the risk of mixed batches.
Fully prepared for future growth
Today Suzhou Capsugel processes nearly 1000 boxes every day and expects productivity to increase to 1,500 boxes of capsules soon. Calculations show that the robot cell can fully meet this potential growth.
“This is a milestone project for Suzhou Capsugel. Thanks to its successful implementation, we now can effectively use the whole space at the internal warehouse area. In addition, the bottlenecks in automated logistics across the plant have also been solved. Encouraged by this success, the company is confident to increase the automation of its production.”
Capsugel designs, develops and manufactures a wide range of innovative dosage forms for the biopharmaceutical and consumer health & nutrition industries. It partners with more than 4,000 customers in over 100 countries to create novel, high-quality and customized solutions that align with its customers’ evolving needs and benefit patients and consumers. It has three R&D centers, 13 manufacturing sites in nine countries across three continents. Suzhou Capsugel is one of its manufacturing sites, occupying an area of 40,000 square meters with more than 400 employees.