Accurate loading of boxed confectionery products onto pallets
A Nestlé factory needed a compact robotic cell that would accurately load products onto a pallet, reducing the need for rework while also allowing staff to work safely around the robot.
An ABB industrial robot equipped with a suction gripper and SafeMove robot safety technologyensured pallets could be loaded accurately and quickly, while allowing safe access to the cell for staff. As well as cutting the cost and time to implement the solution, the customer improved productivity by 53 percent.
Dedicated ABB palletizing robots, forming part of an exclusive robotic solution, have helped a Nestlé chocolate factory in Brazil achieve safe, efficient pallet loading of boxed products, improving productivity by 53 percent.
Nestlé in Brazil supplies a range of confectionery to Latin America, Mexico and Canada. The site at Caçapava was looking for a robotic palletizing solution for its candy and chocolate bars. Although the company already has an ABB palletizing solution, the latest requirement was for a more compact cell that would fit into a smaller area and that could be replicated at other sites.
Another need was for a robot cell that could interact safely with staff members. Personnel would sometimes need to enter the robot’s operational area to speed up the pallet changes, requiring a robotic solution that could work around staff without risking their safety.
To meet this need, ABB co-developped together with the Nestle’s engineering team a robot palletizing cell using ABB’s SafeMove technology. Utilizing a zoned approach that divides the robot’s working envelope into green, amber and red areas, SafeMove allows large industrial robots to work alongside people safely and reliably, without the need for strict separation.
SafeMove includes several safety functions, including safe speed limits, safe standstill monitoring, safe axis ranges and position and orientation supervision. Using safety sensors installed in the cell, the operator’s movements are detected as they approach the robot. If an operator is in the ‘green’ zone, the robot will move as normal. Stepping into the ‘amber’ zone will cause the robot to slow down and restrict its movements to help minimize the risk of accidental contact with the operator. If the operator moves into the red zone, the software will bring the robot to a complete stop, only restarting it once the zone has been cleared.
The speed and separation approach enabled by SafeMove removes the need for many of the components required by a standard robot cell, such as fences, safety switches, doors and locks, to ensure separation of the robot from staff. This gives an approximately 30-40 percent smaller footprint compared to previous ABB cells at the site.
Traditional cells also need more complex installation, requiring more cables. With SafeMove, all of this is removed, allowing the cell to be in operation within a week, compared to the two to three weeks required previously. There is also a lower cost of stock as the customer doesn't need to carry a large inventory of spare parts.
The cell uses an ABB IRB660 robot equipped with a suction gripper head to move boxes from the end of the production line to the pallet, stacking them accurately to ensure a balanced load.
This reduces the rework needed to rebalance the pallets and avoids damage to boxes. Previously, operators would sometimes fail to place boxes correctly, requiring entire pallets to be reorganized before they could be moved.
Michey Piavantinha, Plant Director for Nestlé Caçapava, says: “Thanks to the partnership with ABB, it is possible to develop solutions that make our manufacturing process more agile and efficient, ensuring that our products continue to have the same standard of quality and excellency that make the Nestlé brand successful.
Douglas Barbosa, Project Engineer at the plant, added: “We achieved great results, reducing maintenance costs, increasing the line’s productivity by 53%, reducing the losses and the need for manual rework, and the cell is already prepared for the possibility of an increase in future production capacity.”
To demonstrate how the finished cell would work, ABB used its Robot Studio software to simulate the complete solution in a virtual environment before installation, including showing the cycle time for the robot’s operations. This ensured a shorter implementation time and avoided any failures that might occur in the process.
Modifications can also be developed and validated in the virtual environment before being applied to the real system, avoiding risks and lost production. There was also no need to train staff on the cell, as it is very ease to work with and use.
The ABB solution has proved so successful that Nestlé has implemented more cells at Caçapava, and at the Vila Velha and Feira de Santana sites. To date, Nestlé has installed 13 palletizing cells in its Brazilian factories, all using ABB SafeMove, with several more undergoing installation and commissioning.