Food retailer ICA wanted to replace its old robots with the latest models from ABB’s range, without incurring disruption caused by shutting down its production line.
ABB’s robots were installed two at a time over the course of a month, with work able to be carried out while the production line was operational.
Fully automated sorting of vacuum-packed minced meat ready for distribution to retail stores.
The ICA Group is one of the Nordic region's largest players in the grocery retailing sector. Over a thousand employees work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in the large central warehouse in Västerås.
Inside ICA’s cold store in Västerås, eight IRB 6700 ABB robots work seamlessly in sorting vacuum packaged meat before they are transported by truck to ICA stores around the country. "The purpose of having a robotized operation is partly to achieve a fully automatic sorting facility, and partly to provide a better working environment without repetitive work and heavy lifting," says Mika Lilleberg, Technical Manager at ICA Sverige/Sweden AB.
The automated process involves lifting box after box of minced meat from the conveyor belt to be sorted according to the target distribution store. The new ABB robots ensure high availability, both today and in the future. "Changing to the new robots helps ensure the continued security of our production process and also guarantees that we will have access to spare parts when we need them,” says Johan Landenberg, project manager at ICA Sverige/Sweden AB.
Two years ago, ICA learned that time was running out for the control system in robots installed by ABB in the cold store in 2004. As the robots themselves were also over 15 years old, the decision was made to replace them with the latest models from ABB’s range.
"The original ABB robots we installed back in 2004 have offered trouble-free operation throughout their life. Each robot was serviced once every year and their performance has been excellent. But even the most reliable products eventually expire whether you like it or not, and so we decided to change the robots to maintain high availability at the plant. The fact that we are also getting the latest generation ABB product gives us extra reassurance," says Mika Lilleberg.
To help ensure the new robots operate at peak performance throughout their working life, ICA has a service agreement in place with ABB. In this way, the company can minimize the risk of any unplanned downtime that could cause disruptions to production processes. Maintenance is planned and performed around the plant and production schedules, minimising the risk of loss of production and protecting the warranty.
In the summer of 2019, the robot change began. After the first robot had been testing successfully for six months, the other robots were installed by ABB two at a time every week. The change was planned so that it could be carried out during production, with the other robots continuing to operate.
"The full robot change was completed in spring 2020. It was a painless exercise and the change has had no impact on the plant at all. Now we expect fewer operational disruptions in the future, and we also have the potential to ramp up production if needed," says Mika Lilleberg.
For ICA's customers around Sweden, the robot replacement means the availability of minced meat on store shelves is secured. The new IRB 6700 robots from ABB are fully operational at the ICA warehouse, where business has been future proofed with a good working environment and high availability in production.
"Today we have a facility that works very well. If you generally look at the further development of automation, there are always things to do that will improve the working environment. The advantage of the robot change we have done now is that we can feel confident in production: it rolls on and goes all the time," says Johan Landenberg.