Pick and place application to load bags of nuts into cartons
Take bags of products from bagger line and load them into cartons quickly and automatically, avoiding injuries to staff
ABB GoFa™ cobot loads 1kg of bagged nuts into a carton. Working alongside employees, they match the speed of the bagging line, while ensuring staff can avoid heavy lifting.
A fine foods packing plant in Vietnam is using ABB’s new GoFa™ cobot to meet growing demand for its cashew nuts, protect its workers and make better use of its employees’ time and skills. At the Dan D Pak plant in Binh Duong Province, ABB GoFa cobot places bagged nuts in cartons, working around the clock to meet increasing demand for its products from international customers.
One of the main motivations for looking at robotic automation was to protect the health and safety of staff. Owner of Dan D Pak Mr. Dan On, says: “Robots are precise across hundreds of bags of nuts. There are 70 cases on a stack, each weighing 11 kg. If you got people to do this layer by layer, a human would not be able to do it as precisely. The work is very intensive over a long period of time and there is a risk of injury.”
The company also decided on automation as labor costs in Vietnam are rising. “The pandemic proved that automation is the only answer if you really want to sustain output and be competitive in the industry,” says Mr. Dan.
The company looked to ABB for a robotic solution. As there was no room in the plant for a conventional industrial robot, ABB recommended its GoFa cobot. Designed to work safely alongside people handling payloads up to 5kg, it does not need safety barriers and gates which take up space.
Meeting increased production
Although the company has used ABB FlexPicker robots in its plants in Vietnam, the US and Canada, this is its first experience of using collaborative robots.
“Initially, we were working at a set packing speed of 22 bags per minute, with each bag weighing just under a kilogram,” says Mr. Dan. “Just before delivery of the GoFa, we upgraded our packing equipment to adopt a much faster scale and a faster bagger, giving us a capacity of 35-36 bags per minute. We realized that we needed a second unit to match this high speed.”
A suction gripper is used to pick up two bags at a time and place them in cartons, with each load weighing 2 kg. When the job was performed manually, workers could only pick up one bag at a time. One worker could pick up 18 bags a minute – when the line was upgraded with a faster bagger, two people were needed to meet demand. Now the GoFa handles these tasks, enabling the workers to be reassigned to other jobs.
“As well as helping us meet our productivity targets, the GoFa is also very flexible, being able to maneuver and turn round easily. It can also be easily moved to other positions in the plant if needed,” says Mr. Dan.
“The GoFa can also deal with the changeability of the product – it is quick to set up and has the ability to cope with more products in the future.”
The company has been pleased with the support it has received from ABB. “ABB’s engineers are very enthusiastic and shared a wealth of knowledge,” says Mr. Tri Ho Quang, Dan On plant manager. “Hopefully there will be more possibilities to engage with ABB, with additional projects to partner on.”
Cobots give competitive advantage
One of the main benefits of the ABB cobots is the ability to move to 24/7 production without risking overworking the company’s staff. The use of the robots also allowed staff to be trained to be multi-skilled and work anywhere in the plant on multiple tasks.
“Our people are trained well so they get good pay without working long hours,” says Mr. Dan. “We train workers how to operate a robot and use the technology, so they become professional technology operators.”
Competitors use many more people, driving up costs. “Using the latest technologies to help our people to be more productive enables us to maximize our competitiveness,” says Mr. Dan. “GoFa works well with people, so our staff support it and have been asking for more robots. We have just built a brand-new plant and are hungry for more automation.”
The company has ambitions to use robots for tasks such as logistics, automated racking systems and inventory management. “Within six months, we will perform inventory control by robots, which will help to free up a dozen staff for other tasks in the factory,” adds Mr. Dan. “Using the robots has also provided the opportunity for staff to develop their skills by enabling them to learn how to program and operate them.”