A Chinese compound condiment manufacturer wanted to automate its product packing lines to improve capacity, enhance efficiency, cut costs, and remove the potential for quality issues caused by human error.
A combination of ABB delta fast picking robots and industrial robots, plus a 3D vision system, were supplied to help speed up production and improve quality and consistency by eliminating manual errors.
A Chinese food company is using ABB robots to double the capacity of its production lines, while cutting the production cost of individual packages by some 40 percent.
The company’s product range includes compound seasoning, a mixture of several distinct ingredients that enables users to quickly season dishes without using separate items such as soy sauce, vinegar, and salt. Its growing popularity among busy consumers, coupled with intense competition between producers, has led to food and beverage companies investing in new production techniques to keep pace with demand.
Traditional seasoning production methods are very labor-intensive and typically have a high rate of errors. In the ingredient sorting and machine feeding stages, both the quality and efficiency of operation are generally low due to the high intensity of the task and its repetitive nature.
Teway Food is a leading company in China's compound condiment industry, and has been committed to the research and development, production, and sales of high-quality compound condiments for over 20 years.
The company has an intelligent factory in Chengdu, where ABB Robotics and JCN have provided a series of automation solutions, such as intelligent feeding, intelligent packaging, intelligent storage, and intelligent tracing for the post-packaging section.
To help upgrade its production line to meet the growing demand for compound seasoning, Teway Food installed an automated solution comprising of 65 IRB 360 delta robots fast picking robots, 10 IRB 6700 robots and three IRB 660 robots, together with a 3D vision system to help identify and locate products as they are fed to the line. Together, these solutions have made Teway Food the first company in the industry to apply 3D vision assisted robot positioning for feeding production lines.
Since introducing the robots and vision system, the capacity of a single line has tripled, the per capita efficiency has increased more than sixfold, and the manufacturing cost of a single piece of product has decreased by nearly 40 percent. These benefits mean that Teway Food has fully realized its goal of automation, digitalization, and intelligent management of the production process.
Precision and speed help improve efficiency
With a load capacity of up to 150kg to 300kg, the IRB 6700 has good structural rigidity and a long trouble-free running time. Compared with manual methods, it can significantly extend operation time and improve production quality and consistency.
The vision system used on the robot can quickly acquire a large amount of image information, processing it automatically to accurately identify the location of incoming baskets and guide the robot arm to grasp and place them. Even if the basket is not full of pallets, the robot can still successfully grasp the basket instead of ignoring it. These abilities make it suitable for the complex and variable shape of the pallets, which have loads stacked in random arrangements. 3D vision algorithms offer more flexibility and speed, improving the overall operational efficiency.
High flexibility unlocks rich application scenarios
The flexibility of ABB’s robots, together with the intelligence provided by the 3D vision system means they can be used to perform a variety of tasks throughout the process, including sorting and loading small and disordered packages and automatic packing of large numbers of polygonal packages.
The IRB 360 has excellent motion and short cycle times, allowing packages to be arranged in a compact footprint. Even in the case of stacked bales, ABB's vision algorithm can also be used to recognise particular products, making bale management more efficient.
Combining ABB's vision algorithm with conveyor tracking technology (VGT) enables the robot to adapt quickly and efficiently to complex conveyor belts and maintain high speeds. During the process of material arrangement, it can be used to read the positions of materials and send the resulting data to the robot system. In the automatic packing process, it can either read the positions of products or recognize the QR code on the package and send the results to the database to further refine the packaging and strengthen the digitalization level of the production line.
Transparent and safe - one product, one code for full traceability
To reassure consumers that they are buying quality Teway products, the intelligent factory uses a visible quality assurance method for consumers. The whole process of production is traced by unique QR codes, achieving digitalization and transparency of the entire production stream and management of all necessary food information. Each Teway product has a unique QR code, which records the product batch and other information to achieve accurate traceability, all the way from raw material through to final product.
Through VGT technique and high speed and precision vision recognition technology with 2000W pixels, ABB realizes the digital control of the whole packaging line and customized traceability system for food safety. The whole-process quality traceability of each single bag, box and pallet contributes to the more accurate management of food information as well as its improved transparency.
“Teway is committed to forming a healthier and more trustworthy business relationship with its customers,” says Tony Wang, Head of Consumer Segments & Service Robotics, Robotics in China. “By digitalizing the production process, the company can monitor and trace the progress of every product to ensure maximum food safety. Customers are also able to scan the QR code when they receive the product to check the whole life cycle of the product and enjoy the food with peace of mind.”
“Teway Food's intelligent factory is a prime example of a high-quality, high-efficiency and high-safety industrial transformation and upgrade of the compound condiment industry,” adds Wang.
“ABB looks forward to helping promote the healthy development of China's food industry by enabling more food manufacturing and processing enterprises to find ways to incorporate robots and automation into their production lines.”