Exploring the Benefits of Robotic Palletizers and Cobots

Packaging plays a vital role in today’s fast-paced business landscape, ensuring product protection, preservation, and presentation. As the packaging industry continues to grow and adapt to changing market demands, it’s crucial for companies to stay ahead and offer exceptional packaging solutions. To provide insights into this dynamic landscape, we have developed Packaging Talks – a series of conversational panels with Crawford’s packaging experts. Whether you’re a business owner, a packaging professional, or simply curious, our panels aim to offer valuable information and inspiration. 

This month, we chat with Jason Varga, Crawford’s Manager of Equipment, Parts & Service (EPS), about the benefits of implementing robotic palletizers and cobots to your packaging lines.


Can you explain what robotic palletizers are and how they’re making a difference in various industries? 

Sure! Robotic palletizers are advanced robots designed to automatically stack products onto pallets for shipping or storage. They use robotic arms equipped with sophisticated sensors and end effectors, like grippers or suction cups, to handle and organize items both neatly and efficiently. These machines are game changers in many sectors, including food, beverages, pharmaceuticals, and beyond, handling everything from boxed goods to delicate containers. For example, in a food packaging facility, a robotic palletizer can quickly stack and organize multiple SKUs of canned goods, significantly speeding up the process compared to manual handling.  Likewise, cobots are smaller robotic arms that can be utilized to pack actual products into boxes, reducing the requirement for human labour.   


What are the main advantages of using robotic palletizers over traditional manual palletizing? 

The main advantages of robotic palletizers include enhanced productivity, consistency, and safety. They are capable of operating at high speeds, often handling hundreds of products per hour, which significantly boosts production capacity. They maintain consistent performance, speed and accuracy, throughout their operation, which is crucial for many industries. For example, a single robotic palletizer can often do the work of multiple manual workers without fatigue, ensuring consistent output over long periods of time. Additionally, by automating the palletizing process, companies reduce the risk of injuries associated with repetitive or heavy lifting tasks, which improves workplace safety. This automation also allows employees to tackle more complex and less physically demanding tasks, improving overall job satisfaction and efficiency. 


Could you tell us more about the implementation process for robotic palletizers? Is this a complex process?  

Every project varies, and the complexity of implementing a robotic palletizer or cobot directly relates to the complexity of your existing workflow. Typically, implementation begins with a clear understanding of your objectives and needs, what are you trying to accomplish, in how many steps and in what sequence. This often involves modifying additional elements of your process, which might increase your initial investment but will lead to significant savings in productivity, efficiency, and labour costs down the line, and the ROI can be quickly realized. Having been involved in multiple automation projects, I can say that although the initial set up might seem complex, success largely depends on choosing the right partner and the right solution for the task at hand. The right partner will guide you through all phases, from initial planning and installation to training and post-implementation support, simplifying the process and ensuring that this technology ultimately brings the simplicity and efficiency you were looking to achieve in your operations. 


What is the typical return on investment for this type of project? 

Depending on complexity and the size and weight of the products being moved the ROI can range between as little as one year to as high as three years depending on the scope of work, shift structure and volume of the facility. More and more we are seeing these pieces of automation tied to larger projects that include complete integration of the packaging equipment.  Simply put, the more labour companies are using to execute these processes the faster the payoff when investing in automation.   

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