Packaging Corner: Software helps eliminate the guesswork in pallet loading
On-board software helps operators quickly optimize pallet patterns and load building with robotic palletizers.
With operations struggling to find employees, keep up with packaging variability and frequent changes, and handle different types of products coming from multiple case lines, robotic palletizers are being implemented in packaging and production facilities to boost throughput with automation and eliminate a laborious manual handling process.
Yet, with the profusion and variety of case sizes, treating pallet pattern programming as a set-it-and-forget-it proposition is no longer feasible for many facilities. That’s why Schneider Packaging Equipment recently added proprietary OptiStak software to all of its robotic palletizing machines, explains Mike Brewster, director of sales and marketing.
“The software allows operators to create and edit stack patterns directly on the machine’s touchscreen human machine interface (HMI). Previously, the alternative was to use a separate laptop or tablet—which can be easily misplaced and often needs updated software—to modify the programming,” Brewster says.
“With OptiStak, the operator sees a three-dimensional view of the pallet right at the machine,” Brewster says, “and can control multiple variables to customize each configuration, such as indicating a labels-out presentation or alternative stacking patterns.”
Users can create optimal recipes in one click, customize pack patterns quickly, and instantly see changes through the software’s interface. “Essentially, the software cuts the time an operator might typically spend trying to figure out the arrangement that most tightly and securely packs and palletizes a mixed load,” he adds. “Because it eliminates the guesswork and maximizes the amount of product per pallet, it saves tremendous amounts of time.”
Engineered to be user-friendly and highly intuitive, the software guides an operator through the selection of case sizes and pack patterns, then creates and recommends the optimal recipe based on the inputs. Further, the software gives operators the ability to adjust patterns on-the-fly, minimizing downtime during changeovers because the palletizer can remain in continuous production, adds Brewster.
“It also allows new products to be added right at the machine, so palletizing doesn’t have to stop to accommodate a new item dimension,” he adds. “Finally, because the software is integrated with FANUC robotics’ PalletPRO system, it allows users to simulate different pack patterns offline to determine the anticipated impact of a packaging change, for example.”