Motion Control & Drives


Automated palletising system

January 2023 Motion Control & Drives

Danone Boksburg sought a solution that would automate its manually operated palletising process. Tectra Automation was awarded the contract, and successfully designed, supplied, installed and commissioned a turnkey solution that simplified the palletising process, while increasing reliability. The system also offers increased pallet consistency across the company’s product range. Danone’s products include essential dairy and plant-based products and specialised nutrition products.

The solution, 14 months in the making, includes palletising robots, state-of-the-art shrink-wrapping machines, conveyor systems, light curtains, safety sensors and scanners. The system also makes use of a Profisafe system over Wi-Fi for the safe control of carts and cells to the required EN safety levels. Tectra Automation’s scope of work was comprehensive, from specifying the project through to commissioning the solution. In the design phase, Tectra Automation designed each robotic cell individually to ensure that each met the required performance level, and adhered perfectly to its scope of operation.

Working closely with equipment suppliers and other stakeholders in the fabrication phase, Tectra Automation partnered with the preferred leading solutions providers. They included Yaskawa South Africa, using its latest MPL 190 range of palletising robots; Future Packaging, which supplied and installed the state-of-the-art OMS shrink wrapper that can wrap pallets at a rate of 70 pallets per hour; Productive Systems for all conveyor equipment; Omron for light curtains and sensors; and SICK Automation for the safety scanners and various sensors.

Three-phase approach

To manage a project of this magnitude, Tectra Automation devised a three-phase approach. The first phase consisted of palletising three cells, including the robotic palletising to service four production lines, and manual cell palletising. This phase also included stretch wrapper installation, one de-stacker and two transfer cart installations, as well as installation of an integrated warehouse management system (WMS). “This WMS automatically realises its orders from Danone’s ordering system,” comments Tectra’s mechatronics engineer and engineering projects manager, Jaco de Beer. “Information from the ordering system is sent to robot palletising cells and is used to make any required adjustments before actual palletising begins.”

Phase 2 consisted of another two palletising cells for more of the manufacturer’s brands, a de-stacker and a transfer cart. Phase 3 entailed palletising three cells for different product ranges and the two final transfer carts.

Functionality and safety

To overcome network latency and improve the palletising solution’s functional safety, the Wi-Fi-operated, rail-powered transfer carts are controlled by an onboard PLC and make use of UPS, 5G industrial routers and ProfiSafe. All carts and cells are controlled by the main Bosch Rexroth PLC − a Bosch Rexroth XM 42 PLC – with each cart performing its own function while interacting with other carts on the same rail. To ensure bystander safety, Tectra Automation contracted sensor and scanner specialists, SICK Automation for safety scanners specifically designed for use in mobile applications.

All fabricated parts, whether by Tectra Automation or the respective suppliers, were assembled into modular sections at Tectra Automation’s premises in Johannesburg before being transferred to Danone for installation.

Commissioning of phase 2 was completed in February 2022, with installation and commissioning of phase 3 completed by April. “Danone has been running phase 1 equipment for several months,” de Beer explained. “Two palletising cells’ uptime tests on this equipment yielded an uptime of 98% and more.”

Tectra Automation provided training for all operators and technicians prior to the handover process, and continued after project completion.

Tectra Automation is a Bosch Rexroth South Africa Group Company.




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