Palletbooster at AkzoNobel
For AkzoNobel in Ammerzode, we were able to supply a Pallet Booster. To finish it off, this booster was powder coated in AkzoNobel blue.
The booster is used flexibly at AkzoNobel for various lines. We trained operators to make the different patterns.
Interview with Willem Boere (Engineering & Maintenance manager)
What was the main reason to start automating?
The supply of people is getting smaller. There is a scarcity of personnel.Even migrant workers are difficult to obtain.In addition, personnel costs are getting higher and higher. Costs that cannot be factored into a cost price. Then you start looking at other solutions for work.
Why did you start automating with a cobot and not, for example, with an industrial robot?
An industrial robot has a huge footprint because of safety fencing. With a cobot, you don’t need these facilities. Given the weight of the boxes and the speed of the line, an industrial robot would be overkill. A cobot will suffice there just fine.
How do employees react to automation? For example, are they afraid they will lose their jobs or take on different tasks?
People are mostly afraid of losing their jobs by introducing a cobot to the workplace. People do not see it as an opportunity to work their way up by learning how to program the cobot. After gaining some experience with the cobot, however, people do see its benefit. Applying a cobot will not cost jobs at our company. People will be employed in other workplaces.
What might you want to automate with cobots in the future?
We have about three products that require a lot of labor to assemble, pack and stack on a pallet: The first is a product that requires putting two products in a blister pack with a cardboard manual/product specifications. The second is a two-component product that goes into a collection box and then needs to be stacked into a strapping box.
The third is a two-component product to which a can, tube of hardener, spatula and manual must be added. The whole thing is covered with a cap. Three totally different products that must be able to be processed in one work cell with cobots. For this we are working with Olmia to develop a custom work cell. Such a work cell saves three men in the packing department.
Have you been greatly inconvenienced by the automation caused by cobots? For example, did you close or did the production lines have to be completely changed?
The cobot is a movable unit that is used on various production lines. When converting to a different product, the cobot is positioned and the correct stacking pattern is set. This way we make optimal use of the cobot.
How did the whole process go, did you expect things to be different?
The pallet booster was quickly arranged, only the programming gave quite a few problems. So much so that we considered returning the cobot to sender. Ultimately, the problem was solved and an engineer at Alabastine was able to program the cobot without any problems.
What does it give you now?
Boxes are now stacked using a cobot, which saves 1 FTE. In addition, it is no longer necessary to count the boxes to check whether there are enough on the pallet. Because this happens automatically, they know that the desired number is placed on the pallet. This saves time with counting and possible corrections.