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Cobots in the packaging industry

Just about any industry deals with packaging products and preparing products for shipment. If you are a co-packer, this is your core business. Whether you’re handling sales packaging (primary packaging), grouped packaging (secondary packaging) or transport packaging (tertiary packaging), packaging robots reduce labour and safety costs and increase throughput. They also reduce damage to products. Their precise movements prevent damage to or contamination of food or pharmaceutical products. We all want our products to reach our customers intact.

Packaging robots or cobots?

In today’s fast-paced production environments, picking and packing tasks ask a lot of employees, such as continuous speed, reliability, accuracy and agility, sometimes combined with inspection and sorting. Packaging robots have been around for some time, but they work separately from people. Cobots work with and alongside people, but don’t take breaks or holidays or fall ill. They support operators by taking over their boring, physically straining, repetitive tasks. And if needed, they will work in circumstances that are unpleasant to people (too cold or hot, too much fumes or dust). Cobots can be the solution to staff shortages, not only for permanent staff, but also for temporary staff, in which case Robots as a Service is a perfect solution.

Cobots are a compact solution, because they can work in the same space as people, without fences. Most cobots can even be mounted to the ceiling. How space-saving is that?

Cobots can be flexibly deployed. Because they are lightweight and do not need fencing, they can be easily deployed somewhere else, on another task, when needed. Their routines can be easily (re)programmed and can be stored on a USB stick. In this way, you can respond to the high mix demand in your sector or during seasonal peaks with a packing and palletising help that is available 24/7. This gives cobots a shorter payback time, without the costs of programming, setting up and special work cells that are connected to traditional robots.

Examples of cobot applications in the packaging industry

  • All kinds of tasks on a conveyor belt
  • Scanning barcodes (in combination with a vision system) and sorting products on the basis of this
  • Erecting and filling boxes
  • Carrying out quality checks
  • Palletising boxes, buckets, crates or bags

So, in the packaging industry, cobots are used to work alongside employees to pick products from boxes, place them on or take them from conveyor belts, pack boxes and to palletise. Those pallets can then be transported within a warehouse by Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR’s). For solutions in the packaging industry, we always pay attention to finding the right, ideally versatile, gripper. Boxes can be lifted with a vacuum gripper, but loose products are usually picked with a versatile electric gripper.

Staff shortage

The shortage of skilled workers is one of the most important reasons why companies use collaborative robots. You need less hands to meet the demand for flexible production, guarantee quick turnarounds and to scale up quickly.