Automated palletizing has seen tremendous advancements over the last several decades. Even though robotic palletizing can pack and palletize everything from the smallest microchips to a 100lb case of beef, conventional palletizing still has a place in the industry and may be the best solution for some applications.
If you have long production runs with the same SKUs and the same sized cases, a conventional palletizer will likely meet your needs. However, robotic palletizers are more flexible and reliable for palletizing multiple SKU pallets.
Conventional or “layer” palletizers are best suited for building single SKU pallets at rapid rates. They are capable of maximum efficiencies with high speeds of up to 200 cases per minute. In order to reach these high case rates, an extensive conveyor system is required with high-speed-sortation and multiple accumulation lanes to stage the product.
Although high speeds and efficiencies sound inviting, one should also consider the limited flexibility to more complex pallet patterns and multiple SKUs. A change in a pallet pattern is very complicated and often not possible. Upon installation of the equipment, initial programming establishes only a handful of pallet patterns. Additionally, these conventional palletizers and their required conveyor systems necessitate a greater amount of floor space.
With today’s fast-paced-economy, retailers and distribution centers are being forced to ship fewer pallets with a single SKU and generate more mixed-case-pallets with multiple SKUs. This is where robotic solutions shine. Although robotic palletizers are slightly slower than their conventional counterparts, their flexibility and small equipment footprint make them ideal for a variety of palletizing solutions.
Robotic palletizers are reliable and flexible. They can be programmed with a high number of pallet patterns which can be accessed and changed via a simple HMI screen, allowing the operator to change the pattern as needed. Such programs may include “rainbow” pallet loads which contain different products on each layer of the pallet. Another pallet load is the “mixed” pallet with different products within each layer. Because of the flexibility of the robotic palletizers, and the options on different end effectors, the conveyor system can be designed to bring multiple SKUs to the palletizing cell. This reduces the need for high speed sortation and miles of case accumulation.
Initial costs of the conventional style palletizer vs. the robotic style palletizer are similar. The robotic palletizers typically require less upstream conveyor and have a smaller footprint, but the conventional palletizers can reach those high speeds. Your choice ultimately comes down to your product and the operation you wish to run.
Send us an email or give us a call at (260) 490-3000 to discuss which style is right for your process.