Automatic Vertical Palletizing Using Robots
The Cross palletizing and depalletizing robotic based solution offers a flexible solution to eliminate repetitive, manual stacking and unstacking tasks. The small footprint makes it ideal for tight manufacturing lines and allows it to adapt to different tasks as needed.
This solution aims to eliminate workers from doing repetitive bending and lifting tasks that can lead to workplace injuries. Staff can then be allocated to higher value decision-based work that is less mundane and can’t be easily automated. See the ROI analysis on how this reduced risk impacts operating expenses.
Cross Easy Palletizing software eliminates the need for complex robotic programming and makes redeploying this solution for a different production line or package size much quicker.
Current Cross customers report that the payback of their system is less than two years. For multi-shift operations, the payback can be much sooner (see ROI tab for sample calculation). The flexible Cross vertical palletizing and un-palletizing solution will cut your production costs, eliminate ergonomic related injuries, and reduce quality issues.
- Mobile - easy to move via a pallet jack or forklift
- Vertical lift actuator to reach 62” stack height
- Easy palletizing software - enter key information and software calculates robotic movements. Does not require complex programming.
- Utilizes collaborative robot which eliminates the need for safety fencing in most palletizing applications.
- No wiring to conveyor system required
- Pallet detection/location sensors
- Conveyor detection sensors
Robots in action are really cool to see, but a robot only makes sense in an application where it provides an appropriate return on investment (ROI). Most companies have their own requirements for an ROI timeframe varying from 1-3 years. A typical average is around 2 years for capital projects.
When looking at a robotic project and trying to decide if the initial cost is worth it, there are a few calculations that will help with this determination. Let’s take a look at the following scenario:
There is a person performing manual palletizing task for an entire shift. The operator stands at the end of the line, picks up boxes and places them in a particular pallet pattern. When the pallet is full, they alert the forklift driver who takes the pallet over to the shrink wrap machine and puts an empty pallet in place. Then the process repeats.
Now, the first thing needed is the burden rate of the person performing the palletizing operation. Burden rate refers to the entire cost of that employee from the perspective of the company. This includes hourly wage, benefits, vacation, and anything else that has an associated, fixed cost to the company. For this scenario, we will use $19/hour as the entire burden rate. The plant is operated 2 shifts per day, 5 days a week, 51 weeks a year.
- 2 shifts/day = 16 hours/day
- 5 days/week X 16 hours/day = 80 hours/week
- 51 weeks/year X 80 hours/week = 4,080 hours/year
- 4,080 hours/year X $19/hour = $77,520/year
This means that it costs $77,520/year to have a person doing a manual operating operation at the end of the line for 16 hours/day.
An automated palletizing system costs $120,000.
- $120,000/$77,520/Year = 1.55 year ROI.
This means that a palletizer in place of two manual operators will pay for itself in 1.55 years. But what happens after 1.55 years? Let’s suppose this process is slated to remain unchanged for 5 years.
- 5 years - 1.55 years = 3.45 years
- 3.45 years X $77,520/year = $267,444
This means that after the initial ROI period, this solution will actually generate a $267,444 profit (less operating costs and maintenance cost) over the total 5 years. This solution will pay for itself over the course of 1.55 years and will generate a 6 figure profit over the total 5 years. The remaining questions are:
- What happens to the manual operator?
- What happens after 5 years?
- What about reduced risk of injury, speed throughput, quality increase and other things not taken into consideration?
What happens to the manual operator: this really depends on the facility. It’s possible this person can be repurposed for something that is much harder for a robot to do. This person could be tasked with increased quality checks across several lines. This person could also become trained on the robotics platform and is now responsible for keeping robots running across multiple lines.
Regardless of what they are re-purposed for, they can be moved away from a dull/repetitive task to something geared more towards human operators.
What happens after 5 years: it’s possible the operation requirements will have changed from lasting 5 years to lasting 8 years, in which the palletizer will have already paid for itself and can continue to generate profit for those additional 3 years. The other possibility is because this solution isn’t designed to palletize one specific product, it can be moved and re-purposed for a new palletizing project. Here again, it’s already paid for itself.
What about reduced risk higher throughput and increased quality? The above calculation only takes into consideration the offset of manual labor. It doesn’t take into consideration the cost of injury from repetitive bending and lifting. It also overlooks any potential speed increases by using a robot that doesn’t need breaks, take vacation, etc. It also doesn't consider the advantages gained if the manual operator is re-purposed to do increased quality checks. All of these types of advantages are going to be specific to a given company and industry and they take a very detailed risk analysis to come up with quantitative data. If numbers are available, here is how they’d be inserted into the calculation:
- Current palletizing operation results in 1 back related injury every 5 years. A back related injury costs a company $120,000.
- $120,000/back injury / 5 years/back injury = $24,000/year in injuries related to this manual process
By repurposing an operator for quality checks, it decreases part rejects/returns by 2X. Over the course of a year there were 1,000 rejects that cost $100/reject.
- 1,000 rejects/year / 2 = 500 rejects/year
- 1,000 rejects - 500 rejects = 500 fewer rejects/year
- 500 rejects X $100 - reject = $50,000 in savings/year
In addition to the initial $77,520/year labor savings, there is an additional $74,000/year in quality and workers comp savings. Now the ROI calculation looks like this:
- ROI: $120,000 Palletizer Cost / ($77,520 manual labor savings + $24,000 workers comp savings + $50,000 reject savings)/year = $120,000 / $151520/year = 0.792 years.
- 5 years - 0.792 years = 4.208 years left after payback
- 4.208 years X 151,520/year = $637,596.16 in profit (less maintenance and operating costs) over the total 5 years.
This example shows that when the palletizer is used to replace a 2 shift/week manual operation, it has an ROI period of 1.55 years but when considering the additional benefits, the ROI period can be well under a year.
- 48” x 42” maximum pallet size (will accommodate smaller standard sizes)
- 62” Maximum pallet stack height
- 6”x6”x4” minimum box size
- Maximum box weight: 16 lbs
- Pick Speed: 8 boxes per minute
- Power: 110 VAC
- Air: Compressed air source required with standard end-of-arm tooling.
- E-Stop auto recovery
- Easy Palletizing Software
- Standard vacuum gripper offering covers most palletizing applications
- External compressed air is needed
- Ability to customize end-of-arm tooling if needed
- Learn more about Cross End of Arm Tooling options
Interested in sharing or downloading for later reading? Here’s a downloadable PDF copy: Cross Vertical Palletizing Robot Solution. For more information about implementing a palletizing solution into your operation contact a Cross robotics expert to start a conversation!
Request a Quote or Learn more about Our Automatic Palletizing Solution
End of Arm Tooling for a Range of Applications
Cross represents multiple providers and offers end of arm tooling for a variety of applications. Whether your operation is in need of robotic grippers for fragile goods, a customized solution for a unique payload, or anything between; the Cross automation team has you covered! Take a look at our end of arm tooling offering and see how you can accompany our palletizing solution with robots elsewhere in your process.