Economics continue to improve for mini palletisers

Australis Engineering’s range of Mini Linear Palletisers aim to deliver automated palletising on a budget. As Matt McDonald reports, the capabilities of the units are developing and expanding.

The MLP Mini Palletisers from Sydney’s Australis Engineering are low-cost units which require only a small footprint in which to operate and have been designed with a ‘plug and play’ philosophy in mind.

They can take up approximately the amount of space used in the average hand palletising operation; and can be shipped, installed, and up-and-running in as little as three days.

The Mini palletisers can be used for products weighing up to 20 kg and, depending on box size and weight, can palletise up to 28 boxes per minute.

Because they are pre-programmed, they are suitable for potential customers who currently do a lot of hand palletising. Such outfits tend to handle several different products.

And they find that, with the MLPs, it is easy to quickly change from one product to another. The touch screen units mean that operation is simple. 

The selling point of the MLP Series has always been fast Return on Investment (ROI).

According to the company, they can help reduce labour costs and increase production in a very short space of time.

And, in an effort, to further improve the economics of the machines, the company is currently upgrading their capabilities.

Manufacturers Monthly recently caught up with Anthony Gustafson, Engineering Manager at Australis to hear about the developments.

He first outlined the distinction between the two models – “The MLP 12 is the cantileavered version with integrated wrapping and multi-stations.

“The MLP 10 is a gantry style sytem, again multi pallets but without the wrapping.”

Multi-pallet capabilities

The first area of development Gustafson mentioned was multi-pallet capabilities. He pointed to operations which “have a packing line that is doing multiple products simultaneously coming down a single conveyor.” In such cases, the system can “pick off that [conveyor] and can palletise multiple pallets all at once”.

“With the MLP range, by just extending the track it runs on, we can do more or less as many as we like.” He said. (Though he points out it is obviously governed by speed and production rates).

In contrast, he says, “even a big robot is generally limited to at most four pallets, unless you put it on a track.”

He tells us that, with the MLP palletisers, there is a system on the floor at the moment which is doing four pallets simultaneously; and another that’s currently doing two simultaneously.

“That’s an option where you can expand that track and even tack on units – the actual palletising mast – onto multiple tracks,” he adds.

“I quoted a system for New Zealand where we’re actually doing 48 pallets simultaneously…That had six or eight masts but on one common track, operating in unison.”

The significance of this development is, of course, its cost-saving potential. By increasing the capabilities of the palletisers Australis will be able to offer clients faster production rates and lower labour costs.

Use of MLP Mini Palletisers in freezers

The other area of development Gustafson mentioned is the use of MLP Mini Palletisers in freezers.

“At the moment we’re in the process of quoting and negotiating a system that’s going to go into a freezer at –25 degrees C.”

“The customer has been looking for a freezer palletiser for some

time and has looked at various options but…has been put off in most cases simply because it is in a freezer.”

Australis has experience working with freezers. In the past, the company has done a number of jobs in the harsh setting.

While these jobs involved conveyors and other equipment, Gustafson points out that the company has done a fair amount of research into the area and has the expertise to complete the job. 

Return on investment

Gustafson stresses ROI as key. With the MLP, Australis has tried to keep the cost of ownership as low as possible. “That’s not just the upfront costs but also the cost of programming, doing maintenance and so forth. The customer can basically do all that in house,” he says.

“Once the unit is installed – while we’re of course happy to support it and to be there for the customer – eventually they can do it all themselves.

“So they’re not reliant on picking up the phone and asking us to program a new pallet pattern for them or anything like that.”

As such, he is pleased to relate stories of clients who have recorded a 50 or 60 percent labour reduction per product produced on the line, and have been able to increase total output.

That type of news means the company is achieving exactly what it set out to do.