Smart mixed-case palletising solutions take warehousing to the next level

Due to occupational health and safety concerns, there is an increasing demand for smart mixed-case palletising solutions that take warehousing management in a new direction, writes David Rubie.

Until recently, the only way to assemble a pallet containing many differ ent SKUs (stock keeping units) was to do it manually. However, driven by occupational health and safety (OH&S) concerns and skills shortages, there is an increasing demand for smart mixed case palletising solu tions.

Dematic has developed two solutions for high-volume dis tributors: ErgoPall Ergonomic High Rate Palletising Stations and AMCAP (Automated Mixed Case Palletising). Both employ automated storage, buffering and sequencing systems, advanced software and automat ed materials handling equip ment.

Key to the development of the ErgoPall and AMCAP solutions was the evolution of smart prod uct storage, buffering and sequencing systems such as the company’s Miniload and Multishuttle automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS). The storage buffer and sequenc ing technology allows manual mixed case order assembly to be done more safely and with greater efficiency, accuracy and productivity.

A distribution centre’s ware house management system (WMS) would interface with Dematic’s WCS (warehouse con trol system), which controls all aspects of the order assembly process including pallet break down or de-layering, storage, transport and palletising.

When the WMS releases orders, the WCS sorts the data and sends the pallet stock infor mation to Dematic’s PalletGenDirector software, which uses different attributes of the product and stacking cri teria factors to determine the optimum build sequence.

Pallets of stock for the orders are then automatically delay ered or manually broken-down and conveyed to the high-speed Miniload or Multishuttle storage buffer and sequencing system. When required for an order, the necessary SKUs are picked and transported in the exact sequence for pallet assembly.

ErgoPall Ergonomic High Rate Palletising Stations enable oper ators to ergonomically build mixed SKU pallets, and to slide the sequenced cases into posi tion on the pallet.

Lifting is almost eliminated and, as each layer of cases is completed, the pallet automati cally lowers, enabling assembly of the next layer to begin. Palletising continues even while the built pallet is being removed from the ErgoPall station.

Automated palletising is an efficient solution to building pallets in high volume distribu tion applications. New advances in software, product storage, and sequencing systems, along with high-speed articulated robots, have enabled the development of automated palletising systems capable of handling a diverse range of SKUs.

Each AMCAP cell comprises two six-axis, servo-driven artic ulated arm robots installed on a mezzanine. Two conveyors automatically deliver the SKUs to the work cell, at which point they are aligned, oriented and presented to the robots for pick up, with the two robots build ing each pallet co-operatively. The combined dual-robotic cycle of feeding, grabbing and placing enables the system’s high throughput rate of greater than 1,000 mixed SKU cases per hour.

One of the unique aspects of AMCAP is the multi-axis, end-of- arm-tool (EOAT) attached to the robots’ articulated arms. This universal tool can handle all standard types of packaging without stopping or changing tools.