The requirements for modern-day automation solutions increase radically in the context of the industrial production. This applies especially for the packaging processes, above all at the end of the process chain at the end of line packaging and palletising.
The technical capacities of modern productions lines are steadily increased, this for sure demands corresponding performance requirements for the packaging process. Moreover the requirements for the production flexibility are increased – the greater variety of the product range leads to multiplication of the number of different formats not to say greater format sizes. Therefore often the lot sizes sink and the number of format changeovers per shift increases. In order to remain economically, a modern packaging machine has to have this “Built-In-Flexibility at minimum format changeover times. Naturally no compromises shall result from this regarding the technical machine availability. Often finding solutions in the machine planning in the daily routine is complicated by the space conditions of the production structures which have steadily increased over the years. And finally the always short planning resources make the solution of this complex optimisation task difficult.
The dream of every planning engineer is to receive a turnkey, integrated plant done by a competent supplier which covers after the primary packaging the whole process up to a storage- or dispatch ready pallet fulfilling exactly the corresponding specific requirements- not too much (because it would be too expensive) or not too little – so to speak tailor made.
The following typical features or KPI´s (Key Performance Indicators) are elementary in order to realize the economic efficiency of a plant and therefore the realization of the investment:
Output: Thanks to ingenious engineering achievements, primary packaging systems constantly increase the cycle speed. As a result, outputs of 400 to 500 primary packaging units per minute are no longer uncommon. Secondary packaging systems must pack these units in folding cases, lidded tray cases or wrap-around cardboard cases with a reserve capacity. This leads to case outputs of 50 to 75 cardboard cases per minute today.
Quality: Of course, the rejects rate has to be kept in the one thousandth range. Product damage or misshapen boxes are almost entirely inadmissible.
Format range: Today, systems are only used to approximately 30 percent of their capacity since there are restrictions arising from technically limited format ranges. Therefore, our aim must be to cover all required format ranges with one platform. For example, the desired bandwidth can be between 150 x 80 x 80 mm (L x W x H) for the minimum box and a quarter of a US pallet (600 x 520 x 300 mm) as the maximum size.
Format changeover: The retail sector is calling for higher and higher flexibility in the form of smaller packaging units with an increasing number of different versions. As a result, this leads to smaller batch sizes and more frequent format changeovers in production – in some cases, several times a day. In order to make this profitable, the format changeover process must be automated today. As a result, format changeover times can be reduced from approximately 40 minutes for a manual changeover to less than eight minutes for an automatic switch of the format-dependent positions with the help of actuating drives. In these systems, robots can automatically change their tools with the tool parking areas being located within the working range of the robot inside the machine.
Machine operation: As few qualified employees as possible should be able to operate the system. This is achieved by intuitive operator guidance at the HMI (human machine interface). For example, the graphically supported display of malfunctions including information on the relevant equipment marking and operator instructions permit fast trouble-shooting without a programming device. Moreover, flexible system concepts permit the optimisation of the plant layout in terms of path lengths and operator movement frequencies in order to minimise the use of operator resources.
Space requirements: Very frequently, the production areas are ""frozen"", which means that there are quite simply no longer any possibilities for expansion. Building expansions constitutes another obstacle for investments. Accordingly, modern plants must be given a very compact design. The KPI of production units per sqm must be optimised. This can be achieved by installing suspended robots or placing the control cabinets on the systems.
Energy consumption: The implementation of sustainability in mechanical engineering first and foremost means that the moved masses have to be reduced. Here, the mechanical designers are called upon to minimise the machine’s energy consumption, e.g. with the help of lightweight, fibre-reinforced materials, smooth-running guides and energy-efficient drives.
And Transnova-Ruf Verpackungs- und Palettiertechnik GmbH offers such “designed-to-order” solutions. A set of modules, which has been developed over many years, permits the configuration of the right concept from a range of tried and tested functional elements. The functional elements are then adjusted to the respective application – they are scaled up or down in terms of their output and format range and arranged in a suitable machine layout depending on the respective spatial situation. The extensive use of state-of-the-art robotics constitutes a central success factor for this.