Many modern manufacturing environments are transitioning from separate, isolated “islands of automation” to more connected equipment, complete with cloud-based data storage and analytics which deliver powerful business insights. Such is the case with end-of-line palletizing equipment used in a variety of manufacturing applications, where increasing productivity demands and diverse packaging requirements necessitate more robust, adaptable and flexible features.
Recent advances in connected technologies are facilitating this transition, from the prevalence of cloud solutions and the industrial internet of things (IIoT) to wireless speed improvements and machine-level sensors. As a result, palletizing equipment can now be equipped with advanced diagnostics and predictive failure capabilities to improve the throughput rates and uptime of mission-critical production operations.
I discussed the evolution of palletizers in our most recent On The Move webinar, Driving Peak Performance With Smart Palletizing Systems. One of the biggest challenges manufacturers face in their material handling equipment is the consistent pressure to keep pace with production demands. And when it comes to palletizing, this pressure is magnified by a convergence of packaging-related challenges, including:
- Ever-evolving packaging trends and case designs
- Proliferation of SKUs
- Complex load configurations (patterns, sheets, wrapping, etc.)
Combined, these challenges require palletizing equipment to be more flexible and adapt to quickly changing production priorities. This means that palletizers need to become smarter and more connected. To enable this much-needed flexibility while maximizing uptime and utilization, many manufacturers are adding smart machine capabilities and connecting their palletizing equipment within their facilities and throughout their enterprises.
In the webinar, I explained how connecting palletizing equipment enables a predictive maintenance approach to asset reliability that translates into increased uptime and maximum revenue potential. Doing so reduces planned and unplanned downtime, as calendar-based maintenance is replaced by proactive measures that are contingent on the actual health of palletizing assets. I demonstrated how even marginal downtime reductions deliver tangible benefits, while reducing unnecessary preventative maintenance costs and spending on spare parts and materials.
While production reporting and a focus on utilization are not new concepts in the manufacturing space, connected technologies are enhancing these capabilities and delivering additional value. In palletizing equipment, connectivity drives performance and utilization improvements in a variety of ways, such as:
- Monitoring machine activities and sending notifications when facilities aren’t hitting targeted throughput rates
- Analyzing data trends, detecting error conditions and notifying operators
- Enhancing root cause analysis and expediting issue resolution
Examples of how connected palletizers can provide visibility to errors include exposing production issues with specific SKUs or identifying areas that are prone to jams. By simply correcting 15 jams per day, operators could add up to an extra hour of runtime each day.
In addition to connected capabilities, today’s leading palletizing equipment manufacturers are also offering advanced robotic, servo and software technologies with much-improved user interfaces. Together, these enhancements are enabling the next generation of flexibility and productivity in palletizing applications.
To learn more about achieving peak performance from your palletizing equipment, please view this webinar in its entirety.