Cobot solution improves tea palletising quality and safety

Monday, 27 January, 2020 | Supplied by: Sidel Oceania Pty Ltd

The global market for tea has been projected to grow by US$7.9 billion between 2017 and 2022 due to rising trends like premiumisation and the addition of exotic flavours in mature markets, as well as tea’s health positioning on a global scale.

Nestlé Suisse SA Orbe, a factory producing tea in capsules under the Special.T brand, addresses this growing trend.

“In the past, this plant, equipped with low- and medium-speed lines, was handling palletising manually,” explained Cédric Rey, Fill & Pack Maintenance & Improvement Manager at Nestlé. “As volume and productivity needed to increase, we were looking to use cobotic palletising to avoid repetitive non-ergonomic tasks for operators. We wanted them to handle activities with higher added value.”

The team at Nestlé Suisse SA Orbe approached Sidel with its cobotic requirements back in 2017, leveraging the long-standing relationship between the two companies. At the time, Sidel was already working on developing a new cobot palletising solution and was able to take the opportunity to directly embed the customer’s requirements into their new program.

Nestlé Suisse SA Orbe was looking to use collaborative robotic palletising, an innovative Industry 4.0 technology. With this in mind, they required a robust, precise and user-friendly cobotic solution, working as an industrial answer to their challenge of pallet stability.

“At our Orbe site, best-in-class pallet quality is absolutely key, as our cases with the tea capsules are very light, long and narrow,” Rey said. “This is why accurate case placement on the pallet and tight layers are major requirements to guarantee pallet stability, avoiding products moving through the complete supply chain, maintaining their full integrity and ultimately ending up in consumers’ hands without any damage.

“Additionally, we also needed to ensure the safety of our operators. It was imperative that the same level of safety would be maintained after switching from manual labour to cobot technology, ensuring that the solution is working safely with no fences around it. For us, the user-friendliness of the new cobotic solution was extremely important as well: for instance, an intuitive navigation of its HMI was a must.”

Two cobotic palletisers have now been installed downstream after two Cermex SW21 compact side-loading case packers. These CoboAccess_Pal solutions feature an industrial automation platform based on the combination of PC and PLC.

“This association makes sure the cobot performs better-controlled picking and trajectories, leading to greater pallet quality and stability, instrumental for smooth pallet transportation through the supply chain,” said Laurent Cristol, Strategic Account Director Nestlé, at Sidel. “Additionally, they allow for an immediate restarting of the machine in the case of potential problems or emergency stops and, as such, minimise downtime.”

CoboAccess_Pal’s HMI is well suited to meet the customer’s requirement for a user-friendly solution. Based on an intuitive tablet approach to navigation, the HMI facilitates the daily jobs for Nestlé Suisse SA Orbe operators, as they can access standard operating procedure (SOP) and maintenance sheets for easier and faster troubleshooting and root cause analysis. Sidel made sure to get the safety of the CoboAccess_Pal objectively validated by Apave in addition to the equipment’s full compliance with European Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC.

The system always performs case handling above the conveyor or the pallet station, which ensures that cases never fall on the floor, therefore maximising protection.

“CoboAccess_Pal is also extremely easy to install, said Cristol. “At the factory in Orbe, it took one week including commissioning time; plus it can be easily moved between lines in less than 10 minutes.”

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