Brillopak Automates Packing Lines at Three Morrisons Facilities
Brillopak has installed a range of fully automated pick and place packing lines at three of Morrisons’ fresh produce and fruit manufacturing sites. All sites are now delivering improved in-store presentation for potatoes and other root vegetables.
The Brillopak systems were installed at the Rushden, Thrapston and Gadbrook facilities.
“Rushden was the third multi-line implementation where Morrisons worked with Brillopak. Rather than creating individual autonomous operating units, we sought an integrated, comprehensive, more labor efficient system that covered everything from packaging produce to palletizing. Brillopak’s modular automated concepts have proven to be extremely flexible and reliable, accommodating variations in speeds and packaging formats. The true measure though has been the almost immediate improvements to operational efficiency effectiveness (OEE),” said Jason Kelly, head of operations for Morrisons Manufacturing.
Historically, the Rushden packhouse, which cleans, stores, packs and distributes thousands of tons of potatoes every year, loaded bags of flow wrapped potatoes manually into crates. Now, thanks to two fully-automated and two semi-automated pick, pack and palletizing lines, the Northamptonshire site has enhanced its potato packing precision and transformed its operation from an unergonomic roundtable manual crate separation and case loading method, to a safer, high speed, optimized potato packing process. Similar turnkey lines were installed at Gadbrook.
A solid partnership
Because of the efficiency of the already automated back end section of the warehouse, the Brillopak packing systems needed to boost the pick and place line speed. Rather than commission a ready-made robotic system, the Rushden team worked collaboratively with Brillopak to engineer a new pick and pack concept.
Unlike other depots that wash, grade, pack, palletize and send out in the same day, Rushden has a separate wash, store, pack and case loading area. Because there’s more fresh produce being processed and stored, space at Rushden is at a premium.
Comprising two long stretches of conveyor feeding bagged potatoes from the manufacturing and bagging operations, each automated line features eight Brillopak elements.
At the start of the line a crate destacker unit lifts and feeds Morrisons’ retail trays at a consistent speed and continuous stream on conveyors to the P180 spider arm robotic cell. Alongside are the product conveyors. Rumble technology is fitted to a small section on each conveyor to help settle the packs as the feed single file into each P180 Spider Arm Unipick Dual Robot Cell.
Rather than using gripper end effectors that would pierce the potato bags, Brillopak designed a glove-like end effector that wraps around each potato pack robot arm lowering rapidly yet gently into trays at very high speeds.
Filled trays then pass over a vibration panel to settle the potato packs in the crates. This ensures packs don’t get caught when the bale arms close. If the bale arm is damaged, the crate is rejected and the potatoes are returned to the start of the packing process for reprocessing.
The filled crates of potatoes then pass to a double crate stacker, which places one loaded crate on top of the other. From here the double stack is presented to the integrated yet compact palletizer.
For maximum efficiency, Brillopak’s compact palletizer accommodates two pallet stacks side-by-side. When one stack is full the cell door slides open and the full pallet is removed. To protect the workforce, only when the cell door closes, does palletizing on the remaining empty pallet resume.