Robotic palletizer at North Side

Editor’s Note: This article is a sidebar to the feature story North Side super-sizes packaging value that ran in the July issue of Packaging World, p.

Pw 19461 Northside Robot

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Automating packaging of cooked sausage patties and links for the food service industry began at the North Side Foods Corp.’s Cumming, GA, plant in Feb. ’01.

“At our Cumming plant, all packs weigh 17.5 lb and are sent to only one account, McDonald’s Corp.,” says Paul Kafer, North Side’s director of engineering and maintenance. “It was a good opportunity to learn the process and then adapt it at the Arnold, PA, plant, which has three lines running 5-, 10- and 17.5-lb bags for our Ember Farms brand in addition to the McDonald’s brand.”

The new arrangement mirrors the packaging lines running at the Arnold, PA, plant. One major difference in the Cumming plant is found in palletizing. North Side went to distributor Advanced Control Solutions (Marietta, GA) to find a robotic palletizer that would fit its needs. The key component in its palletizing operation is the Kawasaki (Wixom, MI) Model ZX165U robot. Many products from the ACS line were added for programming assistance.

Stacking it up

“The Kawasaki robot is paying off,” says Phil George, maintenance engineer at North Side. “We are saving money because the robot is performing the work of two people. The Kawasaki gives us better, more consistent stacks loaded on each pallet.”

At the end of North Side’s packaging line is a Belcor taper. The Kawasaki six-axis robot lifts the taped boxes of product from a conveyor and stacks the boxes on pallets. Features on the Kawasaki include the following:

  • Large work envelope

  • Over-the-shoulder motion

  • High velocity and acceleration that result in short cycle times

  • Easy arm conversions

  • Collision and overload detection

  • Routine maintenance every 10ꯠ hours

  • Time between overhauls—40ꯠ hours

ACS added special sensors, giving the robot the ability to sense the height and position of a pallet on a stack for retrieving empty pallets. ACS also upgraded the palletizing system with control systems that offer system support via the phone.

“As a whole, we’ve experienced a minimum of seven percent throughput increase in Cumming, GA, because the manual packing had been a bottleneck as well to how quickly we can process our product,” says Gina Turoscy, vice president of operations. “Everything was done manually and it slowed things down.”

North Side is a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods.

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