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Still case packing by hand? Here's the answer

In a textbook example of fulfilling unmet market needs, Pro Mach’s end-of-line division debuts the Brenton BantamPro ELS case packer at PACK EXPO 2009

They did their homework at Pro Mach, Inc., the large and growing provider of integrated packaging solutions.  The result is the Brenton BantamPro ELS top load case packer, which will be demonstrated at PACK EXPO Las Vegas Booth C-4425 along with tray formers by IPak Machinery, the newest Pro Mach acquisition.

The BantamPro ELS was developed on the basis of timely market research, an innovative partnership with an automation collaborator on a recent stretch wrapper makeover, and not reinventing the wheel.

Defining the value proposition

First, the research.  Pro Mach determined that the market was hungry for operational cost savings at the entry level of automated packaging.  In addition to their established business in high speed machines, the Pro Mach end-of-line division, Brenton, could tap into a new market segment – companies that have outgrown their hand packing operations.  Their findings indicated strong demand for a very cost effective, 10 cpm case erecting, loading and sealing solution to replace manual packing of RSC cases.

Next, Brenton formed a multidisciplinary project team.  They determined that the new system must be a standard machine that’s modular and therefore quick to build and deliver, easy to modify without becoming a custom machine, and suitable for sale through distribution.

Next, while the temptation would be to start with a clean sheet of paper, Brenton’s engineering team resisted.  As a full line supplier, they already had the right subsystems to cost effectively automate most of the process – except for robotic loading.  They knew this off-the-shelf approach would get them to market faster without incurring sunk costs.

Collaboration delivers turnkey automation

For the pick-and-place module, as well as a turnkey automation source, they turned to Schneider Electric (PELV Booth C-3002).  This gave Brenton access to a scalable robotic pick-and-place capability, featuring interchangeable robot modules depending on desired cycle rates and payload capacities.  And like their own systems, these robots are off-the-shelf, proven units.

With a Schneider Electric x-z gantry (shown), the BantamPro ELS is capable of 10 cpm or 20 picks per minute and product payloads up to 20 lbs. per pick.  By replacing the gantry with a 2 axis ELAU delta robot, capacities jump to 50 picks per minute and over 50 lbs. Also, a third rotational axis becomes an option for orienting packs.

As a full partner, Schneider Electric participated in aspects of the mechanical and vacuum systems, systems integration and fabrication.  Pro Mach’s Brenton Engineering team in Alexandria, Minnesota, sent the prototype machine to Schneider Electric’s packaging technology & application solutions center in Raleigh, NC.  Once there, the pick-and-place subsystem was integrated along with a ‘machine ready’ pre-assembled control cabinet, HMI, and ELAU PacDrive servo module-based automation system.

Building on success

Pro Mach had already established a working relationship with Schneider Electric in the supply of a complete electrical solution for Pro Mach’s Orion stretch pallet wrappers.  So it was natural to extend this engineering and supply chain partnership to a mechatronic design.

The plan for what was to become the BantamPro ELS came about after management from both companies brainstormed opportunities at Schneider Electric’s initi@tive customer event and the solutions center.

Solution with a future

Standardization and modularity were consistently applied throughout the control system.  For example, the ‘machine ready’ cabinet is a standard module regardless of how many servos are added for robots or setup axes.  This is possible because the servos are ELAU PacDrive machine-mounted, integrated motor/drive modules that take up no cabinet space other than a power supply.

Both robot arms are supplied as drop-in modules, and the servo cables simply plug and snap into place.  The PLC, HMI and motion software environment is standards-based and modular as well, which simplifies engineering and modifications.

Future expansion modules from Pro Mach companies could include conveyance, labeling, palletizing and stretch wrapping.  Even a second robot arm is possible to increase capacity.

The ARC connection

This year’s ARC Automation Forum featured a Pro Mach speaker who described their lean product design process that analyzes and optimizes the performance of existing designs.  Certainly this capability contributed to the BantamPro ELS success.

It’s interesting to note that this was the first time that ARC Advisory Group devoted a full track to packaging machinery at its signature annual forum.  Their analysts recognize the potential of packaging operations to enable the business strategies of consumer packaged goods companies.

In an ARC analyst brief published last fall on that very topic, ARC proposed criteria for CPG companies to prequalify their suppliers.  They urged greater collaboration earlier in the design process between machine builders, automation suppliers, packagers and materials suppliers.  And they acknowledged Schneider Electric specifically.

The brief’s authors also indicated that it is no longer enough for an OEM to just build machines.  They recommended that packagers seek out packaging systems providers who could provide an integrated, turnkey solution using sustainable, adaptable automation technologies like robotics.

In developing the BantamPro ELS, it appears that Pro Mach is indeed ahead of the curve.

Win-win situation

The new case packer is certainly a good solution for contract packers, specialty product makers, limited time offers and new product launches – for anyone facing the dilemma of adding to their labor expense or investing capital in more throughput than they really need.

Commercially available, modular subsystems and outsourcing of engineering services cut Brenton’s time to market by an estimated 16 weeks.  Off-the-shelf subsystems also give them projectable costs, leadtimes, a support network and product warranties.  Most of all, it’s allowing them to expand market share in an adverse business environment.

About Brenton

Brenton Engineering, a division of Pro Mach, designs, manufactures and integrates a wide-range of end-of-line packaging equipment. Brenton is a packaging industry leader in servo-technology applications and integrating automated solutions for complex packaging needs. Their extensive product line includes case packers, shrink wrappers, palletizers, and robotic solutions for most end-of-line packaging and material handling needs. Brenton is the largest provider of Fanuc robotic packaging systems in North America. All Brenton products are designed and manufactured at their state-of-the-art facilities in Minnesota.

About Pro Mach

Pro Mach is a leading provider of integrated packaging products and solutions for food, beverage, household goods, and pharmaceutical companies. Through three business units and related divisions, Pro Mach provides product packaging equipment, PMMI certified training, installation, and parts for primary packaging solutions, end-of-line packaging machinery, and identification and tracking equipment.

Pro Mach customers include many Fortune 500 companies and other leading companies worldwide which need reliable, durable, and technologically advanced packaging equipment and integrated solution sets. Pro Mach is headquartered in Loveland, Ohio with manufacturing facilities and offices throughout the United States and Canada. Pro Mach is owned by Odyssey Investment Partners LLC, which is based in New York.

About Schneider Electric ELAU Packaging Solutions

Schneider Electric ELAU Packaging Solutions is the only automaton system in the world purpose-built for packaging machinery. Schneider Electric ELAU Packaging Solutions equips over $1 billion worth of packaging machines annually, with over 45,000 systems already deployed worldwide. 

The market demands packaging operations that are more flexible and efficient to fulfill marketing, supply chain and global business strategies.  Schneider Electric innovations have enabled a revolution in mechanical, software and hardware modularity to deliver these agile packaging systems.


Rethinking Packaging Robotics to Prioritize Flexibility
In this eBook, you’ll learn how to guard against the traps that CPGs sometimes inadvertently set for themselves when implementing robotics that lead to automation “brittleness.”
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Rethinking Packaging Robotics to Prioritize Flexibility
Rethinking Packaging Robotics to Prioritize Flexibility
In this eBook, you’ll learn how to guard against the traps that CPGs sometimes inadvertently set for themselves when implementing robotics that lead to automation “brittleness.”
Read More
Rethinking Packaging Robotics to Prioritize Flexibility