There are many factors to consider when you design palletizing cells. Even the small decisions you make during the design phase of deployment can significantly impact a robot’s performance, including the all-important cycle time.
The layout of the pallet cells has a very clear impact on cycle times. Placing your cell components even in slightly different positions can add or subtract seconds from the time it takes to complete one palletizing cycle.
With the right palletized cell layout, you can improve space utilization in your cells, achieve faster cycle times, and increase your cell throughput.
Here’s how to quickly and easily optimize your cell layout.
How palletizing cell layout affects cycle times
Palletizing cell layout is the arrangement of elements in a robotic palletizing cell. This includes factors such as robot placement, conveyor position and orientation, pallet size, and many other factors.
Layout can significantly impact cycle times and, thus, the performance of your entire palletizing process. For example, a robot located farther from the conveyor may take 2 seconds longer to retrieve a box than one that is closer. These 2 seconds wasted quickly add up during a work shift – for a throughput of 12 pallets per hour, that could mean more than 2 hours wasted per 24 hours.
When designing your cells, you also have to make other decisions. For example, do you want to use centralized or decentralized palette creation? Centralized palletizing involves using a single robot cell to handle all of your palletizing tasks. Decentralized palletizing involves using different robots for each production line. Your choice will also affect cycle times.
There are various steps to designing a robotic cell for palletizing. Optimizing your collaborative robot’s movements is a powerful way to greatly benefit from seemingly small changes.
7 considerations when designing a palletizing cell layout
Designing palletizing cells can be very easy, especially if you use a tool like Our Palletizing Configuratorwho does a lot of the legwork for you.
Here are 7 factors that will affect the cycle time in your palletizing cell layout:
1. Robot and conveyor position
Robot and conveyor positions are probably the most important considerations in any cell layout.
You have to position the conveyor so that it can deliver the boxes as close to the robot as possible. Often, this means orienting the conveyor so that it reaches the end of the pallet and not horizontally.
2. A safety device or fence
You need to separate human workers from palletizing robots, even when using collaborative robots.
Make sure that you leave enough space inside your guardrails or sensor zones so that everything can enter, including allowing room for people to enter to handle pallets.
3. Spacing between cell elements
The spacing between cell elements has a direct impact on the cycle time. Every unnecessary millimeter that the robot moves adds unproductive time to the task.
Try to reduce the distance as much as possible. However, be sure to leave enough free space so you don’t increase the chance of a crash.
4. Conveyor height
Conveyor height, relative to robots and pallets, can have a big impact on cycle times.
By positioning the conveyor close to the midpoint between the top and bottom of the loaded pallets, you can make the speed of each box placement more consistent. The boxes in the middle of the pallet will be placed more quickly and the boxes on the top and bottom will be slightly slower.
In addition to altitude, horizontal (or XY) distance can also add or remove cycle times unnecessarily.
Let’s say you added an extra labeling step to a palletizing task. It may feel reasonable to position the labeling machine farther from the conveyor to avoid collisions. However, this will add extra time for each placement of the boxes. On the contrary, it is better to minimize this distance.
6. Interlayer dispenser position
If you use interlayer interlayer on your pallet, it is important to consider placement of the interlayer dispenser.
Often, the best place for the dispenser is directly behind the pickup location on the conveyor.
7. A robotic solution is used
Finally, the particular robotic solution you use will greatly impact cell performance.
One factor to consider is how easy it is for you to edit the robot’s program. With a solution like Robotiq Palletization Solutions, you can easily tweak the program if you notice inefficiencies in the cell layout. This helps you to continuously improve your program and cycle time over time.
The key to optimal layout: keep movement to a minimum
As you can see from the list above, many of the considerations that affect the cycle time of your palletizing robot come down to one factor: distance.
By reducing the distance between components in your cell, you reduce the unnecessary movements that the robot has to make between palletizing steps. You should try to minimize movement while avoiding collisions between cell elements.
The simplest rule is to have the pick up point as close to the drop point as possible.
By planning ahead and using tools like ours Palletization ConfiguratorYou can ensure that the robot moves in the most efficient way.
Where to get more expert advice on setting up your robot
Do you need more information on setting up your robotic palletizing system?
You can find lots of detailed advice in our free eLearning courses. Courses in Lean Robotics for Palletizing is a great place to start. As well as teaching you the basics of robotic palletizing, this book introduces typical layouts and lots of useful tips on how to increase efficiency in your palletizing process.