5 Takeaways From The Pick, Place and Pall Cobot Expo

How To Match The Right Robot To The Right Task

How To Match The Right Robot To The Right Task

Written By Brad Henrie

Like any other industrial machine, robots need to be properly selected for their intended task. If they aren’t they can become a process bottleneck or require more maintenance. Sometimes a needlessly complex and expensive robotic solution is chosen when a simple economically priced one would work instead. Multiple types of robots exist and each excel in different applications while falling short in others. With so many factors to consider how do we select the most optimal robotic solution?

Collaborative Robots

Collaborative robots (cobots) are all the rage right now and they have certainly earned it due to their programming simplicity, human friendliness, and versatility. They are more like shop tools than robots, and have opened up applications that previously weren’t economical. For those unfamiliar with robots this is often the first contact they have with the technology and they can often get short sighted because cobots are so versatile. It’s possible to fit a cobot to almost every task, but it isn’t always the best tool for the task.

The Downside

For faster speeds or higher loads than cobots can handle traditional robot arms can be used. Initially designed for high-speed repetitive work in the automotive industry they are powerful, and fast. Their 6+ degrees of freedom arm design grants them more flexibility than other types of robots but payload capacity decreases the further the arm extends. 

High speed and large loads mean higher potential for injury, which means a comprehensive safety solution is required.  

SCARA and Delta

When applications don’t require the level of flexibility articulated arms provide there are simpler options like delta and SCARA configurations. They have 3-4 degrees of freedom which constrains the end effector to be parallel to the surface the robot’s mounted on. But this works for applications such as pick and place, soldering, and screw driving. Their simplistic design means that higher speeds and throughput can be achieved which lowers ROI. 

Simple designs and applications also mean that programming is simple and straightforward.

Cartesian and Gantry

Drawbacks of all arm designs are low payload capacity and low reach. Cartesian and gantry configurations overcome these limitations because they are constructed from linear slides and can be scaled to match the application. Being composed of linear slides means that they inherit the downsides of linear slides such as poor environmental ratings and take up more space than other robots. They have the largest payload capacity of all robots, but can also be constructed small enough to fit on a desk next to an operator.

Sometimes a simple linear slide or piston is enough. In some modern motion components the actuator, drive, and controller can often be combined into the same package allowing complex motions to be programmed and controlled easily.

So how do we choose a robot?

Shelley is uniquely positioned to answer this question. We carry over 5 different robotics lines and 5 different end effector lines, everything from gantry systems to collaborative robots, and large industrial robots. This diversity allows us to pick the best product for the job rather than just the one that will work. Contrast this with individual suppliers, who must pick a solution from their much smaller lineup. We also provide a complete solution by supplying peripherals such as conveyors, autonomous mobile robots, sensors, and safety systems.

Our sales staff know how to guide you through the process of selecting a robot. They are backed up by our engineering team who have intimate knowledge of all our product lines and know how to combine them into complete solutions.

If a project gets too big for us to handle we can work with engineering integrators who specialize in large projects, many of whom we have partnered with on a regular basis for years.

If you have been thinking about adding a robot to your production process give us a call and lets continue this conversation.

How to Achieve the Highest Warehouse Automation ROI

How to Achieve the Highest Warehouse Automation ROI

Written by Simab Khan

Maximizing margins is the primary goal of any warehouse business, and trying to get more in than you get out can seem like a daily struggle. Earning a worthwhile return on investment (ROI) can be a goal you are constantly striving for, but you can move a whole lot closer to it with automation in your warehouse.

Automation can save you money by cutting labour costs and increasing capacity, but how can it deliver that elusive boost to ROI, which can bring your company to the next level?

Assessing the potential ROI from automation isn’t a straightforward process but one which can be very rewarding. It is not simply about replacing one way of doing things with another, and although it will save and make you money in the long term, it requires an initial investment of time and capital.

Mapping Out Your Journey

Automation involves a fundamental change to the manufacturing and end-of-line process. Therefore, when moving from manual to automated operations, it is vital to map out the warehouse process.

To do this, you need to consider several factors. These include the space required for automation equipment. Even if you have machinery in your warehouse which handles end-of-line processes, automation equipment will have different dimensions and likely take up less space.

There is a requirement for a different piece of equipment to be placed together to ensure a smooth and efficient process.
That’s why mapping and designing is an integral part of the automation process and why they will help you more accurately your warehouse ROI.

Drawing up accurate plans for your new warehouse layout before installation means problems are less likely to arise later when equipment has already been installed.

By mapping out the layout, you can also help your staff to get an idea of where they need to be and how they can work with the equipment.

Mapping should also include a walkthrough of your typical warehouse process, including all aspects of order fulfillment at your maximum capacity, which will give you valuable insight into what automation can contribute to your business.

Selecting the Right Equipment

Mapping out space and designing your new warehouse layout is one thing; working out what to put in it is another. That’s where Shelley Automation comes in. We can help choose the correct automation equipment for your warehouse and advise you of the most efficient systems you will need to maximize your warehouse ROI.

When selecting the right equipment for your warehouse, you will need to consider what you have room for and what your budget can stretch to. In doing so, you need to be aware of the ROI an automated system will generate.

Many systems come with a significant upfront investment, although there are finance options and government incentive programs available. Through our partnership with DLL we are able to offer leasing programs to help get you started.

The equipment you choose needs to blend in seamlessly and augment your existing processes. It should also be reliable and come with the appropriate support and software. With Shelley Automation, you are in good hands in that respect. Everything from order-picking cobots to light-guided picking solutions to robotic palletizers will help speed up order fulfillment while providing accuracy and reducing waste.

Conveyors can speed up your operational process and increase capacity, which in turn can lead to more orders.
A MiR1000 order-picking robot, for example, can completely revolutionize your logistical operations. They are specially designed to effortlessly navigate a busy warehouse floor, lifting and setting down pallets with precision and efficiency.

No one knows your warehouse practices better than you, but our highly knowledgeable team is well versed in a wide range of manufacturing, packaging and shipping processes. That means they are uniquely placed to advise you on the equipment that will best suit your business.

We can provide and source equipment for every step of the order fulfillment process, which can streamline your warehouse and boost your ROI.

Training and Maintenance

While warehouse redesign and the equipment itself forms a large part of your investment in automation, you need to factor in other expenditures to accurately calculate your expected ROI. This includes training your employees to handle the new equipment and the maintenance costs involved.

While automation will replace many of your employees’ manual tasks, there will still be a need to make sure they are familiar with how to program and operate the equipment. Furthermore—but making manual processes obsolete—there may be the need to retrain staff to assume more value-added roles in the company. Training will involve a degree of investment, which you will expect to be offset with the more significant revenue generated by your move to an automated system.

The equipment we supply and the source from which we get it are reliable and efficient. To maintain those high standards will require routine servicing and maintenance. This cost should be factored into any warehouse automation investment to give you a more accurate idea of what kind of ROI you can expect.

Choosing the Right Partner

Whether your primary business is manufacturing, packaging or shipping, you’ll know the value of good customer relations. We know their worth too. That’s why at Shelley Automation, we are the ideal partner to start your warehouse automation journey with.

Before you even fire up the first machine, we will help you plot your path to automation. We can advise on the equipment which best suits your requirements, and which is going to bring the best out of your business.

Not only does our team know the technology capacity of the equipment we supply, but we also see how those systems fit together in the manufacturing and end-of-life process.

We perform proof runs of your selected equipment to make sure it is good to go on day one in your warehouse, wasting no time improving your productivity and efficiency—critical components in your goal of maximizing ROI.

We provide technical support and training so you can get the best out of the equipment, and our dedicated network of engineers can be there when you most need it.

We don’t just supply equipment; we understand how that equipment has the power to transform your business, and we want to be a part of that journey.

What’s Holding You Back to Start Automating Your Packaging Application?

What’s Holding You Back to Start Automating Your Packaging Application?

Written By Simab Khan

Time is money, or so the old saying goes, and when it comes to production, how you spend either of them is vital to your success. Directing your human resources to manual packaging can see both time and money eaten up very quickly, and what are you getting in return? Overworked staff, limited orders and stunted growth.

For your company to take the next step and more wisely invest your time and money, you should consider switching to an automated packaging system.

The packaging market in Canada is expected to exceed the US $30 billion mark by 2025, so your company must be in the best position to get a sizable slice of the pie.

The Downsides of Manual Packaging

When you start a new company, or even when budgets are tight, there is an emphasis on cutting as many unnecessary costs as possible. That can probably be why many initially small operations carry out most of their packaging manually. It makes sense to start with – there’s no money to spend on large machinery, and everyone can pitch in and lend a hand when needed.

But when you’re not that scrappy little company trying to find its feet, continuing with manual packaging can be counter-productive. It can inhibit growth, slow down the process and lead to quality control issues.

Manual packaging will take its toll physically on your staff and will keep your Package Per Minute (PPM) rate low. The knock-on effect of this is that you will be limited in the number of orders you can take and how quickly you can ship them.

Not only that, but a physical injury to staff means more sick leave, and if your margins are tight, unplanned absences can be costly.

Quality can also be an issue when it comes to manual packaging. As dedicated as your staff are, it’s only natural that things can go wrong from time to time. A dropped box can lead to damaged packaging and the contents within. Not only can this cause problems for the product itself, but it can also damage the reputation of your company, contributing to a drop in sales.

What Automation Will Bring to Your Production Line

Automation can revolutionize your production operations. It involves letting machines and robots take the strain of lifting and packaging, so it quite literally lightens the load on your staff. It can significantly reduce the risk of injury on the shop floor, and the great thing about robots is that they never get tired. Repetitive tasks such as packaging can lead to fatigue in humans, increasing the risk of mistakes. An automated packaging system will cut out the potential for these errors.

This can also allow you to reassign staff members to other tasks, such as planning and logistics. These are areas where they can add value to your company instead of packaging and loading boxes. It will allow them to develop new skills and ideas which can have a more long-term benefit for your company. Automation can also increase your company’s capacity. Automated packaging can dramatically improve your PPM capabilities, which means the orders can be fulfilled much quicker. Therefore, you can confidently take on more orders which is a boost for your income.

Although automated packaging systems involve an initial upfront investment, the return on that investment can be considerable.

How Do I Know What Type of Automation I Need?

Several factors. For a start, your operation’s size will play a considerable part; however, if you have got to the stage where you need automation, chances are you are already a sizable operation.

That said, there are several different automation options depending on your need and budget. A case erector system or a case packaging system are quite dedicated forms of automation designed for a particular task.

A case erector can quickly assemble flat cardboard packaging into boxes in a matter of seconds, making them ready for storing products ahead of shipping. They are an essential tool at the end of a busy assembly line.

The great advantage is that they can handle large volumes rather quickly. If you have a relatively high PPM requirement, they are a solid option complemented with other automated systems.

This complex automation can involve a high upfront cost, but it can produce instant results and immediately boost production. This means they give you a reasonably quick ROI and allow you to hit targets, and even increase your capacity comfortably.

However, suppose you require something less rigid. In that case, you can look at soft automation systems, which allow for an element of reprogramming so that the machine can perform several different tasks as required.

These can come in the form of the robotic arm, which can perform the different tasks as and when needed, such as an automated palletizing system.

Once you decide to opt for automated packaging, deciding which system to choose is your first step. Take the time to look at your future orders over a three- or six-month period and calculate the time you estimate will be spent on manual packaging.

When you contact Shelley Automation to begin your journey, we will be able to give you an indication of how various packaging systems in Canada can save you time and money. You’ll get a good idea of the packaging capacity of machines and compare this alongside your current output. We are confident you’ll be happy with the results you see.

Where to Start

Whether you are simply looking for more information on automated packaging systems or want to find out where to buy palletizers in Canada, Shelley Automation is your one stop automation shop.

We can offer expert advice and a range of options to suit your operation and budget, as well as conduct feasibilities in our automation and robotics labs.

Take the strain off your staff today.

How To Save Money On Packaging In The Long Run

How To Save Money On Packaging In The Long Run

Written By Simab Khan

Making savings and maximizing margins appears to be an eternal quest for any business, but what can often be the most challenging part of that is identifying where and how you can make those savings.

If you run a company that packages and ships goods regularly, an assessment of your packaging operations may help uncover some saving areas.

One effective way to save money on packaging, in the long run, is to make the switch to an automated packaging system. However, deciding to invest in something like a case erector system or palletizer system in Canada requires much consideration.

There are many obvious benefits to an automated system, but it will depend on your operations and needs, whether it is an investment that will pay off for you in the long run.

Assess Your Current Manual System

The first thing you need to think about before investing in an automated packaging system is your current manual system’s cost. You will have to primarily focus on the labour cost of employing one or several people to package and ship your product.

Based on Canada’s minimum wage rates, one employee working full-time on a packaging line can cost you anywhere between $25,0000 to $35,000 a year in labour costs. When you factor in the packages per minute (PPM) you get for that, you get an idea of the return you are getting for that particular investment.

Furthermore, packaging is a repetitive task that requires precision. As diligent and professional as people might be, there is always the possibility of human error. This can come from accidental damage to a package, or an item being poorly packed and damaged in transit.

Costs associated with damaged or returned items can also be factored in when considering how much your manual system sets you back every year.

Based on Canada’s minimum wage rates, one employee working full-time on a packaging line can cost you anywhere between $25,0000 to $35,000 a year in labour costs.

When Does the Penny Drop?

You may feel that your current manual packaging system is working fine for you. If you have been able to meet orders and avoid dips in quality, then you may find it hard to justify the outlay on an automated case packaging system.

However, it may only take one or two late orders or some superficial damage to a couple of packages for customers to ask questions. A loss of reputation can be costly too, and hard to recover from.

Things don’t even have to be that dramatic, though. A manual packaging system may also be what is seriously inhibiting your company’s growth. It can impose a maximum PPM rate which is hard to improve upon. Therefore, in terms of investment, you aren’t going to get too much bang for your buck when it comes to ROI.

One or two late orders or some superficial damage to a couple of packages can lead to a loss of reputation and hard to recover from.

Taking the Plunge

An initial outlay in an automated packaging system can be daunting, but it will pay for itself in several different ways. It can also help to boost your profits by increasing productivity and allowing you to redeploy packaging staff to more value-added positions.

Stacked against a worker’s cost in a manual packaging line over the year, an automated packaging system may seem like a massive investment. However, looking long term, it is an investment that will continuously pay dividends.

Some automated systems can involve an outlay of $50,000, while many can take you well into six-figure amounts. Of course, different operations’ requirements will vary depending on their size and other types of machinery required. For instance, a Robotiq palletizer can help speed up your end-of-line process, meaning loading and unloading can be performed efficiently. Investing in a palletizer can revolutionize your packaging and shipping processes, streamlining your operations and saving you time and money.

To start, there are several different options for financing investments in automated packaging systems in Canada.

You can purchase a machine outright and then deal with the regular maintenance and service costs as they arise. You also have the option of approaching a lender to help finance an outright purchase, although this will come with interest costs.

Many companies avail of a leasing scheme whereby they pay a set amount for the use of something like a palletizer or case erector. Many leasing schemes will have maintenance and service plans built-in, so you’ll know that the lease’s cost will cover everything.

Manufacturers can also avail of government grants to fund a move towards automation. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for government help to allow companies to innovate and embrace new technology to stay competitive.

Last year, the Canadian government announced $32 billion in grants and incentives for manufacturers to invest in technology such as automation.
Whatever way you finance an automated packaging system, you will soon get a substantial return on your investment. Here are the areas where an automated system will not only save you money but help you make more too:

Inspection

Automation can help to maintain quality standards throughout the process. Automated inspection equipment can spot irregularities and products or processes which fall below the accepted standard. Maintaining high standards means the likelihood of returns or refunds for faulty goods decreases.

Machine vision can also inspect products for completeness, such as ensuring a match between product and package in the food and pharmaceutical industries, and checking safety seals, caps, and rings on bottles.

Traceability

Automation allows for traceability in the supply chain. This allows for raw materials which are combined to make finished goods to be traced at every step of the process. All materials will be assigned with unique identifiers and an automated system will be able to allow for traceability right to the source.

To ensure proper packaging traceability, food and beverage producers must be able to quickly identify and locate products in the supply chain.

Collaborative Robots

Collaborative robots – or cobots – from Universal Robots bring efficiency to the packaging process. Their lightweight and slim design make them ideal for a range of different tasks such as stacking, lifting, and palletizing. The robotic arm can be reprogrammed for a range of different tasks and the efficient design and operation mean longer service intervals, leading to a reduction in maintenance costs.

Collaborative robots can work in conditions from humid greenhouses to refrigerated rooms to tending hot ovens, relieving employees from repetitive tasks that can cause injury in unfavorable environments.

Sensors

Sensors introduce a smart element to the manufacturing and packaging process. Smart sensor technology can pick up problems in real time and feedback data about performance. This data can help you spot where the bottlenecks are in your warehouse process and help to iron them out. They can spot inefficiencies in the process and reduce downtime, therefore increasing productivity and saving money.

When the emitted light is interrupted or reflected by the object, the change in light patterns is measured by a receiver and the target object or surface is recognized. Photoelectric sensors are very common in industrial manufacturing fields such as  packaging, food and beverage, medical, and many others.

Working Out Your ROI

Calculating the return on investment you will get from installing an automated packaging system may seem straightforward – you just work out the labour cost and set that against the machinery’s cost.

However, it’s not quite as simple as that. A packaging line worker may cost you $25,000, and packaging machinery may set you back $50,000, but that doesn’t mean it will take you two years to see some return on your investment.

An automated system will dramatically increase your output and improve the service you provide. This allows you to take on more orders, meaning you can start to see a significant ROI within a year.

On the flip side, the cost of the machinery itself isn’t the only outlay you need to factor in. You may need to repurpose an area of your warehouse to accommodate the machinery, and there is the cost of running it as well.

Taking the First Step

Investing in an automated packaging system can be the first step towards saving money and boosting profits. However, many companies may not be aware of how and where to start.

Whether you want to find out where to buy a palletizer in Canada or which case packaging system to invest in and what options you have, contact us today to start saving money on your packaging costs.

At Shelley, we can help you visualize an automated warehouse system in operation. Our free vision testing shows you how you can integrate your requirements into an automated system.

With robot feasibilities, our robotics experts give you a try-before-you-buy experience. You can get an outline of the system that can provide the best solution for your needs. You’ll be given a step-by-step guide to the hardware you need and how it fits into your work cycle so you will know what to expect once it hits the warehouse floor.

5 Takeaways From The Pick, Place, & Palletize Cobot Expo

5 Takeaways From The Pick, Place, & Palletize Cobot Expo

Hosted by Universal Robots from March 9-10 2021

PPP tasks go hand-in-hand with labour and ergonomic challenges. Today’s smart packagers employ collaborative robots to take over box erecting, bin picking, lifting, stacking and palletizing tasks, allowing you to reassign your employees to higher value, safer work. Cobots are also flexible enough to be moved from task to task, so they can be used wherever they’re needed most on any given day.

“Universal Robots’ unique tradeshow “The Cobot Expo” offers manufacturers flexible automation solutions for a fast-changing world.”

Missed out on the show? We’re here to give you a brief on it – watch the video below where James talks about the 5 key takeaways from the picking, placing and palletizing cobot expo hosted by Universal Robots.

#1: The Reality Of Your ROI

Few would argue with the benefits of collaborative automation. But if you’re a small- or mid-sized manufacturer, you’re probably asking yourself, “can I afford such a solution with all the pressures facing my factory and the looming economic uncertainty?” Or, maybe you’re thinking: “That’s great – but my capital equipment budget is tapped out.”

Now, you can immediately put cobots to work without the upfront capital investment. Whether you are starting your automation journey, looking to upgrade your current cobots, or ready to increase automation in your factory, our robot rental program helps you grow your business without dipping into cash reserves.

Through a partnership with DLL, we offer flexible payment plans that accommodate cash flow, seasonal fluctuations, and shifts in capacity, so you can focus on growing and running your business. This program provides the ultimate financial flexibility.

#2 Autonomous Bin Picking with ActiNav

ActiNav combines intelligent vision, real-time autonomous motion control and Universal Robots’ world-leading cobots to deliver the core of a machine loading system. Whether used for simple bin picking tasks or more complex machine tending applications, ActiNav delivers a solution that’s precise, consistent, intuitive and more agile than ever before.

Plan, pick and place parts with some of the highest accuracy, without collisions and without the need to stop – optimizing machine uptime and boosting productivity.

#3 Palletizing Solutions From Robotiq

Quick to receive, quick to install, quick to set-up.

Open the box, and the hardware and software is already connected. Plan your set-up in just three steps directly on the robot control device.

Real-time full demo of the Robotiq Palletizer

#4: Autonmous Mobile Robots From MiR

The mobile robots from MiR are autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) designed to optimize productivity in logistics and manufacturing operations. The MiR AMRs make your employees more efficient by allowing them to focus on higher-value activities, while shortening lead time, reducing the risk of bottlenecks, and optimizing safety.

#5: Case Packing

Automate case packing in a collaborative environment with Universal Robot cobots, while human operators tend to tasks of that require critical thinking. This automated case packing system combined with an autonomous mobile robot from MiR allows seamless box transfers to palletizers.

What’s Next?

And there you have it! The 5 takeaways from Universal Robots Pick, Place and Palletize Cobot Expo. 

If you or your team are interested in seeing an on-site demo at your facility or a virtual one, or just want more information on any of the technologies mentioned above, contact us here and a representative will be in touch with you to coordinate.

Universal Robots – the worlds leading cobot manufacturer.