With demand for its premium quality jams and preserves growing strongly, Wilkin & Sons of Tiptree in Essex was finding that the always-tedious manual depalletisation of empty jars delivered to its factory was now becoming a production bottleneck. The solution was a custom-designed automatic depalletiser developed, manufactured and installed by Linkx Systems, one of the UK’s leading most innovative suppliers of packaging and mechanical handling equipment to the food and beverage industries.
Empty glass jars are delivered to Wilkin & Sons stacked in layers on standard 1000 x 1200 mm pallets, with a corrugated board pad between each layer. The company already had in place a pit-mounted hydraulic lift that was used to assist in the manual depalletisation of the jars, and a discharge conveyor to transfer the jars to the production line.
The challenge presented to Linkx Systems was to develop a compact fully automatic depalletiser system that would fit in the limited space available, and that would use the existing pit, lift and conveyor. In addition to transferring the jars to the conveyor, the depalletiser was also required to remove the inter-layer boards and stack them adjacent to the machine for subsequent re-use.
It was clear that no off-the-shelf solution would meet these requirements, so the experienced engineering team at Linkx Systems, which is always ready to produce innovative solutions that address both everyday and specialised applications, developed a completely bespoke design.
At the heart of this is a chain-driven pusher blade that sweeps forward from the rear of the pallet, depositing the rows of jars onto the existing discharge conveyor. Mounted at the back of the pusher blade are two vacuum cups that attach themselves to the inter-layer boards during the blade’s return stroke. The board is, therefore, transported to the rear of the machine where it is fed out through a letter-box slot in the rear guard panel.
The whole installation is housed in fully guarded frame that sits over the existing lift pit, and is bolted to the floor around the pit. Provision is made for the rear guard panel to be opened to allow the delivery of full pallets to the machine and the removal of empty pallets, both of these operations being performed with a forklift truck.
To ensure that the machine functions smoothly with a minimum of operator intervention, Linkx Systems has equipped it with a sophisticated control system. This offers audible and visual indications when depalletisation is complete and when an inter-layer board has been successfully ejected. Fault warnings are also provided, together with a simple message display for operator guidance.
The system not only controls the operation of the depalletiser itself, but also of the existing lift platform, which Linkx Systems has fitted with position sensors to allow full integration and interlocking with the other depalletiser functions.
Installation of the new depalletiser was fast and straightforward, and was accomplished with a minimum of disruption to normal production. In use, the compact and convenient machine is proving to be both reliable and highly efficient, providing Wilkin & Son with significant efficiency improvements in return for a very modest investment.