Linkx Systems has achieved big cost savings at the Unilever Bestfoods plant in Norwich by developing a novel robotic palletiser system that does the work of three conventional palletisers. Thanks to its flexibility and engineering expertise, Linkx Systems was able to make further savings by reusing an existing robot that Unilever no longer needed for its original application.

Linkx Systems implemented this innovative palletising solution in conjunction with Alpha Chase Engineering, a specialist supplier of conveying systems.

When was approached by Unilever Bestfoods to provide automatic palletising, for random packs of cook-in sauces from three adjacent production lines, Linkx Systems
analysed the application requirements, and devised a compact, robot-based solution. It deploys an industrial robot that picks up packs in random sequence from any of three production lines, and accurately places each pack on the appropriate pallet. The robots flexibility also enables it to easily cope with the variety of pack sizes and pallet patterns required. The robot also positions the empty pallets and places inter-layer pads.

This solution was made all the more attractive as Unilever already had a redundant robot, which Linkx Systems was able to use for the project having developed a customised gripper for handling the packs of sauces.

Linkx Systems developed, designed and constructed the palletiser system, while Alpha Chase Engineering supplied the pallet handling conveyors and the pallet de-nester. Linkx also developed and supplied the overall control system for the installation, which is based on a Siemens programmable controller.

“The installation and commissioning of the robot palletiser went very smoothly,” said Jon Skinner of Unilever Bestfoods, “and it is now fully operational. It is proving to be very efficient and reliable and is providing us with cost savings at least as large as those we anticipated. In addition, it produces pallets with completely consistent product stacking, which makes them much easier to handle in our automated warehouse.”

“Linkx Systems and Alpha Chase Engineering both did an excellent job on this project, and we were particularly pleased that Linkx was able to re-use our second-hand robot as this, of course, substantially reduced the overall cost of our new palletiser.”