Automatic palletizers are far more efficient than loading units by hand. They can save your workers time, streamline the loading process, and cut down on expensive labor costs.
Automatic palletizer machines are robotic, but that doesn’t mean they can run indefinitely without maintenance. Like human workers, automatic palletizers need regular care to work at their best. Without automatic palletizer maintenance, your palletizers could run less efficiently or even break down, costing your company thousands in costly repairs.
Below, you’ll learn how palletizers work and how to maintain these time-saving systems.
Palletizers are machines that automatically sort, transfer, and stack cases of products at the end of a manufacturing line. These systems are usually a part of a larger packaging process that integrates counting, sorting, weighing, metal detection, and wrapping.
Automatic (robotic) palletizers sit between a pallet dispenser and a conveyor belt that carries incoming products. A robotic arm lifts the products and organizes them on each pallet. Even though this arm can only lift one product at a time, it’s faster than manual stacking.
Automatic palletizers aren’t prone to injury and fatigue like humans are, but they still need proper maintenance to keep all parts in working order.
Preventative Maintenance’s Importance
Proper maintenance for palletizing equipment takes time out of your busy production schedule, so it’s tempting to skip it to avoid a hit to your bottom line. However, forgoing preventative maintenance can come back to bite you if your palletizers stop working.
Your business loses money for every hour of palletizer downtime. Plus, palletizer repairs can be very costly, and they’re far more expensive than the hit you’d take for maintaining your equipment in the first place.
The benefits of preventative maintenance for your robot palletizer include the following:
- Your equipment can last for many years, giving you a better return on investment (ROI)
- Planned inspections and maintenance are less costly than unplanned outages
- Your systems will operate at peak efficiency for better production times
- Well-maintained palletizers require less energy to run, which adds up to more savings for your business
- Maintenance helps identify errors that could cause defects in products
In short, preventative automatic palletizer maintenance is always worth the time and expense.
Routine Inspections and Maintenance
To keep your palletizer system running as it should, it’s wise to perform routine inspections and maintenance at least once per year. If you subject your palletizer to heavy loads or use it frequently, you may want to perform maintenance more often.
If you plan to do this yourself, you’ll need to become intimately familiar with your palletizer’s key inputs, such as its photo eyes and conveyors. Photo eyes, in particular, tend to be a weak point in these systems. It’s common for them to become loose or dirty over time, which can cause your system to stop working properly.
End-of-arm tooling, which includes wiring, air lines, and vacuum lines, is especially prone to wear because the constant flexing may cause the wiring and tubing to wear out fast.
If you don’t have the time or know-how to maintain your palletizer, you may want to consider hiring a preventative automatic palletizer maintenance technician to handle it for you. A technician will follow a thorough maintenance checklist, which includes:
- Cleaning controller exhaust fans
- Purging and releasing grease in the robot’s axis
- Performing a physical inspection of the end-of-arm tool
- Removing dirt and other obstructions from sensors
- Testing for faulty seals and lubricant leaks
- Inspecting the system’s brakes
- Checking the batteries that control automation
- Reviewing pallet stacking patterns
- Backing up the memory controller
- Tightening loose external bolts
- Listening for vibrations and other unusual noises that could indicate problems
- Looking for prematurely worn parts, such as loose electrical connections and worn motors
- Reviewing the alarm history to identify recurring problems
- Making recommendations to keep your system in line with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards
- Training operators on how to spot and report potential problems
Employee Reporting Systems
Many employees won’t bother to report minor problems with robotic palletizing systems for several reasons. One of the main complaints many employees have is that they’re too busy to bother making a report. Some workers may even fear getting into trouble for reporting issues (especially if they’ve made a mistake that caused the palletizer system to fail).
This is where employee reporting systems come in. These systems make it easy for workers to report problems as soon as they see them, allowing you to remedy an issue before it worsens. Plus, many are completely anonymous, which means employees don’t have to fear retaliation for reporting mistakes.
You’ll find quite a few employee reporting systems out there, most of which are cloud-based, making reporting issues a breeze. A few features to look for in an employee reporting system include:
- Digitized work orders
- Parts and inventory tracking
- Automatically updated service history
- Mechanic sign-off to help you identify who performed maintenance
Quality Control in Packaging Workflow
It’s also important to pay attention to quality control in your packaging workflow. But what exactly is quality control? Essentially, it’s the process of ensuring your products are protected during storage and shipping.
To help with this, you’ll need a quality control checklist. The following are some essential items to include on this checklist:
- Ensure your pallets match specifications to prevent product loss during shipping and storage.
- Check to ensure all shipping labels, barcodes, and other identifying markers are accurate and readable. Unreadable labels could cause delays in shipping and delivery.
- Ensure each carton contains the correct number of units. If you don’t, you may ship too much or too little product to buyers.
- Check the structural integrity of cartons and pallets to ensure they’re damage-free.
- Perform carton drop testing to ensure your cartons can withstand shipping and handling. To do the test, lift a carton to a specific height (determined by weight) and drop it onto a solid surface, such as a hard floor.
Proactive Maintenance Planning
When it comes to automatic palletizer maintenance, it’s far better to be proactive than reactive. That’s because it’s much easier and cheaper to fix minor issues now before they become expensive and time-consuming headaches for your business.
As part of your proactive maintenance plan, be sure to keep plenty of spare parts in stock. This allows for fast repairs if something goes wrong with your system.
You should provide annual training to teach employees how to spot and report problems. Such training enables you to identify issues before they worsen. Training can also teach your employees how to use palletizer equipment correctly, so they’re less likely to make mistakes.
You may also want to schedule routine inspections and maintenance with a preventative maintenance program supplier. This can give you peace of mind if you’re unable or unwilling to handle maintenance yourself.
Contact TDI Packsys To Learn More About Our Packaging Systems and Solutions
Automatic palletizer maintenance is a must-have if you want your equipment to run without a hitch. To learn more about our packaging automation and inspection systems, contact TDI Packsys at (877) 834-6750 today. We provide reliable service, training, and after-sales support for all our valued customers, so you can focus on keeping business going.