Automated palletizing is becoming increasingly popular these days, and more and more businesses are relying on collaborative robots (cobots) to fulfil this function in their warehousing, manufacturing, and distribution processes. The pandemic has also accelerated the deployment of robots in the workspace as many companies strive to reduce human-to-human contact and improve operational efficiency. If you are planning to automate your palletizing processes, why not do so with cobots?
In this article, we will look at how cobots are used in palletizing, and how your business can benefit from automation.
What Are Cobots?
Cobots, abbreviated from ‘collaborative robots’, are robots designed to work alongside humans in a designated workspace. Due to their collaborative nature, they are typically smaller and less heavy duty than traditional industrial robots used in factories and manufacturing spaces. Their design is also user-oriented, so that they can work alongside humans without additional barriers or safety cages. Today, there is a widespread use of cobots in a variety of industries, ranging from manufacturing and healthcare to retail and education.
What Is Automated Palletizing?
Automated palletizing is the process of using a robot or cobot to stack and organize items onto pallets. These items can come in many forms, but they are usually boxes or bags. Users program these cobots to pick up items and place them in a designated area on the pallet, sometimes following a specific pattern. Palletizing is an important step in many manufacturing processes across all industries, from food packaging, manufacturing, and warehousing to distribution and retail.
How Can Cobots Help In Automated Palletizing?
Cobots can automate palletizing in several ways, depending on the industry and business requirements. Below are just a few examples of some common use cases:
- Manufacturing: cobots can package and ship finished products.
- Logistics and warehousing: cobots in warehousing facilities can automatically and efficiently load and unload pallets of goods for transportation.
- Distribution and retail: cobots can pack and ship products to customers directly.
- Food and beverage: cobots in food and beverage processing facilities can package and ship food items.
Why Use Cobots To Automate Palletizing?
Compared to traditional industrial robots, cobots carry many advantages when automating palletizing services. These range from an increase in operational efficiency to a decrease in expenditure, as well as improved workplace safety.
More Cost Effective
Firstly, a cobot typically cost less than the average industrial robot. This is due to their relatively small size and increasing accessibility thanks to cobot developers and manufacturers. In today’s landscape, we are rapidly seeing new cobot models with different functionalities, and this has made it easier for businesses of all sizes to tap into the market and purchase a cobot.
Easy To Program And Use
Secondly, businesses prefer cobots due to the ease in programming and usage. Many cobots these days are designed to be operated by people with a wide range of tech expertise. This means that anyone, from tech rookies to experts, can easily program and use a palletizing cobot without extensive training.
Increased Workplace Safety
The use of cobots over industrial robots also increases workplace safety. Designed to work alongside humans, cobots can be programmed with visual and audio sensors. This gives them great awareness of their surroundings, and they can start and stop depending on what they detect within their workspace. Their small size compared to industrial robots also reduces the potential for accidents in the workplace.
Greater Deployment Flexibility
With simple reconfiguration and ease of programming, users can use one cobot for many different occasions. All it takes is a different end effector, which can be easily purchased. This is much easier than having to buy a whole separate robot for different applications. With a smaller size, users can also deploy cobots almost anywhere: on tabletops in confined spaces, or in large facilities where space is abundant.
How To Choose A Palletizing Cobot
When choosing a palletizing cobot as a business buyer, there are several factors to consider to ensure you select the most appropriate robot for your application.
Consider the weight and size of the items you plan to palletize, and make sure the cobot arm has the payload capacity to handle the work that needs to be done.
Cobots are small and can fit in most workspaces. However, for palletizing services, your cobots will need a specific reach to effectively pick up and place items.
How quickly do you want your palletizing done, within reason? Ensure your chosen cobot can operate at a speed that can meet your production needs and in line with other cobots or human workers around it.
If you are palletizing small items, you will need a cobot that can handle working with precision. If you are palletizing large items, you still need your cobot to have a degree of accracy. Either way, ensure that your cobot end effector meets your requirements.
Consider human users who will work alongside your chosen cobot. What are their needs and how can you make sure they are out of harm’s way? Depending on the size of your workspace, you should make sure the cobot has the appropriate safety settings that can be toggled.
Cobots need to be maintained once in a while. Before settling on a cobot provider, think about the level of support they can provide for you – whether that is cobot maintenance, IT support, or other additional industry requirements.
Finally, you must think about your return on investment. You want to choose a cobot you can afford and that is reasonable within your available funds. The good news is that most cobots are relatively affordable, so it should not be difficult to find one within your price range.
The Bottom Line
The use of cobots is a great way for manufacturers and distributors to safely and efficiently palletize goods. As cobot technology continues to advance, more and more businesses find these small robots not only easy to use but also highly accessible and affordable. If you want to increase productivity in the workplace, automating your processes is a great first step.