The assembly and delivery of mixed pallet loads, layer order picking, automated de-palletising, unscrambling and fast sorting are some of the challenges food processors face in their receiving and distribution centres.
While automated layer order-picking and the unscrambling of each layer into single items is not new, its use has been severely limited due to a wide variety of products and range of packaging found in distribution centres.
Small boxes, open top trays for glass jars, loose tins in trays and cartons are some of the products that are almost impossible to automatically sort from a pallet layer by layer, said Bob Beerta, a branch manager at CSi.
While CSi designed its Universal Layer Order Picker primarily for retailers, it can also be used in the operations of food processors, for example when they need to sort their supplies on pallet loads, Beerta told FoodProductionDaily.com.
Current layer order picker technology relies on a vacuum head to secure and lift each layer of product from the pallet. While this method works with some products, it can be unreliable and even dangerous when used to de-palletise more difficult to handle shapes.
The CSi design uses a combination of friction rollers and a servo-controlled skimming table to strip each layer off the pallet. This method overcomes the disadvantages of using a vacuum lift by allowing objects of various sizes, shapes and stacking configurations to be sorted.
Beerta said the roller system works by pushing the forms to the side. The rotating roller uses gentle pressure to roll the packages upwards. This lifts the complete layer from underneath so it can be transported to the top of a conveyer belt.
The machine can handle the pallet sizes used in the UK and those used in the rest of world.
When used in combination with a CSi unscrambling table, the machine can be used ot order-pick single items, which can then be transported to storage and picking machines or sortation system.
It can also be used to re-palletise products from one type and size of pallet to another.
This can be especially important when importing products from Europe, the Far East and the US, where pallets are not compatible with UK standard warehouse racking.