Wrigley’s in Australia uses robots to lower labour costs and improve flexibility in producing its world-famous chewing gum.
Automation of process
In 2005, Wrigley’s in Australia started to look for automation solutions to address issues such as high direct labour costs, health and safety risks associated with manual handling and restricted floor space.
Solutions not only had to address these issues but had to be flexible to accommodate change in product and packing medium, be low cost and easy to maintain, and be economically priced as a capital purchase.
In response, the company invested heavily in a plant in Sydney which services the Pacific market.
The new facility was designed, manufactured and commissioned by Hot Melt & Packaging Systems (HMPS) a domestic producer of special purpose automated packaging solutions including robot application technology.
As Wrigley’s and HMPS engineers worked on this project, it became obvious that the conventional case packer approach first considered was not going to deliver the goods in meeting all the required parameters.
In particular, it could not supply the required flexibility to introduce new products quickly and cost efficiently.
The team finally decided to go for a solution that combined the adaptability of robotics and the packaging know-how and experience of HMPS.
The decision having been made to go the robotics route, Wrigley’s and HMPS designers and engineers were able to come up with a layout and design to do the job.
The proposed installation consists of six robot packing cells operating in two groups of three.
The task for each cell is to erect a carton, pack into the carton the requisite quantity of Wrigley’s products and push the loaded carton onto an out-feed conveyor that takes the product from the group of three cells to an elevator and eventually through to a carton sealing unit.
Each cell contains an ABB IRB 2400 robot, that takes a blank regular slotted carton (RSC) from the magazine by means of a vacuum head, squares the carton and places it on a holding station.
The robot then takes the product off the in-feed accumulation conveyor and proceeds to pack the carton until full.
Once full, the carton is transferred using the robot head out onto the common out-feed conveyor.
A floating operator is all that is necessary to keep all three carton magazines filled with RSC blanks for each of the robot cells.
Wrigley’s gave HMPS the go-ahead for the project in November 2005 with a required completion date for installation in mid 2006, which was achieved by HMPS.
According to Ross Hannaford, engineering manager at Wrigley’s, the company has been impressed with the results and has found the process of installation and commissioning to be comparatively painless.
The success of the project is due to a combination of a demanding customer that had the courage to be innovative, a supplier in HMPS that understands packaging and robot applications, as well as the reliability of the robust robots.
With the help of HMPS, Wrigley’s in Australia has used robots to improve production with:
• Flexibility that can accommodate change in product and packing medium
• Easy maintenance
• Lower direct labor costs
• Better health and safety environment for workers
For more information contact ABB Australia manager – robot channel Peter Bradley.