Automation Supplement

Case Study – Minatech Inc.: Automated Solution for Stacking Problem

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Michael Mravyan, president of Woodbridge, Ont.-based blow mold automation supplier Minatech Inc., came to the assistance of a Midwestern US bottler when he and his staff created a cell automation system designed to maximize shipping space while maintaining a fast rate of palletizing.

Mravyan’s customer was blow molding jars of identical diameter but different heights, and wanted to be able to palletize the bottles efficiently, without wasting space on transport trucks. “The difficulty for the customer was that if they shipped seven pallets with seven layers of jars they were underutilizing the trucks, while if they tried to ship eight pallets it wouldn’t fit," Mravyan explained.

Using a Fanuc robot and Siemens automation, Mravyan and his staff spent four months developing a cell automation system designed to handle a combination of seven layers and eight layers of jars, which would allow for full utilization of truck space. “The combination of seven layers and eight layers maximizes the full skid and also the amount of truck space, so the customer is not shipping air.”

A second issue that the customer wanted Minatech to address was maintaining a production rate of 40 jars a minute. “The design that we came up with can actually handle around 50 jars a minute, which is good because the palletizing cell will never become a bottleneck,“ Mravyan said. “And the robotic cell can go faster if necessary.” According to Mravyan, the cell has an incoming conveyor, primary and secondary bins that accumulate the cardboard slip-sheets, and then an automatic turntable to take the full pallet out of the robot and the empty skid back to the robot. As an additional benefit to the customer, the Minatech staff was also able to program the cell to run virtually unattended. “Previously, the customer had two operators per shift attending the line,” Mravyan explained. “That’s six operators every 24 hours, and six salaries as well, which can add up to between $150,000 and $180,000 per year. We have now freed those operators to do other jobs.”

Although this cell automation system was designed for the needs of this particular customer, it is generic enough to be used in a wide variety of other blow molding operations, Mravyan said. “The success of the implementation of this project was a direct result of high quality components from Fanuc, Siemens and SMC Pneumatics (Canada) Ltd., multiplied by the engineering integrity of Minatech design,” he said. “Everything is designed to give the forklift operator the freedom to attend to the cell at his convenience while the cell runs without attendants.”

Minatech Inc. (Woodbridge, Ont.); 905-264-0411