Warrington’s Greencore Prepared Meals, without disrupting its production schedules has managed to install its first automated packaging line successfully. The system which consists of conveyors, two Kawasaki FD50 robots, and guarding was delivered, implemented and kept ready for commissioning, all inside one single weekly hygiene shift.
The company’s production before the installation was highly demanding with respect to labor for products other than metal detectors and checkweighers, and hence the implementation of LEAN principles led to many process enhancements and improvements.
Prior experiences in implementation and equipment supply had made Greencore take an active approach while handling numerous suppliers such as First Engineering and Kawasaki Robotics. The company’s Continuous Improvement Leader, Jo Rice has remarked that they had developed the system layout along with Kawasaki Robotics’ expertise and their own process knowledge; which helped them to execute things very efficiently and smoothly. According to her, their customers who included some very prominent supermarkets were totally devoted to a nonstop new product development (NPD), which led to requests being made to Kawasaki to include new palletizing programs during the course of the development process. Their customers have been greatly appreciative of the system’s functionality. Jo Rice further states that excellent training was given to their personnel by Kawasaki prior to the installation of the equipment and that they had also involved them in the commissioning process.
Packs are produced by the lasagna line and they are then packed into boxes with the help of the case erector. The boxes are then sent on the conveyor to the robot pick up area to be identified by the vacuum gripper of the robot. The box is then picked up by the robot and kept in the correct orientation on the pallet stack. Both the robot cells are developed with easy out-put of pallets and manual input in mind. The pallets could be manually driven inside the cell and located precisely using the mechanical Vee location. Jo Rice also mentioned that this system was a proven success and gave a good start to the use of robotics in their field.