Nestlé Suisse SA in Orbe, Switzerland, a facility producing tea in capsules under the well-known brand of Special.T, was in a bind.

“In the past, this plant, equipped with low and medium speed lines, was handling palletizing manually. As volume and productivity needed to increase, we were looking to use cobotic palletizing to avoid repetitive non-ergonomic tasks for operators. We wanted them to handle activities with higher added value,” says Cédric Rey, fill & pack maintenance & improvement manager at Nestlé.

Rey’s team had approached Sidel with Nestlé’s cobotic requirements in 2017 as the two companies had worked together, developing a long-term relationship over the years. As Sidel was already developing a new cobotic palletizing solution, it was able to look at Nestlé’s requirements and work them into its design. Sidel is a provider of equipment and services for food and beverage packaging as well as other product categories, and has more than 40,000 machines installed in more than 190 countries.

Nestlé needed a robust, precise and user-friendly cobotic solution—one that could handle pallet stability. “At our Orbe site, best-in-class pallet quality is absolute key, as our cases with the tea capsules are very light, long, and narrow,” says Rey. “This is why accurate case placement on the pallet and tight layers are major requirements to guarantee pallet stability.” This will minimize damage as products move in the supply chain to customers.

“Additionally, we also needed to ensure the safety of our operators,” says Rey. “It was imperative that the same level of safety would be maintained after switching from manual labor to a cobotic technology, ensuring that the solution is working safely with no fences around it. For us, the user friendliness of the new cobotic solution was extremely important as well; for instance, an intuitive navigation of its HMI was a must.”

Nestlé installed two Sidel CoboAccess_Pal cobot solutions downstream along two Cermex SW21 compact, side-loading case packers. The cobots feature an industrial automation platform based on a PC/PLC combination and use Fanuc CR-15iA robotic arms. This combination ensures the cobots perform better with controlled picking and trajectories, leading to greater pallet quality and stability as a pallet travels in the supply chain. The PLC/PC controls allow for an immediate restarting of the machine in case of potential problems or emergency stops, therefore minimizing downtime.

The CoboAccess_PAL’s HMI provides a user-friendly solution. With an intuitive approach to navigation, the tablet-based HMI facilitates the daily jobs for the Nestlé Suisse Orbe operators, as they can access standard operating procedure (SOP) and maintenance sheets for easier and faster troubleshooting and root cause analysis. Besides meeting all European safety directives, the CoboAccess_Pal was easy to install, taking one week, including commissioning time. As we saw in the previous cobotic example, this robotic system can be easily moved between lines in less than 10 minutes.

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For more on robotic applications, visit "Why be liable for workplace injuries if robots can do the job safely, efficiently?"