Robot Depalletizing and Descrambler Cell - Midwest Engineered Systems

The Challenge

Traditionally when pallets of material arrive at a distribution center, those pallets have to be broken down by workers quickly and efferently.  That process can be labor-intensive, and with labor shortages being commonplace, keeping throughput consistent can be a real challenge.  That is why a large national retailer came to Midwest Engineered Systems looking to robotically automate a depalletizing and descrambling operation at one of their distribution centers.  The system had to take incoming pallets that contain stacked boxes of varying dimensions and remove the boxes by layer.  The picked layers would be placed on an outgoing conveyor where the boxes would be separated out.

The Solution

robot depalletizing sortation conveyor systemMWES provided this firm with a robotic depalletizing and descrambler cell.  The system would receive a pallet load from an infeed conveyor.  These pallet loads consist of various products and sizes of up to 110 inches in total height.  A 20ft tall delayering tower then removes the product from the pallet one layer at a time with each layer being no more than 36 inches in height.  A Fanuc M900iA600 industrial 6 axis robot with a custom end of arm tool (EOAT) would accept each layer of up to 540lbs. and transfer the layer to a receiving conveyor.  The product would then be pushed off the EOAT’s platform via a mechanical push bar.  Lastly, the product that comprised the layer is descrambled on the conveyor as it leaves the robot work cell.

robot depalletizing sortation conveyor systemThe depalletizing operation begins at the pallet unwrap station where the operator selects the type of load in the HMI or by scanning a barcode on the pallet.  This tells the depalletizer what it can expect to receive, in regards to a number of package metrics.  After the incoming load has been accepted, the pallet load will index into the robot work cell where a sensor array scans the load to determine the load height, load position and general load integrity.  Once complete, the load will stop under the layer gripper head and vertical scan bars will quickly move down to determine the exact load height.  Nearly simultaneously, the layer gripper descends down to the determined position by the vertical scan bars looking for the appropriately sized gap.

robot depalletizing sortation conveyor systemThe gripper lifts the layer up off the load while leaving enough space between the two, so that the robot’s EOAT can safely slide itself under the picked layer.  Additionally, if a slip-sheet is present on the top of the next layer, a mechanism under the robot’s EOAT will pick the slip-sheet up.  After the all-clear is given the robot moves the load over to the receiving conveyor and into a push-off position.  A pusher mechanism on the EOAT pushes the load off the EOAT’s platform and onto the conveyor.  As the EOAT is doing that, the slip-sheet is then deposited onto a stack directly under the EOAT at the drop position.  The load descrambles as it leaves the robot work cell and travels on the conveyor system.

Impact to the Customer

The robot depalletizing and descrambler solution that MWES provided to this customer eliminated a depalletizing operation that at one time would require a fair amount of manual labor to perform.  The robot cell gave our customer an average layer to layer pick rate of 15 seconds or four layers a minute and drastically improved their overall depalletizing throughput.

Midwest Engineered Systems has a wide range of experience in building robot depalletizing systems. If you’re looking to improve your depalletizing throughput, we have the knowledge and experience to make the project a success.

Contact us to learn how Midwest Engineered Systems can automate even your most complex and challenging operations today!